To be honest, I have yet to see Battle: Los Angeles, the movie on which the same-titled video game is based. Thus, I am given a rare opportunity: to judge a movie-licensed game completely on its own merits. Does it fall into the trap that many of its licensed brethren fall into, or does it manage to achieve something greater? Find out after the break!
The game follows the general narrative thrust of the film: a fire team of 4 Marines has to blast their way across a decimated Los Angeles, fighting off the invading forces of dome-headed aliens. The graphics are shockingly good for a download-only title, with a concrete-crushing physics engine that adds even more weight to the devastation going on around you. The enemies come out in surprisingly heavy numbers, keeping your character just as much behind cover as out in the open with guns-a-blazing.
Much like the movie it's based on, Battle: Los Angeles eschews a lot of the genre trappings to aim for a tone that's much more akin to Call of Duty than Halo. You may be fighting aliens, but you're doing so with only 3 terrestrial weapons: an assault rifle, a sniper rifle, and a rocket launcher. There's no snagging of alien weaponry to pad out your arsenal, or hijacking one of their vehicles for a white-knuckle aerial assault. It's just you and your teammates being thrown into a meat grinder and hoping you can make it out alive on the other side. The pacing is so hellish and the mood is so stone-sober you hardly notice that there are only three enemy types in the game, and when you finally do the game is winding down to its abrupt conclusion.
All of that harrowing grittiness is almost undone, however, by the absolute worst cut scenes I have seen in my life. Opting for a motion comic style, the game relays its developments through bland comic-style characters that wiggle and occasionally sprout poorly aligned speech bubbles. The effect is literally laugh-inducing and completely pulls you out of the expertly-constructed atmosphere of the main game.
Lousy cutscenes aside, Battle: Los Angeles is a gritty, satisfying romp for the 90-odd minutes that it takes to complete its campaign, although there are unlockables and achievements to pad out its playtime. It takes a less-is-more attitude that many more licensors should take notice of and emulate for their own releases.
Battle: Los Angeles is available on Xbox Live for 800 MSP and PSN for $9.99.