Red Faction Guerilla Review

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Red Faction Guerilla Publisher: THQ
Developer: Volition

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC
Reviewed on PlayStation 3

Miner Alec Mason has traveled to Mars to join his brother mining the ore of the red planet. Before the planet's red dust has a chance to settle onto Mason's boots, his brother is executed and he is on the run from the Earth Defense Force, formerly the saviors of Mars and now its heavy-handed oppressors. Mason must strike at EDF facilities to win freedom for Mars while untangling the mystery of the marauders who raid the outskirts of the Martian colonies.

Kyle Ackerman

The sky on Mars has the same constellations I see from my street. That only makes sense, but the first time I saw tiny, rocky Phobos (or was it Deimos?) floating through the sky I understood that I was driving a buggy across the Martian landscape. That's also when I realized just how familiar it felt to play Red Faction: Guerilla.

Fight the Power

I started playing with some trepidation. I remember playing Red Faction on the PlayStation 2 and having the game crash on me, leaving me with a corrupted save file that made me hurl my controller aside in disgust. But developer Volition has also made the Saint's Row games that I really enjoyed. That's why I recognized the feeling of familiarity I first got when looking at the constellations in the sky. I wasn't playing the sequel to Red Faction, set 50 years after the original game. I was playing Saint's Row on Mars.

I actually liked Saint's Row on Mars better. Plot matters to me. While Red Faction: Guerilla has similarly great gameplay, I don't like shuttling prostitutes around town and shooting at the police. Undermining an oppressive occupying government, though – that's fun. The Earth Defense Force is cartoonishly evil, trying to out-oppress the Nazis in the opening moments of the game. Barely had I arrived on Mars and smashed a few ruined buildings with a massively overpowered sledgehammer when I was arrested for possession of a demolitions license and rescued from summary execution by the Red Faction resistance.

No Respect for Public Property

The most fun to be had in Red Faction: Guerilla comes from demolishing buildings, with tools ranging from a hammer to explosive ordinance that would do an orbital weapons platform proud. Dropping explosives around scores of industrial smokestacks and then detonating as I ran from EDF forces was an act of pure destructive joy, made all the sweeter by the fact that I was fighting for justice, freedom and... that sort of stuff. I got to bring down structures ranging from gatehouses to the Martian seat of government. Most of the game's structures are destructible, and despite the fact that the physics is imperfect and sometimes skyscrapers are kept up by a spaghetti-thin strand of steel, it's great fun to take down a massive bridge with a nanite-enabled rifle that dissolves steel.

If I had a problem with Red Faction: Guerilla, it's that I don't make a very good guerilla. It's like in Saint's Row and other such games. If you fight too long and cause too much destruction, progressively more powerful military forces show up to take you down. It's not a question of "if," it's a matter of "when" you will ultimately fall if you don't run and hide. Of course, once I stole a tank or a military missile-equipped walker, I wanted to level every EDF facility on Mars rather than break a few things and run away. This was aggravated by the fact that other guerrillas would join me as I did damage. I hated to see those other revolutionaries gunned down as I ran to hide, demoralizing the populace. Worse yet, every time my poor driving knocked down a street sign or lamp, guerrillas would join me, committing me to taking down the entire Martian establishment or die trying.

The Deep Growl of a Silent, Fusion-Powered Motor?

Until I realized this was less a Red Faction sequel and more a pleasant variation on Saint's Row, I was surprised at what an important role vehicles play in Red Faction: Guerilla. So much of the game is spent driving vehicles from place to place, racing the clock to transport stolen EDF vehicles or chasing convoys and messengers. It bothered me a little that colossal mining vehicles on Mars sport the deep rumble of diesel-powered trucks on a planet unlikely to enjoy fossil fuels, but I quickly moved on to reveling in the joy of leaping off rock formations and dunes in Mars's slightly lower gravity.

The on-foot controls are good enough to keep things fun, since most missions require that you ultimately hop out of a vehicle to start destroying buildings or defend colonists being executed by the EDF. In fact, late in the game, once I had acquired a jet pack I found myself bounding over the landscape without worrying about vehicles in the slightest (at least for short journeys).

The main plot-related missions are occasional, and with skill can be completed quickly, but (as with the Saint's Row games) there is such a bounty of optional missions that it's easy to get sidetracked from the main plot for hours or even days. I particularly loved the demolition challenges in which I was given limited and specific tools to take down structures within a time limit. This ranged from simply trying to place charges carefully to using my sledgehammer to carefully knock explosive barrels off a ridge into a distant building. It's not fair to call these missions entirely optional, because a few must be completed (if you include destroying EDF buildings with these guerrilla action missions) to free a sector for the benefit of the revolution. Still, I always found myself completing far more guerrilla actions than were necessary.

Fear the Hammer Blow

To supplement the extensive single-player story, Red Faction: Guerilla offers a variety of multiplayer modes that take advantage of destructible structures to eliminate other teams or destroy checkpoints. A variety of backpacks with different game-altering functions (stealth, etc.) make the mode interesting, but multiplayer didn't hold my attention nearly as well as the single-player campaign.

After days of play, I was intrigued to see the plot venture into interesting territory, but my eagerness to deal with the Martian marauders was offset by the repetitiveness of play and missions. Of course, this was after so much play that I still find it easy to recommend Red Faction: Guerilla as a better value proposition than most premium console games. So try out a little time with the resistance on Mars, and make sure you bring plenty of demolition charges.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on August 16, 2009 1:34 PM.

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