Red Faction: Guerrillla Review - June 25th 2009

As next generation gaming continues to evolve, with motion control, more players online, and casual mass market appeal all fighting for a share of the limelight, one thing remains constant. Blowing stuff up never gets old.

Volition decided it was time for destruction in gaming to be taken to the next level. The limitations of console hardware had always prevented them from achieving this goal. Until now, that is. The days of tirelessly hurling grenades and shooting rockets into walls only to be rewarded with a giant black scorch mark are now well and truly over. Introducing, Red Faction: Guerrilla. It is the product of an experiment that began in 2001, when the original Red Faction first teased gamers with the concept of geo-mod technology. What we have here is a game that truly sets the benchmark for destruction tech. There have definitely been some compromises along the way, but we still couldn’t have asked for a better way to kick off the summer than with this action packed thrill a minute adventure.

First up is the story. You are Alec Mason, a down-on-his-luck miner living on Mars under the tyrannical regime of the EDF (or the Earth Defence Force, the main antagonist for much of the game). Your brother, a member of the Red Faction rebellion, is killed, and so you inherit his responsibilities and an excuse to blow up as much EDF branded stuff as possible. From here you begin your quest to liberate various territorial regions on Mars, in much the same way as in Saints Row 2, where you’re tasked with diminishing the influence of rival gangs on certain neighbourhoods. There are mission briefings delivered via short video sequences, and traditional full screen cut scenes that deal with the larger plot points. It’s all fairly standard stuff. However, the two dimensional characters and simple narrative are actually quite refreshing in this case. It’s nice to see a game that doesn’t pretend to be more intellectually stimulating than it really is. When it comes down to it, this is a fast paced third person run and gun shooter, one that happens to be supported by some very impressive technology. The lack of any pretence on the part of the developer only reinforces the notion that Red Faction: Guerrilla is the gaming equivalent of a big summer blockbuster: ridiculous, fast paced, and it manages to put a smile on your face from start to finish.

The enemy could be cleverer. He's not playing dead.

A couple of small problems that you’ll notice fairly early on include an overly cluttered HUD and, in places, some hilariously bad A.I. The sheer amount of information displayed on screen not only detracts from the cinematic quality of the game, but is also at times very confusing. The mini map is also particularly unhelpful, forcing you to rely on the full screen version which has an irritating load time whenever you pull it up. The biggest disappointment comes in the form of the enemy A.I. They are overly aggressive, incredibly stupid, and at times, lack any desire for self preservation. They get the job done some of the time; they’ll use cover, they’ll try and flank you… and at least they try and shoot you. But if they’re not glitching on the scenery, they’re running in front of their own vehicles looking for a better shot, and getting killed in the process.

Thankfully, to counter balance any reservations I might have with the computer controlled intelligence, the missions themselves vary in complexity and length. The secondary activities, many of which you’ll repeat several times, never feel repetitive. Some of them, such as the Hostage side quest, are so well crafted that even though you’re playing through different variations of the same basic objective, they’re still a lot of fun and hugely unpredictable. This can be attributed to the game's open world design, a logical step that adds a sense of scale to the Red Faction conflict. If they’re going to go all out with the destruction tech, then it made sense for Volition to lift the series out of the shadow of its corridor shooter origins and expand the playing field.

The destruction is so impressive, and completely unparalleled in modern gaming.

The Guerrilla actions are by far the most exciting of the bunch, allowing you to team up with a squad of rebels and attack one of many important EDF installations. Of course, accepting such a mission carries with it a significant risk. You’re forced to juggle the strength of the EDF’s control over a particular sector with the wellbeing of your comrades; if you recklessly drag them into unwinnable scenario’s that get them killed, their morale will drop and it’ll be harder to recruit new fighters. It’s an interesting dynamic, and one that adds depth to the lengthy and enjoyable single player campaign.

1 - 2 - Next