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Battle: Los Angeles

Developers of film adaptations have to spend a lot of time figuring out ways to make a non-interactive film an interactive game. Even developers of games based on cute animated films like Shrek, properties which lend themselves well to an adaptation, have to figure out meaningful ways to engage the players. War movies should have it easy when the inevitable movie-tine in comes around considering how popular shooters are with gamers. Battle: Los Angeles is a film property that seems like it should do well as a playable experience since the movie feels like a third-person shooter. Perhaps that’s the most disappointing aspect of the Battle: Los Angeles game – though seemingly one of the easiest movies to turn into a successful video game, Battle: Los Angeles is a subpar experience you’ll be thankful is extremely short.

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Some of the most appalling “cutscenes” I’ve seen in this console generation fill players in on the details – aliens have invaded and Los Angeles needs to be defended. The game’s cutscenes are essentially poorly-colored storyboards, with very limited animation and Comic Sans font in the comic book style text bubbles. Character’s mouths don’t move when they talk, they just sit there blankly, as if they’re all expert ventriloquists. It honestly sounds as if the developers did the voices themselves and skipped professional talent. The story setup is certainly weak, but it would perhaps be forgivable if the game embraced its campiness. Instead, it takes itself seriously (perhaps a weakness that can be levied at the film, too) and it is all the worse for it.

When you actually get down onto the ground, things start to look up. Players take the role of a soldier under the command of Sgt. Michael Nantz, the character played by Aaron Eckhart in the film. The game has the look and feel of any of the multitude of military shooters that are on the market, and for a downloadable title, it looks quite good. Ignited cars eventually explode, the environments are littered with debris, and alien munitions will shred away at your cover if you linger for too long. The amount of pop-in is incredibly distracting, but otherwise the game’s environments and characters look visually appealing when you’re in control.

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Players move through the crumbling streets of Los Angeles, following linear paths through blown out streets and buildings as they wipe out resistance from the game’s alien nemeses. Considering the tenacity of the movie’s foes, the game’s enemies are very underwhelming. In the film, the characters had to learn how to take down their foes. In the game, it boils down to simply hammering them with the almost infinite supply of ammo that you have at your disposal. If you simply stand over one of the infinite ammo crates found almost every fifteen feet, you can spam grenades and fire wildly at your foes without any effort. This is disappointing considering how thoughtful and dangerous the enemies were in the film.

The inept presentation of your enemies takes a lot of the excitement out of it. I would have preferred to have to fight off a few difficult foes rather than waves of them. Instead, we’re treated to monster closets and giant arrows that tell us at every turn exactly what we’re supposed to do. Taking foes down is made even less satisfying by the weakness of the weapons. There are only three weapons in the game (assault rifle, sniper rifle, rocket launcher – yes, no shotgun), they have no recoil and the sound effects are unsatisfying. It feels like the developers don’t know who they were making the game for. FPS fans will find the experience too shallow, but it looks so much like a conventional military shooter that non-fans will probably still avoid it on looks alone. It would have been better as a more focused experience that tried to accurately recreate the tension of the film. Instead we’re treated to a by-the-numbers shooter that fails to take advantage of its license.

3 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003.

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