Red Faction has been delivering first-person-shooter flavored environmental destruction since 2001, tasking players with revolution both on Mars and on Earth.
With Red Faction: Guerrilla, players return to Mars to once more stir up trouble in an open-world game promising unheralded destruction from a third-person perspective. Can a third take on the same general concepts deliver a third great game?
Destruction: Plenty of other games have done destructible environments, but never to this degree. Not only is virtually every man-made item in the game breakable, it breaks in detail. When you take your sledgehammer to a wall you break away the outer shell first, then you start digging into the concrete, and finally you hit rebar. Not only is the game's destruction fun to deliver and watch, but it also has a pretty big impact on how you play the game. When tasked with an assassination, you can sneak in and shoot the target or just take down the whole building the person is in. Tired of enemies sending reinforcements over a bridge? Take down the whole bridge. The level of destruction in Red Faction: Guerrilla deepens gameplay in ways I never would have imagined.
Weapons: Besides the trusty sledgehammer, assault rifle and pistol, there are plenty of other fun weapons in the game. I made most use out of the timed charges which let me coat a building in explosives and then take it down with a button push. Another great weapon, the Nano rifle, disintegrates entire structures, cars and even people, one piece at a time. The coolest looking is the singularity bomb which sucks the surrounding area into a small gravity well.
Multiplayer: Multiplayer in Guerrilla involves plenty of running and gunning, but the many of the mode's chief focus is in taking down buildings or protecting them. The new focus, and inclusion of power packs that let you charge through walls, fly and speed, among other things, makes the multiplayer bits of Guerrilla some of my favorite in a shooter.
Surprising Major Mission Mix: While a bulk of the game is about roaming around the territories of Mars rabble-rousing, taking down buildings and killing people to incite revolution, the game ends each territory's campaign with a difficult and innovative mission. The missions can be anything from riding shotgun in a speeding vehicle, to using a space-based weapon on land targets, to piloting a monstrous tank. While frustratingly difficult at times, they all add a unique twist to the sometimes repetitive gameplay.
Physics: Having destructible environments is fine, but what really makes the game sing is how those environments topple once they take enough damage. It's not just about tearing down a building, it's about figuring out where you can attack to take down an enormous structure with the help of gravity and weight. Slap some charges in the right place on a tower and you can make it topple onto the roof of a nearby building, taking it down too. This could be the entire game for me, the shooting is just a fun addition.
Open World, Massive Scale: Mars is broken down into six sectors, all but the first of which have to be unlocked through play. As you unlock them, the areas you can roam expand. More interesting, though, is how the game makes use of all of that space. There are several moments in the game when the rolling landscapes and cities are teeming with warring factions, everywhere you go people are shooting at each other, buildings crumbling and you can stop, mission or no mission, to help out if you want. Even more impressive are the epic set pieces, things like towering six lane bridges that can be methodically picked apart until they collapse into a mushroom cloud of dust.
Load Times: The load times and poor save point planning for some of the bigger missions in the game can be a torturous combination. Why do I have to, after restarting, still drive for five minutes to start the mission every single time?
What Now?: I ended up spending way too much time trying to figure out what exactly I needed to do next to move the story forward. There were always plenty of things to do, but not every side mission you take on actually moves the plot forward. That can get really annoying after awhile.
Bland Backdrop: For all of its destructive glory and its vast landscapes, Mars' surface is a rather monotonous place filled with browns and way too many shades of pastel red.
Annoying NPCs: Enemies were, for the most, part relatively clever in dealing out death and avoiding my return fire. The non-combatant NPCs, though, were a real annoyance. They'd get in the way of battles, walk in front of hammer swings and clog up doorways with their non-scripted walking. Good thing it only takes a button push to knock them out of the way and create a second door in any building.
In many ways, Red Faction: Guerrilla reminds me of Crackdown. The thing I liked most about Crackdown was its ability to tear things up and create mayhem in a relatively open world. The missions and the campaign were at best distractions. For Guerrilla, it's the ability to neatly demolish entire towns. There is something cathartic about taking a big hammer to a wall, even a digital wall, and seeing it slowly crumble under the punishment. The key difference between Crackdown and Guerrilla is that while Crackdown's missions really didn't add much, Volition did an amazing job of allowing their destruction tech to play a chief role in how you complete Guerrilla's missions.
Red Faction: Guerrilla is a moment generator. The destruction, the physics, the teeming population all combine to create moments you're going to have to tell your friends about. For me, it was when I finally took down that six-lane bridge. It took quite a bit of effort and lots of planning. Once it collapsed, dust billowed into the air, clouding the entire screen. Seconds later, standing under the jagged remains of the bridge, I saw cars that had been moments ago speeding down a highway begin plummeting off into the wreckage, piling on one another until they all exploded. It was amazing.
Guerrilla is a flawed but fun game, one that demands patience but rewards with cinematic destruction you design yourself.
Red Faction: Guerrilla was developed by Volition and published by THQ for the PlayStation 3, PC, and Xbox 360. Released on June 2. Retails for $59.99 PS3 and 360, $49.99 PC. Played the Xbox 360 version. Completed campaign on normal difficulty (though I used a cheat for the final section). Played multiple online matches.
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