With a monster advertising campaign behind it, Battle: Los Angeles is one of the biggest budget films this year. Telling the story of an alien invasion of Los Angeles (because, you know, if aliens ever invaded, they'd certainly head straight to Hollywood. It has nothing to do with LA being the centre of the film industry and right in the producer's front yards, of course), the film, which has been mostly panned, was nonetheless a box office success, and its concept apparently too much for developers Saber Interactive to resist.
What we have here is an Xbox Live Arcade adaptation of the big budget film, turned into - you guessed it - a first person shooter. It's a format that fits the license well, providing the same explosive action as the film, as you lace up the boots of Corporal Lee Imlay, one such marine caught up in the middle of the invasion, as you face down the alien scum, and defend the world - or more importantly, the good ol' US of A. All together now - hoo-rah!
While it may seem strange that the game's an Xbox Live Arcade game rather than a full retail release like most other film tie-ins (most recently, kid's film Rango), especially as, graphically, the game's one of the more impressive downloadable titles around, the reason for its bite-sized format soon becomes abundantly clear. On anything above easy, it'll take you around two to three hours to play through the entire game, which, although it's a longer running time than the film, is nonetheless a bit disappointing.
The action here is actually pretty enjoyable. Shepherded through narrow corridors of debris, taking cover from the alien invaders, as you head for cover behind an overturned truck, before attempting to pick off a few shots so you can move forward unimpeded, the game does a good job of creating an atmosphere, and keeping things moving. It's difficult to get lost, thanks to the fairly narrow roads you're kept to, and it never gets too difficult, either, as the single alien species you encounter in the game, far from being a world conquering threat, appear to be ear bendingly stupid. Many a time, you'll see an alien, blissfully unaware that they're usually a lot taller than the cover they're hiding behind. Humanity's got its knickers in a twist over nothing.
The brief length means Battle: LA progresses at a heck of the pace, transitioning from one giant explosive set-piece to another seemingly every few minutes, which helps keep you on the edge of your seat, while a variety of objectives help keep things fresh. Whether you're shooting down an alien ship with a handily placed rocket launcher, covering one of your troops as he runs into the alien horde like a lunatic, or planting a bomb to blow open a door (as apparently you're the only one in the outfit that can be trusted with opening a door), the game's really well paced, as you're hustled through the levels, and the story slowly unfolds, with stylish comic-book cutscenes punctuating the action.
Finish the game, and you'll unlock a number of extras, depending on what difficulty you were playing through. Whether it's making of videos for the game, or cheats that modify your next play through, these annoyingly don't stack, so playing through on Hard will only unlock the "hard" unlocks, and not the content for the difficulties below. Going by the length of the game, however, the decision's somewhat understandable - after all, what's the point of unlocking cheats if there's no reason to play through again?
In all, the main problem here is the longevity. While there's no doubting the game's a bit on the short, it's something of a double edged sword, as it also means the game doesn't get chance to really become repetitive - and, for 800 points, or around £6.80, it costs around the same price as a cinema ticket for a game that'll last you longer than the film. Had a split-screen co-op mode been included, this would have been more highly recommended.