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One Must Fall: BattleGrounds

Platform(s): Arcade, Game Boy Advance, GameCube, Nintendo DS, PC, PSOne, PSP, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox, Xbox 360
Genre: Online Multiplayer


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PC Review - 'One Must Fall: Battlegrounds'

by Justin on April 21, 2004 @ 1:41 a.m. PDT

Genre: Multiplayer Arena Combat
Publisher: Diversions Ent.
Developer: Diversions Ent.
Release Date: September 2, 2003

Buy 'ONE MUST FALL: Battlegrounds': PC

There are games that try new things that succeed in flying colors. Look at The Legend of Zelda and its mixing of RPG elements with real-time combat and exploration. Or take a look at the then-gigantic Super Mario Brothers for the NES with its variety of levels, enemies, and power-ups in big, side-scrolling worlds. Or Wolfenstein and Doom’s amazing play control, with 3D first-person-shooter qualities that were unheard of at the time. All of the people behind these games knew that they had a great idea on their hands, and they intended to bring that idea to life as best as possible.

What is most disappointing in One Must Fall Battlegrounds, then, is that in this time of vast quantities of generic rip-offs, this game actually has an interesting idea behind it, but unfortunately it doesn’t quite come off as good as one would hope. It’s essentially a 3D fighting game, in line with clever games like Powerstone. The difference here is that like many 2D fighters, OMF Battlegrounds focuses on depth and fighting techniques contained within it’s characters rather than the environment. Okay, it’s not nearly as deep as other games, and I’m not arguing the greatness of Dead or Alive 3 or Virtua Fighter 4; but in contrast to OMF Battlegrounds, they play much more like a 2D fighter than this.

That is to say, OMF Battlegrounds feels a little more “loose” in it’s feel. You aren’t restricted to side views or restrained camera angles; the camera in this game acts much like one found in a third-person 3D action game, following closely behind your character and turning as you turn, always facing in front. The advantage here is that theoretically you have a huge amount of freedom. Being able to look and move in any direction at any given time and perform any combo you’d like on any enemy (not just one opponent!) you’d like could have shaped up to be parts of an excellent game.

It all starts off well at first, too. You get to pick a human character, which really doesn’t make much difference at all and in fact are very peculiarly named: you’ll see names like “Elizabeth” alongside fellows like “Dr. Lithius” and even another simply named “Professor.” Each of these characters’ avatars are weird, too - it seems like half of the female characters are cheerleaders or something of the sort. Anyway, on the more exciting side of things, you do get to pick the “machine” that you’ll be doing damage in. Think of it like an armor-covered suit, or a miniature Gundam mobile suit. There are a large number of these, each with different attributes making them stronger or weaker, faster or slower, et cetera, and giving them unique abilities. Some have giant praying mantis-esque blades; another has valves that spew flames from its arms. Neat!

There are, unfortunately, problems. The most immediately noticeable is the obscure, contrived control scheme. Confusing PC gamers that use a WASD setup, OMF Battlegrounds wants you to use the arrow keys to move your character and a number of keys on the left side of the keyboard to control other functions like punching, kicking, and jumping. This also means that the camera is solely dependant upon the left and right arrow keys instead of the mouse like it should have been. Binding abilities to the mouse buttons and allowing the player to move to and fro and strafe with WASD would have been an infinitely more natural setup. As it is, this basic design is tremendously aggravating. You have to hold a key to “evade”, or duck, and that same key must be held to strafe. The only way to block is to back up, which means that enemies not in front of you will have no problem hitting you, and being surrounded and kicked around is commonplace. Jumping and different varieties of punches and kicks are also performed with keys. Everything that isn’t related to movement is basically assigned to a key in the second or third row from the bottom of the keyboard; one can imagine how frustrating and confusing it is to work with a control setup like this.

Causing more cringing for the player is the game’s pathetically boring structure. OMF Battlegrounds consists of a series of competitions. These competitions are made up of tournaments. Each tournament is comprised of a number of battles. Depending on the type of competition, you’ll be playing a free-for-all deathmatch, a team-based match, or an “Accumulate the most points in three minutes” match. These really aren’t anything new. We’ve been seeing these types of games for years and years now in multiplayer modes, and in OMF Battlegrounds they are the focus of the main game. You go from one match to another, mindlessly murdering your enemies, only to fight more in the next round. After a few tournaments you begin to realize that it’s all pretty pointless – there’s no story to follow, there are no bosses to tackle, and the play control makes all of this even more of a tedious chore.

The levels, at least, are nicely done. There are a bunch of small arena-type stages, often complimented with a hazard like spinning buzz-saws or pointy metal treadmills. Other stages are more open and have more distinct qualities. One level takes place in space aboard some sort of ship, and every now and then you have to avoid a powerful laser beam. Another level asks you to avoid showers of nukes that occasionally rain down upon you. Each level is colorful and fairly detailed, and we see all sorts of themes, from industrial to astronomical to Egyptian styles.

Online play is fun, and on my 56k connection (woo!) I didn’t have too much trouble with lag, considering my limitations. This sort of game play obviously works better in a multiplayer environment, and if that is what you’re looking for, OMF Battlegrounds will deliver to some degree. I didn’t find it to be nearly as addictive as Counter-Strike was years ago, or anywhere nearly close, but I still had some enjoyable duels.

The graphics and sound are decent, but don’t expect to be blown away. The frame rate is smooth and the animation is adequate. Textures aren’t super-detailed, but they get the job done. The character models are relatively interesting, and are unique enough to look different from one another. My only real complaint is that it can become hard to tell what exactly is going on in some of the fights with several ‘bots in close quarters. With clipping that isn’t exactly perfect, and a bunch of shiny character models and transparent effects from swinging your arms/blades, I often got annoyed and retreated while some of the enemies attacked each other. The sound isn’t marvelous, though it could be worse. The background music isn’t great, and the sound effects are fairly shallow as far as heavy robot fighting goes. In other words, don’t expect to need a 7.1 surround sound system to enjoy the audio here.

All in all, One Must Fall Battlegrounds is a decent game that could have been great. The single player mode is not enthralling, and in fact gets quite dull in a short period of time. Going online will pit you against some opponents that are much more fun to play, but the problems with the clunky controls are never alleviated. There are probably better online games today, and OMF Battlegrounds doesn’t quite fall into the budget price range. If you’re totally out of games and are interested, though, this wouldn’t be such a terrible purchase.

Score : 6.0/10

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