Review: Battle: Los Angeles

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Wanna know why movie games have such a dubious reputation? Because of crap like Battle: Los Angeles!

I started playing this supposed “AAA” downloadable FPS last night, little knowledge of the movie it’s linked to, but half expecting a fun ride. Saber Interactive developed the game after all, and they’d previously developed TimeShift, a solid sleeper FPS released around four years ago now.

But before I knew it, the game was over, and I was left wondering how a slapped together pile of trash like this ever made it to consumers. Konami, I love you. You make some of my favorite game franchises, from Metal Gear to Silent Hill to Castlevania. But asking gamers to pay any amount of money for this game should be a crime.

Like the film, Battle: Los Angeles, the game, thrusts players into the thick of an unspectacular alien invasion storyline. You join the ranks of an everyday military squad, and proceed to run and gun down the disheveled streets of LA, sending nondescript alien A-holes to meet their maker. You are armed with grenades, an M-16, and a sniper rifle, along with a rocket launcher at designated moments, and you charge forward almost as if on rails, stop to kill off scripted waves of the same aliens over and over again, then move on and repeat the process many times over.

Of course, the game never has a chance to grow into something grander and less formulaic because it starts and ends before you ever get the chance to settle in. I literally finished the game within an hour. On the hardest difficulty. While pausing periodically to jot down a few review notes (mostly about how terrible this game is!).

Normally I’m not one to harp on game length, but an hour! Come on, I’ve played demos longer than that. Shit, the process of writing and publishing this review has already taken me longer than actually playing through the game!

What’s really sad is that even at an hour long, everything about the game feels padded. Even while sprinting movement speed is glacially slow, the scripted shootouts often drag on and on with respawning aliens, and the boss battles against alien aircraft literally have you hiding in a corner until the craft stops to charge up its main attack, at which point you can hit it with a rocket or two until it enters ‘dodge everything’ mode again. The trophies/achievements for completing the game on different difficulties fail to stack as they typically do, so even if you play through the game on Hard the first time around, you don’t unlock any of the rewards tied to the lesser difficulties. If that’s not blatant padding, I don’t know what is!

Sadder still, even when you accomplish everything there is to accomplish – beating the campaign three times for all the trophies/achievements and unlocks – there’s only enough content to keep you busy for a couple hours. Once you’ve gone through the first time, subsequent replays go by in half an hour to 45 minutes tops, and none of the unlockable bonus videos or concept art are worth even that minimal amount of effort.

I would be a lot more forgiving if the actual gameplay was at least decent, but it isn’t. The controls are sluggish, the weapons sound and feel puny, the hit detection is poor and you get very little visual feedback to let you know whether or not you are hitting your target, the underdeveloped alien AI turns shootouts into glorified shooting galleries with little variation or challenge, there is a jump button when in fact there isn’t a single thing in the game you can actually jump over, and the sprinting mechanic gives you maybe five seconds of increased speed before your character slows to a crawl while recovering stamina. Seriously, did anyone test this game before releasing it?

But good news – Battle: Los Angeles at least looks the part of a blockbuster sci-fi action game…when textures finish loading in and your guns don’t vanish into thin air (yes, one time I came out of a cutscene and my character was holding an invisible gun!). Saber Interactive’s Saber 3D Engine definitely produces some impressive visual effects. A lot of detail has been crammed into the ravaged LA environments, cars and cover pieces realistically explode and shred apart, and scripted in-game sequences, like planes crashing and buildings crumbling down, do provide fleeting moments of cinematic intensity.

Battle: Los Angeles basically plays like the opening chapter of what was supposed to be a full game, but due to quality concerns continued development was scrapped to save money, leftover concept artwork was cobbled together into a cheap comic book story presentation, and the game was tossed out as a digital download just to recoup as much wasted development cost as possible. Please, whatever you do, do not contribute to such a product!

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Pros:
+ Reasonably impressive graphics
+ A few exciting cinematic moments

Cons:
– Less than an hour long with lots of padding and little replay value
– Slow, clumsy controls
– Generic story presentation
– Gameplay lacks challenge and variation
– Weak guns and sound effects

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS3 via PSN download, also available on PC and Xbox Live Arcade for Xbox 360
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Saber Interactive
Release Date: PC/XBLA – 3/11/2011, PSN – 3/23/2011
Genre: FPS
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!