Red Faction: Guerrilla Review
Written : Tuesday, June 09, 2009
By: Lee Abrahams (GT: jackanape)
Red Faction has been around for some time now, in fact it was the very first game I bought with my shiny new Playstation 2 back in the day. I was lured in by the promise of fully destructible environments and thanks to the Geo-mod technology, that's what I got. It proved to be something of a false dawn, and little more than a fairly decent first person shooter and some quite obvious rails. Here we are, many moons (and gaming disappointments later), and Red Faction has been reborn with a new sense of grandeur and a whole lot more explosive power. Will Volition and THQ actually deliver on the promises made so long ago or will it all blow up in their faces once again?
Volition are obviously slightly better known for the Saints Row series and this game probably owes just as much that particular set of games as to its own predecessors. Taken away from its first person roots, this game is more of a free roaming adventure title in a third person perspective – with plenty of sandbox elements thrown in. Obviously there are a lot of games that have guns, cover systems and open ended gameplay, so Red Faction needs something unique of its own, something to make it stand out, something like a ton of over the top explosions and destructible buildings? That will work.
Yeah – I did that.
A quick mention about the story, as it is decidedly throw away in nature and you will probably forget about it after ten minutes anyway. You play Alec Mason, who goes to Mars to find work with his brother. As you would expect, his brother is then brutally killed with ten seconds of the game commencing and you find yourself teaming up with the rebel Red Faction in a bid to wipe out the evil EDF forces. As you progress in your quest you will uncover more of the planets surface, including a wilderness populated by crazy outcasts, a military free fire zone and the upper crust locale of Eos. Your mission throughout remains the same though, kick the EDF off the planet. The characters are kind of one dimensional and spout the kind of generic freedom speeches that have bombarded the world since Braveheart. Thankfully the story is little more than a backdrop to the wanton destruction, which is what the game is really all about.
Your first foray into the wilderness of Mars will be a little underwhelming at first. The characters look and sound fairly average, the backdrops are bland and the buildings all look the same. So far, so run of the mill. Then you get told to blow up a building, so you throw a few bombs in the place and detonate them – then stand back and watch is it comes crashing down in a slow, debris scattering arc. It is at this point you start to wonder what would happen if you went after something truly massive. Thankfully you do not have too long to wait, as beyond this point the game soon becomes just one set piece after another. Blowing up refineries, crashing down smoke stacks and taking out military facilities are all in a days work and the sight of these massive edifices coming crashing down never gets old. If you do run out of explosives then you can always fall back on your trusty hammer to rip places apart from the inside out – just try not to be standing there when the whole thing comes crashing down. The same tenants apply when fighting the enemy, as you can rig bombs to bridges and vehicles in a bid to ambush your foes or just snag a nearby jetpack and rain down death from above.
While destruction is the name of the game, the way to go about it can vary. Your missions are highlighted on the in-game map and you can use this device to route map your next objective, which is a nice touch. Your overall goal in each region is the same, to reduce the EDF presence to zero by destroying key locations, undertaking Faction missions and performing guerrilla actions. Each of these activities will rally more fighters to your cause (as seen by the morale bar) and remove EDF troops from the battlefield. Once you have taken out the local forces you will then need to push on to the next area in one last mission which will open up another chunk of the map. As you progress the map grows and so does your area of activities, though you are always free to go where you want and do what ever you like. The free form destruction drives you forwards but does tend to lose its way during the side-missions some what. Rescuing hostages, stealing vehicles and defending certain locations all seem a lot less fun than simply blowing up all of the EDF that you come across and wrecking buildings left, right and centre. It is a small quibble as the side missions do help break up the game a bit but they just seem less entertaining next to the spectacle of mass destruction. The general combat is also quite bland as the third person combat with guns is not really up to much and having a cover mechanic when most cover can be blown to pieces seems an unusual choice.
As you blow up buildings and vehicles you will snag scrap metal, which can also be found by mining for ore around the map or in certain side-quests, which you can then use to upgrade your weapons or buy new ones entirely. It helps to keep on the cutting edge of mass destruction as your foes certainly will not hold back as the game progresses, so having a bunch of rockets or a shiny new laser can help you even the odds. Most of your actions tend to be one man assaults, as the ally A.I. is really not up to much, so you should always stock up on weapons and ammo at the nearest safe house before heading off to your next objective. The sandbox nature of the game means you can just wander around killing any EDF you see, leap into any guerrilla actions you feel like or take active steps to proceed the story – it really is up to you.
Once you grow tired of blowing things up on your own (clearly you have no imagination) then you can head over to the multiplayer modes to do the same thing with other people. The Wrecking Crew mode is designed for players using the same console, and basically revolves around blowing up as much as you can in a set time limit with restricted ammo. It can be a fun blast with friends but really only serves as an example of the in-game mechanics and soon grows old. You will have some fun with it for an hour or so, but the lack of any kind of real objective or opposition means it will soon wear thin.
If you leap into the online proper then you can prepare for an all out slug fest. There is really no subtlety involved at all here, so all of those people who enjoy camping in COD 4 with their favourite sniper rifle had better look elsewhere. This game is all about blowing the entire map to hell and back, and maybe, just maybe, taking down some of the other team as well. Even a regular death match is given a novel twist because of the fact players can bash their own escape routes or blow down buildings that you foes might be hiding in. While killing your opponents in this way can be plenty of fun, the game really comes into its own when playing to the strengths of the game engine. Teams of players are required to defend, and rebuild, their own buildings while taking down similar structures belonging to the opposition. It can lead to a frantic race to take down enemy structures while ensuring that your own remain in one piece. The whole online set up comes replete with any number of statistics, which also tie in nicely with the achievements too, and ensures serious players can see exactly how they stand up to the rest of the world. If I had one concern it is that most games devolve into chaos far too often, with players more interested in blowing up everything and anything than working as a team. This aspect means that most people may get tired of the shallow action and pine for something a bit more strategic.
It is not all about blowing things up. You shoot stuff too.
The achievements veer from the sublime to the absolute ridiculous, often in the space of a line or so. The single player portion of the game is well balanced between story related tasks and general exploration, or side quests. The only issue here is the fact you have to find a ton of EDF supplies, ore deposits, propaganda etc – so if you hate collectables then you may want to look elsewhere. Online is where the real crime occurs as you are looking at a serious investment of time if you want the full 1000. Nice touches include grenade tagging a flying enemy or playing with another person who has completed the game. But after that it becomes a logistical nightmare, as you will need 5,000 kills, 100,000 experience and to play on every map and mode. Not to mention getting kills with every weapon and scoring a lot of points in Wrecking Crew. The list itself is a decent one but the time involved is a bit too high in terms of collectables and online action. Thankfully you can track every single bit of progress to every achievement thanks to a nice in-game set of statistics, so you always know just how far you are from your next unlock.
This game is a blast (sorry, I just had to) in every sense of the word. The first time you watch a tower slowly crumble to the ground will be the moment you become hooked. Setting up strategic explosions and doing as much damage as possible soon becomes the name of the game and I really hope we see these physics used in a far more cluttered environment in the near future. The online aspect is also great fun, though maybe more of a short term fix than a long term fascination. All in all it is a great package and one that is a pleasant surprise at this time of year. Red Faction has come a long way and, on this offering, is more than welcome to stick around for a good while longer.
A generic script and drab characters really make the story powder puff material. It is probably the weakest aspect of the game but at least the explosions are meaty enough as that is what you will be hearing most of.
The explosion and destruction effects are top notch, as are the physics on show. Sadly the barren landscape, dull characters and identical buildings kind of let the side down.
I do not think blowing things up will ever get old and this game is the master when it comes to that. Online and off there is a tremendous amount of fun to be had as long as you do not take the whole thing too seriously. .
Great presentation, achievement tracking and a wealth of online statistics make everything a delight. The in-game map is superb too and means you are never clueless about where to go next.
A solid list but it relies far too much on collection/destruction missions and is unfairly skewed towards online shenanigans. If you have the time and patience this will be one of the more fulfilling 1k lists you can claim credit for.
A seemingly generic third person shooter that is suddenly lifted up to greatness by the superb destructibility and explosive nature of the gameplay. You can forget guns when you have detonators and rockets to play with instead and the feeling of satisfaction when a mighty edifice comes crashing down is second to none. The online may suffer from being a bit shallow but as a package this game ticks all the right boxes and I would recommend it to anyone interested in a long term challenge or a few short term thrills. Stand back and watch this game go.