Set 50 years after the events of Red Faction: Guerrilla, Red Faction: Armageddon is Volition's latest foray into destructible world gaming, but it isn't the only new entry within the Red Faction world. Released last month, Red Faction: Battlegrounds is meant to serve as an arcade-style side dish to the main event. While it offers up some interesting ideas, the overall package fails to impress.
Unlike the other Red Faction games, Red Faction: Battlegrounds is centered on vehicular combat. Viewed from an overhead perspective, it initially looks like something of a throwback to classic arcade racers, albeit with the addition of guns and explosions. Control is handled with a twin stick setup — left stick moves, right stick shoots — making it very easy to pick up and play. The only problem is that there isn't much depth to the play.
Single-player mode is a short series of 16 training missions, split over four different game types. Speed trial is a race against the clock, with the goal being to grab flags that appear on the map and return them to a drop point as quickly as possible. Shooting range has mines appear on the map in waves. You need to destroy them all before time runs out. Survival is a race against the clock, but in a different manner. Here, you only have one life and need to survive for a pre-determined amount of time in order to proceed. Last but not least is annihilate. It's like shooting range, except this time your targets move and fire back.
Completing the single-player mode can be done rather quickly, though there is some replay value for the high score hounds out there. Each mission grades your performance, and going for a gold star on each level extends the play time. The problem is that each mission is strictly scripted, right down to the spawn points of enemy vehicles. This means that missions that may present a challenge on their first run suddenly become a lot easier when you know where your opponents are going to show up or where the next flag drop is going to appear. A little randomization would have been nice.
Destructible environments are a major component of the Red Faction universe, and explosions are no stranger to Red Faction: Battlegrounds. The thing is, none of the destruction fundamentally changes the map. The explosive goodies seem to be little more than eye candy. Yes, you can use a well-timed environmental explosion to destroy an opponent, but don't expect anything more than that.
Multiplayer offers up additional modes, including deathmatch, team deathmatch, king of the hill, capture the flag and flag frenzy. The downside is that multiplayer maxes out at four people, whether you're playing on- or offline, so don't expect any epic battles. Instead, it's just a handful of vehicles driving around, frantically shooting at each other — that is, if you can find a game.
If it weren't for the high scores on the leaderboards, it would be easy to assume that no one on Xbox Live is actually playing the game. Open multiplayer lobbies don't seem to exist, and creating one for other players to join just mean listening to the theme music loop over and over again as we waited in vain for someone, anyone to join up.
Ultimately, about the only thing Red Faction: Battlegrounds has going for it are the unlocks it makes available for Red Faction: Armageddon. Play enough to hit rank 10, and you'll receive 2,000 credits. Make it to rank 20, and the EDF Enforcer rifle, complete with heat-seeking ammunition, is yours. Without the unlocks as a goal, Red Faction: Battlegrounds quickly loses its luster, as the single-player most simply isn't deep enough to hold interest for very long.
If you can snag a copy as a free pre-order bonus for Red Faction: Armageddon, then go ahead and give it a spin, but if you're thinking of spending money on it, give this one a pass. At 800 MSP ($10) for the download, Red Faction: Battlegrounds simply isn't worth the cash.
Editor's Note: For more on the Red Faction franchise, be sure to check out our exclusive Red Faction: Origins interview with actor Brian J. Smith.
More articles about Red Faction: Battlegrounds