Its been 50 years since Red Faction two and things have changed. Once you fought as part of the EDF, now you are going against it. The EDF has become corrupt and as a miner named Alec Mason is bent on taking them down as revenge for the murder of his brother. Do your best to free Mars of the EDF and their tyrannical rule as you help the resistance. Thus, Red Faction Guerrilla was born and here after five years the third game in the series is almost complete.
The first two Red Faction games were of the first person nature but the third one takes you behind the character as the game has become a third person shooter. The reason going to third person as explained to me by the project manager was so that you could better see the destructible environments crumbling around you and better get yourself to safety. They did try to do it initially as a first person shooter but through their play tests they found they were dying a lot because they couldn’t see their surroundings. By pulling the camera back a little it made a world of difference and thus the evolution to a third person action game was initiated
Let’s start with the single player portion of the game. You have to liberate six sectors on Mars and in turn drive the EDF off the planet. Each sector has a unique environmental look to it so you’ll know as you move between sectors that you are changing from one to another. Your map shows you how much of a hold the EDF has for each sector. The EDF will pull out as you complete various missions to bring down controls in that sector. Missions start opening up in other areas as you start clearing out each one.
Gameplay is like Saints Row 2 in that it’s an open sandbox type of game allowing you to complete missions in however order you want. As you complete guerrilla missions, you get new items that can be added to your arsenal. Missions not only appear on the map but you’ll get communications of some available as well. You can quickly deviate from your current path to the new mission should you choose so or ignore it if you wish. It’s completely up to you and replay value is increased by spawning these random missions for you to partake in.
The engine for Red Faction Guerrilla fully utilizes the Havok physics engine to provide a realistic depiction of falling structures. You really have to play the game to see how the gameplay changes when buildings and walls pose no threat to you. If there’s a granite or metal wall in your way, just take your sledgehammer out and take it down. There’s rarely an area you can’t bust through and you can topple large buildings by taking out the necessary support structure. When you do start taking buildings apart, it’s not uncommon to only see parts of the buildings fall or have delay in which the buildings crumble down. It’s really slick on how it’s done and there are many times the buildings fall apart differently giving some nice variety in the level of destruction you cause. Busting parts of the walls down with your sledgehammer is very therapeutic and visually impressive. When enemies hide behind any wall now, just take out your trusty hammer and hit right through to create a short cut to get to them. You can also utilize the structures available to create new paths. For example, if there’s a gap which you cannot cross and there’s a smokestack nearby, you can try to bring down the smokestack and create a makeshift bridge for you to cross. So, not only are the destructible buildings allow you to get through to places quickly you can also strategically use them to get to other places that are normally unreachable as well. There is a danger of buildings falling on top of you causing great damage but in the single player mode the game was pretty generous in letting you live when this happened. There were a few times I died outright though. The impressive engine really opens up a whole new level of gameplay now that there’s no such thing as a safe area to hide behind.
As part o the Red Faction you start out equipped with a sledgehammer as mentioned earlier and an assault rifle along with some explosive charges. You’ll be able to pick up enemy weapons and ammo as you go along. You always have the sledgehammer so you have the option of changing three other slots to the type of weapon you want to equip. Other items available are the rocket launcher, nano rifle, shotgun, and grinder which shoot off Krull like discs of death. There are a few others that will help you take out the enemies or buildings and most of the items can be upgraded with new features. Building up your weapons provides a light RPG element as you have to decide which weapons to upgrade and concentrate on. One thing I found is that ammo is scarce and you’ll really need to take down the EDF and scavenge their arsenal to survive. There are some ammo crates around but not enough to keep you going.
The sledgehammer though is a beautiful piece of destruction. Not only can you take down walls and vehicles, enemies will fall quickly when their body meets the hammer. Nothing beats a big swing to the head with the sledgehammer though but it’s almost certain death with more than two enemies around pounding on you so you have to be strategic in using that weapon. You can easily change weapons by holding down the right button and selecting with a colored button what you want to use. Unlike Gears of War 2, it’s really easy to run and change weapons at the same time and I found this skill to be essential in surviving some encounters. I could throw some charges and quickly switch to the assault rifle to take some enemies down. When the enemies came close I detonated the charges with a press of a button while keeping my rifle equipped.
There is a cover system that I had to get used to though but rarely used in the first few sectors of the game. Just run up to a barrier and hit the LB to stick to the wall. Now, you can’t just do a blind fire which I miss from playing Gears of War 2 and you can sometimes get caught in an in between state where the character doesn’t aim over or around an obstacle. Whether this will be tweaked in the final build remains to be seen. In any case, the one thing I did find out is the enemies, unlike Gears of War 2, will not just sit back and let you pick them off when there is a good number around. They’ll actually charge you and flank you as much as possible. So, it does make the game a little harder in the fact the enemies are ruthless and you will die if you stay in one place too long.
The EDF won’t bother you until you start messing with their property or performing other guerilla missions. There’s an indicator that turns from green to yellow to orange to red letting you know how much force the EDF will use in coming after you. It’s pretty much the same as how the police interact with you in Saints Row 2. The more damage and EDF you kill, the stronger they come after you. You can either run away and naturally let the time cause the alert level to die down or head to your safe house where you’ll get an automatic green level upon entering.
You’re not alone in your quest to free Mars and like Saint’s Row 2, there are some help that came to your aid. Moral is something that takes effect in this. As moral gets higher for a sector, more people will fight alongside you as well as better ammo will be available in crates around the areas. Also, mission salvage rewards are higher the better morale. This really comes into play in either making the game easier or harder for you. Yes, killing colonists will lower moral as I saw while wandering my base and using my sledgehammer on anyone walking by me so that’s probably something you want to avoid. Sure it’s fun to off a few of these guys but in the end it’s going to hinder your ability to have some better help with your missions as well as the speed at which you can upgrade your items through salvaging. When you die, morale drops as well so it pays to stay alive.
Throughout the game you’ll hear some phrases that NPCs shout out. At the beginning they are pretty gloomy about their situation. One nice little touch is as you start to liberate Mars from the EDF, the messages and tone of the colonists becomes more positive. It adds a little bit of life into the game seeing the population change their tone about Mars.
Salvaging is what you need to do to upgrade your items. As you destroy buildings and vehicles there will be salvage left on the ground. The more you pick up the better your items. The highly describable environments lend to creating many opportunities to pick up new salvage and it’s the only resource in the game that you do need to acquire. Completing some missions will also reward you with salvage so there are other was to earn it as well. As mentioned earlier salvage can be used to upgrade weapons but they can also be used to add abilities. For example, when you start out you have to pick up salvage by running over it on foot. You can use salvage to add the ability to pick up salvage by driving over it in a vehicle. Another is the ability to warp to a safe house. So salvage is essential for more than just upgrades as these abilities you pick up can really help you out.
Vehicles are a big part of Red Faction Guerilla as there’s a nice variety of them for you to drive on Mars. Some have weapons mounted and those with turrets can be controlled by the player as well. In most games where you take a vehicle like Crysis or Grand Theft Auto you either have to follow the map or listen to the GPS to tell you where to go. Volition has done a really cool thing in projecting the lighted path on the ground as you drive so you don’t have to take your eyes away from the action to see where you need to go. It’s really easy and something that helps navigating around the world a lot less frustrating.
One sad omission to the game though is the lack of co-op play. That was one of the great things about Saint’s Row 2 but the developers stated that putting in this mode resulted in very bad frame rates. Because of the amount of data needed to transfer for the destructible environments, the bandwidth just isn’t there right now to do a smooth co-op game with Red Faction Guerrilla. I did play some team death match though and it was pretty fun. The multiplayer game adds backpacks that add different abilities to you. Some of the ones you can pick up let you run faster, fly with a jetpack, or even bust through walls like a juggernaut. You can switch these backpacks around when you find the stations holding them so you aren’t stuck with the one you currently have. Action is pretty fast paced and there are a few good modes that come with the game.
One of the more unique features of Red Faction Guerrilla is the inclusion of party games. Wrecking Crew lets you choose some parameters of the weapon type and a map and your job is to score as much points by causing as much destruction to the buildings as possible. Think of the Burnout mode where you crash through traffic earning points and this is kind of like that. It’s a pass the controller game so gather a few friends and try to outdo each other. It’s pretty cool to see the various strategies involved from player to player. We’d compare notes seeing how our predecessors would try to topple one building on top of another and where they would shoot or place charges. Strategy is important in this one as you have a time limit and sometimes ammo limit to do what you need to do. I think this is one mode where I’d play a lot with and it’s such a great alternative way to play where you have to use your brains to think of the best way to cause as much damage as possible.
I mostly played on the Xbox 360 but the PlayStation 3 version looked the same as well with good framerates and I didn’t see any slow downs even when there were many building parts raining down around me. The open world was modeled beautifully and you really get sense you are on Mars with the rocky terrain and blowing sand that the outdoor areas exhibit.
The game is coming out for the 360, PS3, and PC with another group handling the PC port. They are actually trying to fully utilize the PC and not just make a straight port. One of the things that was mentioned was they are going to use DirectX 10 to make the game look even better than the console taking advantage of the features available for that API. Since they said that bandwidth caused the elimination of co-op play, I asked if it would be possible to add a LAN co-op option since there should be plenty of bandwidth that way. Well, they said since they are a Games for Windows product they didn’t think it would be possible, but who knows.
I had a blast playing a preview build of Red Faction Guerrilla. The destructible environments are a ton of fun and the action is fast paced. Those that like sandbox type games will probably enjoy this as well as you are given the freedom to accomplish what you want how you want to. Wrecking Crew is a fun diversion and the multiplayer action was also very enjoyable. It’s been five long years but the wait is almost over. Expect a full review when the game is released.