Red Faction: Battlegrounds
- Xbox Live - 800 Points (£6.80)
- PSN - £7.99
While the world waits for the fourth in the Red Faction series to appear, what could be better than to toss out a downloadable teaser offering in the weeks leading up to its release?
But what worked for Dead Rising 2 doesn't really hang together in this instance. For one thing, Battlegrounds is little more than a tenuous twin-stick shooter spin-off which has almost nothing to do with the series it's based on.
What you get is essentially a collection of 16 against-the-clock challenges set inside terraformed arenas, and these act as your 'training' for the online modes.
Sometimes the sole aim is to survive an onslaught for as long as you can, while other times you'll have to wipe out a certain number enemy waves in the shortest possible time. Other challenges task you with capturing and delivering flags, or just destroying designated targets one after the other.
Despite its solid production values, it doesn't take you long to realise that Battlegrounds isn't destined to be regarded as another great-value download classic. The uninspired single-player content lacks spark and purpose, and there's nothing that the XP and medal system can do to lure you back once you're done with each level.
Online, it fares even worse, largely because the arenas aren't big enough. In the free-for-all deathmatch, for example, you seem to continually respawn next to an opponent, and matches boil down to whoever's fortunate enough to pick up a power-up first. Team Deathmatch and Capture The Flag are less painful, but only just.
Some committed souls might eke a few hours of mild entertainment out of Red Faction: Battlegrounds, but only if they try really hard. It might not be irredeemably terrible, but there are so many better games in the download scene. Don't waste your time on this forgettable spin-off.
- Xbox Live Indie Games - 80 Microsoft Points (£0.68)
- Also available on Windows Phone 7.
It's a pity that Hemisphere Games never got around to porting the magnificent Osmos to consoles. But when you leave the door wide open like that, you can bet someone else will come along and take full advantage.
And that's exactly what 2.0 Studios has done with Cell. Just like Osmos, the premise is to grow your cell by absorbing smaller ones around you. Just like Osmos, you propel yourself around the playing field by ejecting a tiny piece of yourself. And just like Osmos, it's a thoroughly zen experience.
But some of the original spirit of its source inspiration has been lost in translation. Most obviously, the visuals are nowhere near the beautiful standard of Osmos – though, to be fair, that applies to more or less every game ever made.
But the gameplay doesn't quite hit the mark either. Rather than opt for large, expansive levels that take time and patience to conquer, Cell opts for a much more stripped-down approach that makes it relatively simple to clear levels quickly.
On the plus side, 2.0 Studios does throw in some interesting new ideas, such as gravity wells that you have to steer clear of, and cells that think like you and try to grow at the same time. In addition, the ethereal electronica that accompanies your journey is outstanding.
So while you'll probably start out determined to dismiss Cell as a cheap knock-off, there's a grudging acceptance that 2.0 has actually built on the ideas in interesting ways. And for the price, you can't really complain.