March 22, 2011

Review – Battle: LA

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — Brad Johnson @ 7:35 am

Battle: LA
When I saw Battlefield: Los Angeles in theaters, I walked away with the distinct impression that the film could have easily been a Call of Duty game, with many of its events and scenarios seemingly lifted right out of that series. Indeed, Saber Interactive seems to recognize this, with their downloadable adaptation more than a little reminiscent of Call of Duty, but stale, unsatisfying design undercuts the experience from the very beginning.

The game takes a number of the plot elements and scenarios directly from the film and tells a rough approximation of the same story. The plot of Battle: LA unfolds in a selection of miserable, tone-dead motion comics. Lacking a single drop of atmosphere or attitude, these looks like pages from a children’s book more than art from a hardened shooter. Half-baked animations are awkward and often silly, dialogue is poorly scripted, and most damningly, the voice acting is terribly flat and either poorly recorded or poorly mixed.

Poor sound design and sound mixing are a staple of the product. A dry soundtrack mumbles unintelligibly in the background, while marines pontificate endlessly on how they need cover, have found cover, will attack from cover, and also, that you should find some cover. And then? Something about cover. All this, and the lame prattle of assault rifles and pew pew of alien fire combine to form a game that’s simply unpleasant to listen to.

The core shooting mechanic doesn’t fare much better. In my review for Killzone 3 I talked about the art of the shooter, something Guerilla Games seemed to inherently grasp—the ability to forge a satisfying, exciting shooting mechanic through careful design. Sadly, if the minds behind Battle: LA understand the art of the shooter, then they simply did not have the time, resources, or perhaps even the interest to leverage that knowledge in the construction of the game.

Battle: LA
The very first thing players will notice is that shooting is boring. The assault rifle sounds like a paintball gun, with a bizarrely muted sound effect, and there’s no sense of weight or power to it. The sniper rifle, alternatively, sounds fine, but jerks so crazily when fired that the player often can’t tell if the round hit home.

Movement and aiming are awkward, with the player character walking slow and acquiring targets even slower. Even with the sensitivity option increased, it’s difficult to make quick aim adjustments to account for enemy movements, and thus the gameplay simply devolves into a spray-and-pray shoot-out, where one simply holds down the trigger until the other guy eventually falls over.

Conveniently, enemies stroll stupidly out into the open, begging to be lit up by the weak weapon fire. When fired upon, they animate poorly, barely recognizing the gunfire, and then collapse softly to the ground, offering the player no sense of satisfaction or challenge in taking them out.

For environmental interaction, the player can sprint a short distance, crouch behind plentiful cover, climb a few ladders, and shoot a few interactive objects to open doors and cause explosions. More curiously, the player character possesses the ability to jump—but there are no obstacles to jump over in this game. The jump is a ridiculous, useless hop, which doesn’t seem to have any actual function—obstacles low enough to be cleared by this jump can simply be walked over, and the obstacles the player might actually want to jump over simply cannot be surmounted with the jump. Its inclusion makes no sense, and serves only to frustrate a player who is trying to employ its use to actually navigate the world.

As much as the world can be navigated, that is.

Battle: LA
Battle: LA is a straight line, in the strictest sense. Linearity is a staple of many shooters, but the player should still be able to reposition himself in the battlefield and attack the enemy from multiple paths. Not so, in this product. The player is guided a long a set path with no room to explore or even flank, unless the game design directly requires it.

Two instances present objectives asking the player to flank an enemy position—and, hilariously, the path to the necessary flanking spot is laid out, and all other paths are blocked. No thought is required, the player is not encouraged to seek out an ideal position; he must simply progress along the only path that is available, and then open fire.

The sloppy, unthinking design doesn’t end there. Ammo crates are littered about the world, and they supply the player infinitely and automatically. This means that one can simply stand on top of an ammo crate and hurl out an unlimited supply of grenades in many encounters. I don’t know, maybe the shooting is so boring that this is how someone might want to play, but it’s a silly mistake that could have easily been fixed.

Battle: LA
Throughout the course of the game there are a handful of scenarios requiring the player to snipe, fire rockets, or mount a turret. These are fairly standard FPS tropes, but as with most elements of this product, they simply aren’t up to standard—a function of the fundamentally unsatisfying way in which all elements of this game are rendered, lacking any element of excitement or challenge.

The game runs less than three hours, and yet still recycles some of these scenarios for no other reason than to extend its playtime. It features three equippable weapons in addition to a mounted gun and hand grenades—and nothing else. These options constitute the entirety of the game experience, with no unique or even interesting changes in pacing or combat.

Perhaps the only redeeming quality of Battle: LA is that it isn’t broken; it functions as intended without bugs–at least mostly. I did note one instance where no less than three rounds from the sniper rifle missed an unmoving target, despite the fact that my cross-hairs were directly over his rather bulbous cranium.

There are a lot of games on the downloadable market that are pushing boundaries and doing exciting things, but Battle: LA is simply a budget shooter, and a mediocre one at that. Gamers would be better served spending their money elsewhere.

Saber Interactive


PlayStation 3 (PSN), Xbox 360 (XBLA), PC (Digital Download) (Xbox 360 reviewed)


Release Date
March 11, 2011 (XBLA), March 22, 2011 (PSN), TBA (PC)

$9.99, 800 Microsoft Points

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for this review

1 Comment »

  1. Huh, I figured that since the game was a movie tie-in game (a digital one at that!) chances of it being actually good (like Ace in Action on Wii) where very low.

    Comment by EdEN — March 23, 2011 @ 2:28 am

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