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One Must Fall: Battlegrounds Review

Ben_Silverman By:
PLAYERS 1- 16 
PUBLISHER Diversions 
DEVELOPER Diversions 
T Contains Violence

What do these ratings mean?

It's fallen and it can't get up!

Despite its immense power and near limitless gaming potential, the PC still hasn't managed to keep up with the consoles in the fighting game arena. You can strategize like Schwarzkopf and massively role-play until you completely lose touch with reality, but good luck finding anything like Soul Calibur for your cool new Dell.

A few PC fighting games have cropped up over the years, but none have made any sort of lasting impact. In fact, the forbear to One Must Fall: Battlegrounds, One Must Fall: 2097, is probably the last PC fighting game to make any serious waves. It was released in 1993. Ouch.

So over the past decade, you'd figure someone was hard at work on a great PC fighting game. Consider the power of new graphics cards from Nvidia and ATI. Consider increased RAM, faster processors and countless control options. Consider the possibilities!

Then, after you play One Must Fall: Battlegrounds for a half-hour, consider yourself excused from having to play it any more. Though the idea is good, the game is not and clearly pales next to its console kin.

The game is set sometime in the future where, in a shocking plot twist, the biggest sport around involves humans controlling giant fighting robots. It's unclear why.

From this ho-hum backdrop sprouts a ho-hum fighter in which you choose not only the bot, but the pilot as well. Pilots have skill rankings in four categories, while the robots feature unique chasses and, obviously, different moves. There's a smidgen of strategy involved in mixing and matching the pilot with the bot, but for the most part you'll just jump in and start whacking away without much concern for numbers.

The whacking, unfortunately, isn't very satisfying. The bots are fairly well balanced, but each has a pretty small move list consisting of your standard array of kicks and punches alongside a handful of special moves. Combos aren't predetermined, so there's at least a sense of freedom since you can string together moves as you see fit, but none of it is very compelling.

Part of the problem is the awkward camera and control. OMF: Battlegrounds is played from a third-person perspective just like what you'd find in a 3D platformer like Tomb Raider. However, this is a fighting game, not a platformer, and the camera cannot be tweaked at all, meaning you'll spend a great deal of time swinging your head left and right trying to keep your opponent in front of you.

Other third-person fighters like Virtua On solve this issue by including a lock-on feature; OMF: Battlegrounds offers nothing of the sort. Plus, many of the matches drop three bots into the arena at a time. Good luck keeping track of two opponents at once.

Using a gamepad is much more intuitive than a keyboard, but both styles suffer from really boring move sets. Every special move is some sort of combination of Up, Down, and an attack button or two. Every one, for every bot. Kinda ruins the learning curve.

Not that the learning curve was steep to begin with. OMF: Battlegrounds is a pretty easy game thanks to fairly simple AI in the single-player mode, which drops you into a few tournaments and whatnot. The design is pedestrian, with cheap little text conversations prior to each match and no FMV whatsoever to flesh anything out or reward you for winning. Though it's a 3D game, most of the levels are simple hexagons featuring a scant collection of items and powerups. A few environmental traps spice it up a bit, but for the most part you just run around trying to beat up other robots, a feat often accomplished by standing next to one another throwing haymakers.

But theoretically that's all okay, because if you believe the hype, OMF: Battlegrounds is really intended for online play. Supporting up to 16 players at once, it's billed as an innovative multiplayer fighting game mosh pit.

The reality, however, is only marginally better than the single-player. I never witnessed more than 8 people on any given server, and even that many compounds the targeting problems. You'll often be hit from the back and sides without ever seeing it coming. A few different multiplayer match types do mix up the gameplay a bit, however, and there's some genuine fun to be had, if only for about 20 minutes at a time.

At any rate, the game is far from a technological powerhouse. While the bot textures and designs are good, the animations are archaic and the weapon effects are dated. The whole product could use serious polish, from its amateur front end to its cheesy character art. The game also has an autopatcher that starts right after installation that presumably fixes some holes in the final code, though I still encountered some strange glitches and at least two outright crashes.

Even the sound is shoddy, as the game is short on the necessary thuds, clanks thunderous rattle of giant robots duking it out. You don't get the feeling that these robots are very big.

The concept behind One Must Fall: Battlegrounds is solid and the gang at Diversions deserve credit for at least attempting to correct the PC's astonishing lack of fighting games, but that doesn't make it a good game. Remotely.

D+ Revolution report card
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