We’re used to game developers making big promises with regards to their upcoming titles, and we’re just as used to being somewhat disappointed by the final product. But every so often, a game comes along that delivers exactly what the developers promised.
Red Faction: Guerrilla is just such a game. I can remember being blown away last year in a presentation by THQ showing their new Geo Mod 2.0 engine, which would allow for the most realistic architectural destruction ever in a videogame – and I’m glad to say that the resulting game didn’t disappoint. In RF: G, you can literally tear an entire building apart, right down to its foundations. But what makes it more impressive is that the game calculates the tensile strength and weight of every brick, girder, and other material in real time. So if you don’t want to waste precious explosives to destroy a large building, all you need to do is find and destroy those key structural points, then sit back and watch as the entire building collapses under its own weight. It’s quite amazing.
To justify all this wanton destruction, you are cast in the role of Alec Mason, a miner on Mars who suffers under the heel of the oppressive Earth Defense Force. After your brother is killed, you decide to join the Red Faction, an underground resistance movement, and fight to free the Martian miners from the oppression of Earth. As the story progresses, it gets more and more interesting, even going beyond the Red Faction/EDF conflict, and providing a few good references to the previous two games, which fans will no doubt enjoy.
The problem is that you are heavily outnumbered, so that leaves you with only one option: guerrilla warfare. The game world is comprised of six huge sectors, through which you can travel freely (think Far Cry 2). To liberate each sector, you must reduce the EDF control rating in the sector to zero and complete all the story missions. In addition to the story missions, there are tons of Red Faction side missions. Completing these missions increases morale in each sector and further weakens the EDF. These missions objectives vary, but most often involve some form of EDF property destruction. There are also some interesting mini-games, like destruction challenges which require you to destroy a structure as quickly as possible using a specific tool. These challenges really strain your brain, but if you complete them, you’ll learn some of the best methods for efficient demolition.
And don’t think you can gun down every enemy you see and then take your time blowing up a building. No, in RF: G enemy reinforcements will continue to swarm you, and eventually overwhelm you. You have to get in, eliminate any immediate threats, do the job, and get out – that’s what guerrilla warfare is all about, and the developers got the feel of it just right. Luckily, if you’ve been helping out the Red Faction and completing all the side missions, morale will be high, and every time you decide to start some trouble, truckloads of guerrillas will show up to help.
Every time you destroy something important, you can scour the debris for salvage. Salvage is like gold on Mars, according to Red Faction, and you can trade it with your team of scientists for new weapons, armour, and tools. One of the more useful abilities you can purchase is the Guerrilla Express, which lets you instantly transport yourself to any safe house you have previous reached. This is useful given the immense size of Red Faction’s map.
If you can get online, there is a number of entertaining multiplayer modes to enjoy, focusing on the destruction the game allows. The best of these are easily the ones where one team has to defend a specific building, and another team has to try to blow it up. In the multiplayer modes, you can also acquire backpacks with various abilities. Some let you sprint really fast, others let you fly, and some let you create shockwaves which topple structures and stun other players. The most popular backpack, though, is the Rhino. This useful tool lets you charge straight forward, bashing through buildings as if they were made of paper. They’re also good for ramming other players, since you’re completely invulnerable while it’s in use, and if you hit another player, they fall to the ground and have to slowly rise to their feet, giving you more than enough time to riddle them with holes or, more amusingly, pull out your sledge hammer and cave in their skull.
If you can’t get online, there is a destruction-based competitive mode, Wrecking Crew, in which players on a single machine take turns to see who can cause the most destruction with specific tools in a limited time. Even if you have only one controller, you can pass it around to the next player. This mode is great fun, and it’s surprisingly addictive to compete with friends for hours on end to see who is the top terrorist of the group.
Graphically, Red Faction looks very good. It’s not the prettiest game you’re ever likely to see, but the visuals do their job well. The surface of Mars looks every bit as bland, uninteresting and uninviting as it should, and the draw distance is about right for what we expect these days. The game also runs surprisingly well: even when a huge building is coming down, the frame rate rarely shudders. The voice cast did a good job, and the sounds effects are decent, especially the subtle differences in each kind of material when it breaks. There are a few good music scores in there, but nothing you’re likely to whistle to yourself when you’re not playing the game.
If you’re looking for a solid shooter with a great idea behind it and some decent multiplayer modes to enjoy, Red Faction: Guerrilla comes highly recommended. The destruction is satisfying and addictive, and it’s sure to keep just about anyone busy for a long time.