The main point of this review will not be to establish if Battle: Los Angeles is a bad game. It is. Instead, I'm going to try and figure out if this can fall into the "so-bad-it's good" genre. The storyline defiantly offers up hope.
Aliens invade Los Angeles. Why? We’re not sure. Saber Interactive make an online shooter based on the film. Why? We’re not sure.
You are a U.S marine trying to rescue a bunch of civilians from a police station (because if cops can’t protect them, the army will) in a city that’s swarmed by invading aliens. Anyone who’s ever watched a classic B grade film knows that such simplistic plots can lead to great fun. Independence Day is an example. Sadly, the potential for cheesy lines, cheap scares, and fun in-jokes never develops. You’ll be finished after about an hour. Not the level, the game. But “that’s what Marines do.” HUA.
If you saw Battle: Los Angeles at the movies, and were desperate for the action not to end, then this should do the trick. Playing this is remarkably similar to watching the film: You pay too much, wonder half way through if you've been ripped off, then it ends and you feel slightly wrong.
The graphics are respectable but flat and ironically lack the visual oomph that a story like this usually relies on. Also, the frame rate appears to slow in some of the bigger scenes. Considering how little modern systems are being pushed, I'm still trying to figure out how that's possible. Of course LA is a great city for this type of action, and there is something appealing about throwing a frag grenade at a car - but this has been done much better in other shooters. I’m sure none of the aliens designers had played Mass Effect, in- spite of Geth-like features. It’s not like the Mass Effect 3 trailer... moving on.
Cut scenes come in the form of comic book style panels that maintain the same consistent level of not-very-goodness. While strangely improving the narrative, it’s the lack of quality comic art that almost sums up the half-hearted attempt the designers have made.
Again, with the sound, it's a matter of generic filler mostly. Voice acting is solid, but unremarkable. The sound effects do the trick but nothing more, and the script is about as appealing as an episode of Stargate Atlantis.
Sound, Sight, and Script could be all be lacklustre if the game-play came through. Unfortunately the developers appeared to look at all they had made and think “why try now?”. So your marine will meander towards inevitability, emptying clips into aliens, then luckily finding replacement clips. Snipering is only recommended if you absolutely have to, or want to drag out the game and get your money’s worth. Also, experienced shooters will want to ramp up their settings to move faster.
Choosing between Assault Rifle, Sniper, and Rocket Launcher (which are always luckily located near places they're needed), you’ll also occasionally get to mount a turret and let loose on the most badly organised invasion army ever. Tactics? What tactics. The classic “lets-just-stand-around-and-see-what-happens” invasion plan appears to be at work here. Not that your squad are shining examples either but, even on harder levels, the main challenge is to maintain your interest. Like most of the game, the AI appears to be apathetically simple.
What’s the most dissapointing is that Saber Interactive are responsible for the great little Sci-Fi FPS TimeShift. It may be unfair to compare the two, as Battle: Los Angeles is obviously confined by the film it is tied to. However, even with such parameters, there are ways for a developer to make something more engaging and entertaining than this. Saber just comes off lazy here. The meagre rewards unlocked by campaign completion will probably be on the blu-ray extras anyway.
All in all, Battle: Los Angeles is the gaming equivalent of buying a gourmet mince and cheese pie - you’ll be uncertain you’ve got your money’s worth, and pretty sure you could have done a better job.