Red Faction: Guerrilla

Mars has always had a reputation for its association with war. Whether it's a martian invasion, a doomed mission from Earth to the desolate, arid wastes surrounding the Olympus Mons, or even a legendary piece of classical music, there's always something menacing about the Red Planet. In Red Faction: Guerrilla, the Ultor corporation, responsible for enslaving miners across Mars, has long been overthrown, though many deep scars still remain in the psyche of the population. A global crisis back on Earth, however, has driven mankind to desperation, leading the EDF (Earth Defence Force), once supportive of the Mars population, to simply replace Ultor and begin their own reign of terror. They should have predicted the result though: there's a whole bunch of unhappy guys with really big hammers, desperate to take a swing at their oppressors.

Red Faction

One particularly unhappy chappy is Alec Mason, and he has an enormously big hammer. Were we talking about something else, he'd make a very successful porn star, especially since he's more than willing to swing it anywhere. It's the key dynamic that allows the game to succeed though: just as the original Red Faction game on PS2 centered around real-time destruction of the local environment, Guerrilla actively encourages you to stroll up to buildings and start smashing them to pieces. With a massive open-world area to explore, featuring six distinct regions of Mars, each filled with a wide variety of structures to attack, there's more than enough destruction to be found, and plenty of weaponry to faciliate it. Bounding in with a sledgehammer carries with it a great sense of tradition, but you'll soon be armed with remote mines and rockets that'll add an extra layer of enjoyment to the explosive mayhem. Bashing away at bricks, pillars and pylons is superb fun, especially when the larger structures finally yield to the increasing stress and collapse in on themselves, making excellent use of Volition's rather impressive Geomod 2.0 engine.

Obviously there's not a huge amount of point in that level of destruction unless there's some serious motivation, but thankfully this is supplied very early on. With tragedy striking in the heart of the mining colony, thanks to the brutal tactics of the EDF, there's little need for explanation when Alec signs up with the Red Faction and starts taking the fight to the EDF. The game's central objective is simple: liberate Mars. To do so, the EDF must be driven out of each of the six sectors, requiring you to complete a few key missions and reduce to the influence and power of the EDF to zero in the area. The missions are well labelled, clearly explained and averagely interesting to follow, with tasks ranging from destruction of specific facilities through to rescue of particular people or weapons. However, the core content of the game is really in the surrounding activities which the player can choose at will. Specific Guerrilla actions can be selected by reaching particular areas of the map, usually involving stopping convoys, capturing enemy vehicles or defending against EDF assaults. Each victory in a Guerrilla action improves the morale of the Mars residents, while also reducing the control of the EDF. There are also destruction missions, involving a race against the clock while the player attempts to demolish a particular target, and racing missions, where the player tries to drive a vehicle to safety, but some of the best moments actually come from taking on key EDF buildings. Markers will appear on the map, indicating the location of important targets, and their destruction is particularly rewarding for the Red Faction.

Red Faction

The variety in missions may seem impressive at first, but unfortunately the missions become familiar very quickly. The formula of destroying buildings, racing a few cars, defending a few Red Faction areas and shooting EDF soldiers changes very little across the six zones. Compared with the incredible structuring, pace and inventiveness of games like Bioshock and Dead Space, Red Faction struggles to provide fresh entertainment at every turn. However, it always has the destruction to fall back on, and it's extremely satisfying throughout the game. Building demolition never grows old, and easily breaks up every moment of boredom. It doesn't even matter that the general surroundings look roughyl the same everywhere. Mars is red and dusty, it seems, and so are most of the locations, but that's fine because the exploding bits of buildings, shards of metal and chunks of conrete are all glorious to watch, and set new standards for chaotic demolition. It's lucky too because, seriously, you can get fed up of red, dusty dustiness. Some of the environments even make Killzone 2's grey greyness look exciting, and it has to be said that Red Faction's visuals can't get anywhere near rivalling Killzone 2's formidable graphics, despite the imaginary link between Red Faction: Guerrilla and Killzone developers Guerrilla games.

In a significant, and largely successful, departure from the previous Red Faction games, Guerrilla is controlled from a third person perspective, and character movement is reasonably good (especially when kitted out with the various jetpacks available later in the game). The controls are fairly intuitive, except perhaps the weapon change system (which involves holding one button, then tapping any of the picture buttons to choose one of four weapons). Once a gun is chosen though, and Mason is sent running and scurrying over martian lands, there's little wrong with the game, as Mason more than happily slaps buildings to pieces, with satisfying feedback and no real slowdown. Watching all the pieces shatter, and eventually seeing entire buildings collapse under their own weight is an incredible spectacle, unrivalled in any other game, except in cut scenes. All the other niggles in the game disappear when things are falling down around the main character.

Red Faction

The destruction is helped by decent effects, ranging from the realistic sound of crunching metal, through to the thudding slam of a sledgehammer. Ideally, more exaggeration of the effects might have been nice. Bigger explosions might seem like a cheap tactic used by mediocre American action films, but in a game like this, they would really add a layer of interest to proceedings. Having said that, weaponry like the Rhino and other major explosives do leave a shocking impact, accompanied by suitable sci-fi sounds, but you can get through most of the single-player story without really experiencing the more exciting weapons. The voicework is similarly effective, also lacking real punch, but doing an adequate job. There isn't a huge amount of dialogue, and there's not much said on the quiet martian highways, but it does just enough to tick the basic boxes. Outdoing its audio colleagues, however, is a rather decent score. It's quite subtle, never intruding too much on the mayhem, but there are some scenes that would die horribly, were it not for decent musical presence. It's no Metal Gear Solid soundtrack, but it's not too shabby.

Though slightly repetitive, there's plenty to do in the single-player campaign, but this is significantly augmented by the multiplayer options. The most significant is undoubtedly the full online play, allowing up to 16 players to lock horns on the battlefield in a storm of destruction. There's the usual targets to achieve (capture, kill and all the other happy actions), and the usual stats to keep track of your progress. It doesn't really break any new ground with the online play, but the destruction adds a new element to the tactics. There's nowhere to hide when an opponent can sledgehammer their way into your concrete fortress. Adding something a little more unusual is an offline, turn-based multiplayer mode, in which 2-4 players can compete to cause the maximum amount of destruction in a particular area. Other tasks involve destroying specific barrels or buildings, and scores are compared after each player has had a go. It's good fun for a bit, adding extra value, though it's disappointing that there's no offline splitscreen or cooperative modes.

Red Faction

Adding to the replay value are a good selection of trophies, if you like that sort of thing, but many of them are the usual candidates, with little imagination. The usual kill targets, a predictable damage target, and several collectibles incentives fill most of the list. Finding every ore deposit, crate, propaganda post and radio tag will take some doing, but there's a trophy their for your efforts. Slightly irritatingly, some trophies (like completing Guerrilla Actions) may become impossible if you liberate a sector too quickly, although they can be revisited at the end of the game, if you decide to carry on after the plot reaches its conclusion. On the whole, the trophies feel like a long slong, as opposed to a true test of skill, but that's not uncommon for modern disc-based shooters.

Overall, Red Faction: Guerrilla is a solid game. The destruction and carnage possible thanks to the game's impressive engine set it apart from the competition, though the game is unremarkable in almost every other way. There are very few areas to criticize severely, except to say that they are mediocre compared with cutting edge modern titles. If you're after the equivalent of a mid-budget Hollywood blockbuster, Guerrilla might be an ideal option, offering great entertainment in short doces. Fans of the series might also enjoy exploring the historical aspects of the game, with references to Ultor corporation. For most though, Red Faction is the sort of game that's best investigated after a price drop.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

THQ

Developer:

Volition

Players:

1

Online:

1-16

Release:

2009-06-05

Trophies:

61

Review summary

Gameplay:

Satisfying destructive play, but repetitive

Graphics:

Mars, apparently, is red or brown. Everywhere

Sound:

Average voicework and effects, but a good score

Lastability:

Hundreds of things to do and find, if you care

8.1

Pulsar

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Garrus Vakarian

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