Free to Playstation Plus subscribers this month is THQ Digital's Red Faction: Battlegrounds, a multiplayer-focused vehicular combat game. Apart from some tenuous ties to series lore, this is Red Faction in name only. The gameplay is strikingly reminiscent of 80s arcade racer Championship Sprint. Sure there is dual-stick gunplay added to make the game more appealing to a modern, bloodthirsty audience and to add a questionable amount of depth; but at the end of the day, even as a free game, Red Faction: Battlegrounds fails to be a worthwhile use of bandwidth.
Heavy Weapons Training - despite the complete lack of charm, variety and depth, the single player training missions adequately prepare you for the multiplayer action found in Battlegrounds; which from what I could ascertain is supposed to be the main focus of the title. As a matter of fact, some of the final missions are so much more focused and urgent, that the multiplayer feels lackadaisical in terms of approach.
Loud noises! - there were times when the utter chaos found in the multiplayer modes was somewhat enjoyable. Explosions and weapons of striking colour lit up the diminutive maps; all the while, coloured text scrolls up the screen remembering the dead.
Balance - There's no middle ground in Battlegrounds. The speedy vehicles pack no punch whatsoever, and in all modes but Flag Frenzy they are rendered completely redundant. Further to that, vehicle types and upgrades are unlocked as you rank up (by playing both single and multiplayer modes); meaning that if you were to jump straight into the multiplayer suite, you would be painfully ineffective in battle online. Even after finishing the solo missions, I found that I did not have access to the vehicles my higher level opponents did; and for your information, King of the Hill against three heavy tanks is not much fun. With that said however, the collectable weapons in each environment are too powerful, and overly similar in design.
Cretaceous - Red Faction: Battlegrounds is so horrendously dated. I previously likened the game to a twenty-five year old arcade racer, which tasked players with tracing around a circuit at almost snail speed. Apart from the survival challenges, Battlegrounds asks players to do exactly the same, except sometimes it's mixed up (but by no means freshened) with some tired dual-stick shooting. Whether dispatching movement-impaired mines or EDF vehicles, the action fails to excite, or to even be considered acceptable.
No Meat - I completed each of the single player challenges, and competed in each multiplayer mode in less than two hours. I should also note that the only reason I trialled every mode was for the purpose of this review. There is nothing in this package that would normally have enticed me to play for any longer than required. King of the Hill is a distraction at best and the other modes are barely worth mentioning (four player Team Deathmatch, surely they could have called it doubles?). At no cost, it's a questionable deduction from your download quota. For 800 Microsoft Points, it is tantamount to daylight robbery.
Wrong kind of chaos - Multiplayer action is near impossible to make sense of. There may be a respectable amount of vehicles in which players can wage war, but the choice always comes down to strength over speed. You will explode a lot, as do your opponents. Sometimes you'll win a match, but you'd rarely care. THQ should be condemned for their milking of the Red Faction name, as this game is completely disposable.
Trapped - Battlegrounds' maps are minute and generic, with no interactive elements to differentiate them. Yes, one map may have rivers of lava, while another is covered in ice: but the environment has no impact on gameplay. Funnily enough, even with these diminutive play areas, the game's camera will often lose track of players; particularly in the single player campaign.
2.5/10 - Red Faction: Battlegrounds is about three decades behind the eight ball. I could only stretch my experience with the game out to two hours, and that was only to say that I have been there and done that. This is about as shallow an experience that can be purchased over the Playstation Network (or Xbox Live). Apart from being technically stable, there is not much else of note in this stale package. Avoid at all costs.