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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Published By: THQ
Developed By: Volition
Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Players: 1 (16-players online)
Rated: M (Mature)
Release Date: June 2, 2009
Screenshots: Link
Amazon: Buy Now!
Written By: Christian Higley

June 30, 2009 - Destruction is fun. Developer Volition understands this. That is why they made an entire game out of that one, very simple concept. Don't let that fool you into believing Red Faction: Guerrilla is merely a glorified tech demo, however. As with any good open-world game, Red Faction is all about providing the player with things to do. The fact that the player can unleash permanent, massive destruction on the game-world just happens to be the main focus.

Red Faction: Guerrilla is set 50 years after the original Red Faction. The Earth Defense Force, the allies from the first game who helped free Mars from the tyranny of the Ultor Corporation, are the new bad guys. Mad with power, under pressure from mega corporations and desperate to exploit Mars' natural resources to make up for depleting those of Earth, the EDF exploits and abuses Martian miners as a form of slave labor. The player, as Alec Mason, arrives on Mars after some hard times on Earth, eager to learn from his miner brother and hopefully make some money. After Alec's brother is gunned-down by EDF soldiers for being a member of the anti-EDF Red Faction, Alec joins the rebel group to fight the tyranny of the EDF and free Mars.

The plot certainly doesn't win any awards. It's cliché and basic and there isn't much (or any) consideration given to the science of the world. However, for this particular game, the lack of a mature narrative works in its favor. Since the player is basically cast as a terrorist, it's clear that the developers didn't want moral ambiguity getting in the way of the player's fun. Yes, it's thought-provoking to wonder if you're doing the “right thing” when you destroy a government building, but that kind of thinking gets in the way of the sheer manic, mindless thrill of blowing stuff up. At the end of the day, that's all the narrative is: a context for you to have fun blowing stuff up.

Mars itself is broken up into various regions. Each region is controlled by the EDF to progressively higher extents. Your mission is to slowly take away the EDF's control of a region by destroying their property and propaganda, gaining public support for your cause, completing side missions, and progressing through the story. When control is brought to zero, the final “liberation” mission is unlocked, which moves the plot forward and unlocks the next region.

All these actions, taken individually, are very straightforward. Side missions include time trial races in vehicles, rail shooter sequences where you man a rocket turret on an AI-piloted vehicle and try to cause as much damage as possible, assaulting EDF bases or defending guerrilla bases from EDF assaults, stealing vehicles, chasing other vehicles, and more of the usual. Even story missions rarely deviate from the typical “go here, destroy this” formula. However, it's how addictive it is to destroy things that keeps the game so compelling. Seeing that EDF control meter slowly deplete, the morale meter slowly increase, EDF emblems disappear from the map as you destroy their property all gives a strange sense of accomplishment. I would be lying if I said it isn't a sort of grind, but it's a satisfying grind. Of course, there are also the usual open-world game distractions and collectibles, in the form of ore deposits to mine, EDF crates to destroy, and radio tags to find. There's a lot of activity packed into this game and it never feels as if there's nothing to do. OCD gamers will have their hands full, in the best of ways.

Early on, Red Faction: Guerrilla tricks you into believing that it's a shooter. This is not the case. The game is more about mayhem and demolition than tactics and precision. Actually, that's not entirely fair. The superb physics of the GeoMod engine actually inject quite a lot of tactics and precision into the mayhem and demolition. There's nothing more satisfying in the game than bringing an entire structure down with as little effort as possible by target its structural “weak points,” such as supports under a bridge, load-bearing arches in buildings, etc.

One of Red Faction: Guerrilla's more admirable attempts is in making the world feel alive. In some ways, Volition succeeds at this. Guerrillas will arrive to aid you when you assault the EDF, random events occur in the world, though these are limited to three types of side missions (stop/hijack a convoy, chase down an informant, or defend a guerrilla base). Increasing morale in a sector and gaining public support increases the amount of support you'll receive from the friendly AI. The illusion breaks down when it becomes apparent that nothing in the world occurs independently of you and your actions. There are no consequences for ignoring side-missions and the rest of the Red Faction will never so much as touch an EDF soldier unless you attack them or they attack you first. I understand the thought behind this; the developers don't want you to worry about this stuff all the time; they just want you to do your thing and have fun. However, it does make the world feel robotic, only responding to the input of the player and nothing else.

The horrid AI doesn't help matters. I don't mind saying it: the AI in this game is as dumb as paint and cheap as hell. I rarely died and did not feel somehow cheated by the game. The EDF strategy is to swarm around you, firing cannons aimlessly and relentlessly, no more concerned with the damage they cause to their property—or each other—than you are. They'll smash into your vehicle, smash into buildings, drive over your vehicle... there is no sense to what they do other than, “get that guy!” The friendly and neutral AI isn't much better. Civilians freak out at the slightest provocation and immediately lose all sense. They'll always attempt to drive in a straight line away from danger, causing them to also drive through buildings, into walls and off cliffs. More often than not, friendly AI is a nuisance. Their best purpose is providing other targets for the EDF and taking the heat off of you. They'll drive into you, knock you out of your cover, and just generally screw you up with their ineptitude. Ultimately, due only to this terrible AI, I recommend playing the game on the casual difficulty setting. Don't be embarrassed, it will just be less frustrating, since you won't feel so cheated so often.

The multiplayer is also better implemented than other open-world games have attempted in the past. It does this by not being open-world. Guerrilla's multiplayer is very competitive, focused on smaller maps and objectives. Of course, the spin comes in the way you destroy things and achieve goals with various backpacks that grant special abilities and an experience-based leveling system. It's nothing special, really, but it's enjoyable.

The physics and the sound design really sell the setting of the game. Buildings come crashing down based on their structural integrity; they buckle, fall, collapse, and crumble just as you expect they would. If you weaken something only on one side, it will fall to that side; collapse a roof and the falling debris will take out whatever is beneath it; destroy the supports of a suspension bridge and let gravity do the rest. The sounds of your explosive charges, rockets and bombs is thunderous and booming. All of this provides the destruction that you cause with a very visceral feeling that never wears off. Surprisingly, the music is best during peaceful moments. Driving across a Martian landscape, listening to the slow and haunting themes that play in the background, almost feels meditative.

Red Faction: Guerrilla does have some hiccups. A somewhat lifeless world, poor AI and limited variety in gameplay keep it just a bit down. However, as far as franchise reboots go, Red Faction: Guerrilla is a huge step in the right direction. It's entertaining and addicting, and at the end of the day, a videogame doesn't need to be much more than that. If you're into open worlds and destruction on a massive scale, then don't hesitate join the Red Faction and take back Mars. You won't regret it.


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