Red Faction: Guerrilla
I like destruction. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of creating a great big mess, be it with tools or your own bare hands. Dust, dirt, debris, carnage – I love it. Red Faction: Guerrilla offers exploration at the other end of the scale usually found in videogames – hunting down keys to doors that resist knives, guns and rocket-propelled grenades – by offering destructible level scenery. Doors are for people that don’t have hammers or want to conserve their grenades for the enemies waiting on the other side; for everyone else, a straight path to objectives can be cut with explosive devices and sheer brutality.
The much acclaimed Geo-Mod engine wasn’t emulated quite the way some expected back when the original Red Faction launched. A system that allowed players to bypass checkpoints by blasting their own route through a map didn’t seem to appeal. What came about instead were obstacles that weren’t as useful for cover as they first appeared, letting bullets penetrate thinner and softer surfaces, thus debunking Hollywood legend that car doors and wooden boxes offer ample protection during firefights. Certainly in my gaming experience I can only really remember Mercenaries, with its catalogue of bunker-busting payloads, offering anything near to total carnage.
And so we come full circle, back to the very game that pushed this gameplay quirk into the limelight. Some very impressive and award-winning titles have blessed consoles since the first Red Faction hit shelves in the summer of 2001, so Volition, Inc will have to pull out all the stops if Red Faction: Guerrilla is to be remembered as anything but a next-generation traipse down nostalgia lane.
Taking place in a very, very large open world, apprehension regarding how the game would stop players from venturing away from the main action is quelled from the outset. The entire map is a series of canyons with steep sides that cannot be traversed, and no amount of explosives or hammering will yield a satisfying route out. Thankfully no invisible barriers or obscene “cheap” methods of confining the gameplay appear to exist in this one-level demo. The aim of the mission is to acquire a piece of machinery being hoarded by armed guards. Whilst the location is fairly nearby, 10 minutes are given to achieve the goal, giving ample time to dick about with the hammer and see what can be smashed to smithereens.
Shattering masonry, be it walls, buildings – generally any structure – rewards such thuggery with Salvage points, which when collected can be traded for items later on in the game. It should be interesting to see how this pans out, since science labs and indeed entire complexes such as a solar plant can be eradicated on the demo level, surely offering an achievement point or two.
Guerrilla feels a heck of a lot like Volition, Inc’s other stellar series, Saints Row; the on-screen response and movement of the characters are strangely familiar, as is the twitchy handling of the vehicles on offer. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the Saints Row series is damned good fun, and that’s exactly what Red Faction: Guerrilla is – entertaining. There’s no ground broken, we’ve seen all the core gameplay elements before; what we’re left with is a bag of accustomed old toys arranged in a manner that offers little surprise yet an enjoyable experience nonetheless.
I have three reservations after this quick blast through. For one, vehicles are far too generic. It’s not clear when driving them that we’re on rough terrain, they don’t bounce around nearly as well as the land cruiser on Mass Effect and feel uninspired. The intelligence of non-player characters also leaves a lot to be desired, with enemies and allies alike often running around in circles when meeting a corner section of chain-linked fencing or walls, taking cover in the open and turning away from the heat of battle seemingly unaware of the dangers of doing so.
My last thoughts are with the mission structure, which hopefully won’t be as linear as Mercenaries 2 (travel, set off an air strike, drive back) and have enough variety so players aren’t spending 15-20 hours smashing everything in sight. After all, I’ve spent a similar amount of time doing the same with guns in Saints Row 2.