Red Faction Guerrilla is a return to form for the franchise. Originally a first person shooter, it has now evolved into a GTA style sandbox title and the transition has been done beautifully. As far as game play goes it isn’t revolutionary but it does offer the best environmental destruction mechanics ever seen in a game.
Those that remember the original Red Faction will recall a strong title with a great story line, action packed game play and a long campaign mode. Since then, the sequel didn’t hold up and, to be honest, this new title wasn’t something I was looking forward to at all. Volition is the developer behind the Saint’s Row titles and the idea of them bringing Red Faction into the sandbox format didn’t thrill me at all. However, the end result is actually rather good and better than Saint’s Row by far. That sounds like a bold statement to make, but let me explain. You see, Saint’s Row was an attempt to cash in on Grand Theft Auto and while it was a good game, you always had the sense that you were playing GTA, only a little different. With Red Faction Guerrilla , even though the actual structure of the game is the same as a GTA title, the setting and plot are very different and work really well.
The plot isn’t particularly thought provoking but it does offer something new for the franchise and works quite well. The game is mission based with all the missions available found on the GPS mini map. You play as a miner thrown into the midst of a war to take back the planet. In the first red faction you are helping the Earth forces take back Mars but in this game, set 10 years later, the earth forces have become an oppressive regime that needs to be driven out. With each mission you erode their stranglehold on a region of the planet. When you have driven them out of all regions, you win. This will take about 16 hours on normal difficulty, maybe a little longer.
The strengths of this title lie in the AI of the NPCs and the destructible environments. Pretty much anything you can see can be blown to bits. Each building, barrier and vehicle can be destroyed but the truly remarkable thing is that they all have realistic physics. Driving a vehicle into a building or blasting is with detonators won’t necessarily destroy it, unless you hit it with a little thought. The buildings have a real weight to them so if you take out the support struts on one side the building will crumble under its own weight. The great thing about everything be destructible is that you can really play the game any way you want. If you have to infiltrate a building you can try and shoot your way in, blow a hole in the side of the building or drive a crane right through the front door. The possibilities are endless.
All the destruction is encouraged in the game play. In fact, it’s a major part of it with most missions focused on taking out buildings. Also, when anything in the game is destroyed, metal salvage is left behind which the player can pick up and use as a currency to get weapon and ability upgrades. You tend to get better weapons and more ammunition quite quickly and always when it seems you will really need them to move forward in your progression to the next region. It is done really well too as it doesn’t feel forced or convenient that you just got the right weapon for the job. Instead it feels earned.
A large part of the game involves driving to the location of each mission. The driving physics aren’t all that good as the vehicles feel way too light and keeping them on the road without ploughing into traffic or pedestrians can be a challenge. However, it’s a means to an end and isn’t that big a problem.
What I really liked was the AI in the game. Sure, the enemy NPCs did some stupid stuff now and then but mostly they were actually rather smart, taking cover and trying to flush me out. However, as you start to loosen the grip that the Earth Forces have on a region, the local population starts to gain confidence and join you to fight back. It’s great to be up against more enemies than you think you can handle and having random passing citizens take up arms to help you out. It makes the world feel like an actual civilization rather than random pixels, there to make it look busy.
The environments are incredibly detailed and vary greatly with each region you unlock. The particle effects are particularly impressive and the overall impression of a terraformed Mars is pulled off convincingly without seeming bland. The cut scenes have been done with great care and involve some great character animation. The eyes on the characters avoid the “dead eyes” problem that you see in a lot of pre-rendered cut scenes and the voice over work is done well. However, I would have liked to see more of them. Most of the story is told in the mission briefings, in voice over by Red Faction members or overheard in news broadcasts. A few more cut scenes would have solidified the story a little making you feel a little more enveloped in the conflict.
There is also an alert system like GTA and Saint’s Row so the more you destroy, the more Earth Forces come to stop you. The controls are a little awkward and will take some getting used to but aren’t too bad. Switching between weapons can get annoying though especially when you need to do it quickly.
The multiplayer modes are also rather good too. The destructible environments are taken full advantage of when playing online with various modes where you have to defend an installation and make sure it doesn’t get destroyed. You can repair structures in some of these modes too which makes for some interesting game play. There are also your usual death match games for fans of run and gun action. Also on offer is offline multiplayer as well with a mode called “Wrecking Crew” where you and three friend pass the controller around to see who can do the most damage. It is similar to the “Crash” modes in the Burnout series in that respect.
If you like blowing the crap out of stuff, then Red Faction Guerrilla is something you will love. It also appeals to fans of GTA style games too and is a whole lot of fun to play. It’s a little slow to start out and a few more cut scenes would have fleshed out the story better but it’s a great game and well worth checking out.