Review – Red Faction: Guerilla
Better red than Mercenaries 2.
If Hollywood has taught us anything it’s that terraforming planets seldom works out well. From angry xenomorphs, amoral corporations and all manner of black market shenanigans a colonist’s life is usually far from utopian and this is truer for Alec Mason than most. He’s moved to Mars in search of honest work and before long finds himself conducting hit and run missions for the Red Faction against the EDF (Earth Defense Force), former liberators of Mars (during the events of Red Faction II) now turned bullyboy fascist pricks. To make matters worse, they aren’t even the same EDF that likes to smack giant ants around with grenade launchers.
Of course, Red Faction games aren’t really about the hackneyed stories and space opera politics. The main draw has always been the GeoMod engine. After the slightly limited v1 version, Volition have gone back to the drawing board and come up with version two which lets you destroy more or less anything which is something of a blessing and a curse.
The gameworld is split into six easily digestable areas. Not tiny, but easy enough to get to where you’re going. Within each area you’ll find Red Faction missions, time trials and EDF property that needs to be destroyed in order to reclaim the land for the workers. Most of the missions tend to involve killing a set number of EDF troopers or rescuing your Red Faction comrades from secure buildings.
What you’ll learn pretty quickly though is that with this game engine, no building is truly secure. Say for example you have to rescue a couple of people from house arrest. You could try to find an unguarded route (using the Oblivion method of rock climbing to do so) and then bust your way in with your sledgehammer. Or maybe you might want to go in all guns blazing, throw a liberal scattering of explosives around the structure and make your own doors. But hey, with the right vehicle you could even ram raid your way straight in. With an engine this flexible, you have many options when it comes to dispensing anarchy and chaos.
However, with this new level of freedom comes the inevitable switch from linear FPS (previous games had a way of keeping you on track with doors and walls that couldn’t be destroyed) to an open, sandbox world. This particular gaming trend has a way of leading to horrendously lazy game design (see: Far Cry 2) and at times it looks like RF:G may head the same way with each area adding more and more of the same types of mission. Not to mention the severe collectathonic achievements that come with this open territory.
Thankfully the sheer intensity of the gunfights combined with a decent upgrade system (collecting scrap from buildings you’ve destroyed allows you to purchase weapons and upgrades) means that you’ll be creating carnage for a long time before the game starts to get stale. Collecting scrap also adds a tasty risk/reward game mechanic to the mix as it’s far more profitable getting in amongst your target and twatting it with a hammer rather than letting off a few rockets at it from a distance.
GTA IV? No fun. Mercenaries 2? Underwhelming and disappointing. Saint Row 2? Lacking something to keep me hooked. Red Faction Guerilla, however, has filled the sandbox-shaped hole in my gaming library. I haven’t had this much fun in ages, and obviously the environmental destruction plays a big part in this. Simply ploughing through a building in a vehicle and watching it collapse to it’s foundations is more than enough to bring a smile to your face. Even better is the mech suits which allow you to literally walk through buildings and swat away pursuing cars.
I usually don’t bother with a lot of side-missions in these types of games, but I often found myself spending more time on these than the actual story missions themselves. From trying to beat my best time for demolishing a building, to the “tug-of-war” style missions where you have to take over/destroy a building occupied by enemy troops, there is plenty of depth and replay value.
I was impressed with how well the combat works, especially the cover mechanics. Despite all the enemies looking like unused Master Chief designs, they put up a good fight and finding cover is essential or you will be dead before you know it. Finishing them off with your trusty hammer is particularly satisfying and effective.
This game wasn’t really on my radar until I played the demos, and the promise from those has successfully carried over to the full game. A fantastic singleplayer with an addictive multiplayer which is sure to keep peoples attention for a long time yet. Destined so surely be a sleeper hit, Red Faction Guerilla is my biggest gaming surprise of the year so far. Not over-hyped and forced down our throats at every opportunity. It simply does what it does very,very well and offers a highly enjoyable and lasting experience.Secondary Score: 8/10
Graphically the game impresses, normally when something large is being levelled, and the presentation is generally top notch throughout. On the downside, Mars doesn’t make for a particularly interesting setting especially after a while when most of its features are reduced to scrap. Still, there are a plenty of standout moments and a nice level of polish throughout.
No third-person action game is complete without a sizeable online component and RF:G delivers this in spades. You’ve got your usual deathmatch and CTF modes of course but these generally put me in a coma within seconds of firing them up and that’s no different here. What is different however are the destruction-based modes that see you attacking and defending buildings in variations of the usual Assault and Domination modes but with the emphasis on complete destruction. These modes are augmented nicely by a selection of power-ups that give various benefits such as flight, earth-shaking concussion attacks, speed upgrades and the like which, when used in combination with the various weapons, give a tactical edge to the gameplay. Also, with your hammer doing the most damage you’ll find a lot of melee action in these modes. It’s not all about the split-second headshot and thank fuck for that. The related achievements will take a while but we’re looking at 5000 kills rather thank anything as stupid as Gears of War’s.
Offline multiplayer is catered for with the ‘Wrecking Crew’ mode which pits players against each other, Burnout Party style, to see who can do the most damage against the clock. It’s as fun an offline multiplayer experience as I’ve had in a while and, like the rest of the game, shows off the game engine to the maximum. Maybe the best thing about RF:G is the fact that they’ve done enough with the game to stop it feeling like a tech demo.
On the downside, there’s no co-op which is a shame considering how awesome it was in Saint’s Row 2, there’s no real penalty for dying in the single player mode and there are no vehicles in multiplayer. Also, expect a steady stream of DLC to come your way as well so don’t be thinking you’re getting the fullest gameplay experience here. But what you do get is, at times, exceptional and one of the few sandbox games that says ‘get out there and have some fun’ rather than pulling you back with choresome activities like so many others have.