Downloadable games that are spin-offs of full games can be a dubious affair. On one end of the crap-o-meter, you have stuff like Dead Space Ignition which not only fails to offer a fun gameplay experience, but also fails to offer even fans who love the Dead Space series a reason to dabble in it. In the case of Red Faction: Battlegrounds, fans of the series won’t find that it adds any additional layers to the Red Faction universe, but on its own merits it’s a not-so-shabby multiplayer game that could help you kill a few hours while you wait for Armageddon, the next title in the core series.

Battlegrounds is a top-down perspective vehicular combat game that pits up to four players against each other in a variety of game modes such as deathmatch, capture the flag, and king of the hill. If you don’t have people who you can play with locally or have no intention of playing online, there’s really nothing here for you. The game has a training mode which is actually quite challenging and does a good job of showing you the ropes, but beyond that everything is exclusively a multiplayer experience. I’m not sure why they omitted the option to add bots to the game, it would have been a welcomed feature if you just wanted to practice taking shots at the CPU before jumping into a live game.

The best and worse thing Battlegrounds has going for it is its simplicity. It’s very easy to jump into a match and start shooting, the problem is the fun starts to wane not long after your session begins. The shooting mechanics themselves are fine for the most part, but the occasionally clunky controls can put a real damper on the action. Each map is littered with both environmental hazards and power-ups adding an extra layer of strategy to the action beyond simply aiming and shooting. The vehicles you have to choose from are straight out of the Red Faction games, each have strengths and weaknesses which may tailor to your particular play style or the game mode you are in. For instance, in capture the flag you may want a faster vehicle with lesser firepower.

The maps in Battlegrounds, frankly, are too small and too dull. There’s really nothing in the way of learning the intricacies of the maps in order to gain a competitive advantage over your opponents. What you see is what you get, and for the most part all you are getting are small maps littered with ramps and bridges. It’s not to say that Battlegrounds isn’t fun, the matches can be really exciting and chaotic with four players attempting to destroy each other. But, within an hour or so you’ll most likely find yourself growing bored of the simplified gameplay.

The only resemblance of Battlegrounds to the core series is in its visual style and the fact that all the vehicles you can pilot come from it. The maps have that familiar reddish tint we’ve come to expect from anything taking place on Mars, and the user-interface makes use of the same art samples. Graphically the game looks decent, although at times the camera pans way far out making it hard to tell where your vehicle is. Explosions cause shrapnel and debris to fly into the air dramatically, just like in the core game.

If you’re a fan of the Red Faction series, there isn’t anything in Battlegrounds that will satisfy your craving for more Red Faction. If you’re looking for a simple multiplayer game that you can play with your friends locally or online to kill a few hours, Battlegrounds may very well be worth the price of admission.

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