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Red Faction: Guerrilla

12:0107/06/2009Posted by D+PAD StaffOne Comment

If the original Red Faction proved anything, it was that blowing holes in things is jolly good fun. At the time such a simple pleasure was big news, with Volition’s Geo-Mod technology pioneering the notion of destructible environments. Nowadays, of course, such a feature is plastered on the back of almost every videogame box going, but that hasn’t deterred the Illinois-based developers. Instead, it’s spurred them on to show everyone how it’s done, stealing the current darling genre – the open-world sandbox – for themselves in the process. It’s only fair, after all.

guerrilla1And when we say sandbox, we don’t mean it purely in a metaphorical sense, but a literal one too. Guerrilla’s Mars setting is far from the feature-packed urban delight of Liberty City, or even Volition’s own Stilwater for that matter, but instead a galactic wasteland filled to the brim with canyons, craters, sand and rocks. Lots and lots of rocks. It’s mammoth; a Martian equivalent to Far Cry 2’s African state, made up of a variety of districts each filled with just as much nothingness as the last. Which may be a realistic vision of the red planet, at least, (well, as realistic as humans populating another planet could be) but ultimately a boring one; the only differentiator between each district being a colour filter that kicks in upon entering each area, painting it a different hue of red, blue or brown.

So while there may not be heaps of variation in the locales, it’s somewhat fortunate that Volition has (quite unexpectedly, in truth) seen fit to mix up the gameplay, albeit only slightly. You play as Alec Mason, a madman with a sledgehammer who likes nothing better than striking steel against stone, and whose history as a miner somehow means he’s at ease with the idea of being a human wrecking ball. To put it another way, Guerrilla is demolition-porn.

As is to be expected, then, a large proportion of tasks are based around the idea of storming a building or base, knocking down a particular structure or structures and escaping with your hammer intact. Which is just as comical as it sounds, at least, albeit incredibly overdone. But throughout the campaign there’s also a good variation in mission types, even if they are made up of the usual mix to have graced every open-world game thus far. There’s a search and retrieve mission, an extraction mission, a tailing mission, an on-rails turret mission, a mission involving a huge walker unit where everything suddenly goes a bit Godzilla, and variations within. It’s nothing original, but ultimately, it’s all just a bit of unabashed fun. However, none of it feels particularly related, with each story mission feeling more like a disparate scenario rather than a piece of a cohesive narrative. Indeed the story itself is far from riveting, let alone memorable, but then what story about a rebel force rising against an imperial army is? Oh…

guerrilla2Side-missions and challenges also co-exist alongside the main campaign, usually revolving around the idea of breaking out Red Faction members taken hostage in EDF installations, returning a particular vehicle to an RF safehouse, or knocking down a construction with a particular weapon within a preset time limit. Of course, when it comes to blowing up said buildings, it isn’t just about sneaking into a compound and pushing a button as would be the case anywhere else, but positioning explosives at structural weak points and taking down your target with the least amount of fuss and ammo expenditure required. And Volition’s Geo-Mod 2.0 technology really is remarkable; though limited to building demolition rather than terrain deformation, watching the resultant carnage of a smokestack toppling onto a row of buildings and foes brick by brick is a marvel in its own right. So the destruction itself never gets boring – it’s just unfortunate that everything in-between does.

See, Guerrilla’s biggest problem is also the most obvious one associated with a large open-world title – tedium. Volition’s Mars may be large, but it’s also devoid of any character, making navigating across the landscape a chore. Volition are obviously aware of this themselves, offering the player the option to purchase a teleport upgrade a few hours in, but ultimately, infuriation will have set in long before. It’s also incredibly easy to die, at least in the first few hours when Mason feels significantly underpowered, and death can often feel ridiculously cheap. Whenever the alert meter flashes red (which it will more often than not), EDF troops seemingly spill out of every crater going, overwhelming and outgunning a comparatively weak Mason. In turn, it shuns the game’s notion of strategy, replacing it with a sense of chaos and urgency; what was once an utterly unique and calculated concept suddenly becoming overthrown by basic get-in/get-out gameplay. A shame, really.

guerrilla3The game’s multiplayer options, however, do remain an attractive alternative to anything currently hogging your bandwidth throughout. Though the modes on offer aren’t overly original (each are explosive variants on the time-tested deathmatch, capture the flag, assault and territory modes), they’re incredibly good fun. Again demolition remains the core focus, adding a wonderfully unique twist to proceedings; the enemy isn’t just the annoying tween sniping you in the distance or flying overhead in a jetpack, but the buildings crumbling around you. Matchmaking is incredibly slick too, often finding an appropriate game lobby within seconds – something even the best of the best often fail to achieve. Meanwhile the offline Wrecking Crew mode – a pass-the-pad multiplayer option – adds a competitive score chasing alternative for those unfortunate to remain disconnected from the online world; its addictive ‘destroy as much as you can’ philosophy bringing back fond memories of Burnout’s Crash mode from years of old.

But despite the series’ shift into open-world, Guerrilla is far from a revolution. Volition’s Geo-Mod 2.0 tech is leagues ahead of anything that we’ve seen previously, but you can’t help but think that Guerrilla is ultimately little more than a glorified tech demo. It’s smashing good fun – that you can’t deny – but unfortunately, it’s also a bit of a one-trick pony.

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One Comment »

  • Joe said:

    Solid review. I agree that the game feels a bit light in content. I think this is due to the huge amount of work on the Geo-Mod 2.0, which is brilliant. I can’t wait for the next iteration in the series. Volition has a solid foundation to build upon. Perhaps we’ll see Geo-Mod licensed to other developers, at least I hope so.

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