Red Faction: Guerrilla
Red Faction: Guerrilla is the third in the Red Faction series. Like the first it is set on Mars but further in the future than the first game. The protagonist is named Alec Mason, a minor who has moved to Mars to go work and live with his brother. We learn that the EDF (earth defense force), who came to Mars to save the minors many years ago, have now taken control of Mars. They rule over with an iron fist (or is that a laser gun?), making the life of the Martians generally not that pleasant with the death penalty being thrown around like there was no tomorrow.
And that's where the Red Faction come in, to make sure there is no tomorrow for the EDF. They are a resistance movement which Alec Mason joins after finding himself on the wrong side of the EDF. They aren't a very strong resistance movement, and can't take the fight directly to the EDF so, you guessed it, welcome to guerrilla warfare. Your mission is to destabalise the EDF and drive them out.
The game has an open world sort of setting (trying very hard to not mention GTA...), with distinct regions each to be liberated one at a time. What I like about the game is that each region has a distinct feel to it. The graphics and transitions are smooth, but sometimes moving from one region to another the landscape changed very abruptly, but I'm just picking at small things. The landscape is very well made, and there is a real go anywhere feel about the place. If you see a mountain, you can climb it, I found myself able to go virtually anywhere using enough of a run up and some luck. I think I may have tested the game too much when I came across and invisible wall of death after launching myself off a mountain on the far side of the map, but I suppose expecting an infinite world would be a bit much. For everything that is on the map, access is good. Now, you might think, well it's a nice feature but big deal, well let me tell you about the game play and I'll come back to why the freedom is important.
The game works on a series of compulsory missions and side mission (guerrilla actions). To liberate a region you must complete the compulsory missions and drive down control of the EDF. I'm not sure what units control is measured in, but if you bring up your map you see how much they have on the left, e.g. 300. To lower it you can complete side missions which will lower control between about 10 and 30 depending on the type of side mission, or you can go and destroy EDF buildings. Some of the larger EDF buildings lower control by as much as 80.
The side missions all have various themes, rescue people, defend a building, attack a convoy etc etc. They are varied enough for you to never get bored, and you don't need to even do most of them. I found myself doing all the ones available with a character called Jenkins, who rides around on a strange looking vehicle while you sit on the back with a cannon trying to cause as much mayhem as possible. Destroying buildings never gets boring, you can use mines, or rockets, and evaporate it with the nano gun, or go for a good old fashioned swing at it with the sledgehammer. All of the building could be brought down with the hammer, you just have to take out some supporting columns and key points, and boom, building goes down. I was impressed by the way you didn't need to cause a certain amount of damage to a building to take it down, all you needed to do was hit the key points. Someone spent a lot of time designing that, and it works marvelously.
Now, back to my point about the access all areas map. No 2 missions are ever the same. Say you need to take out a building, well you can walk in and fight your way through the enemy base. You can charge in with a car and drive straight up to it. Or you can climb a mountain and sneak round the back, use a sniper to pick off the guards and place a few charges on it and walk away. There are so many ways of doing each mission you never feel you're doing the same thing twice. It all depends on how inventive you are and what sort of mood you're in, and it helps keep the game interesting and exciting. Another example is a mission where you had to take out some snipers, do you charge into the building and fight your way to the top? Do you find your own vantage point and try and pick him off? Or do you walk around with your sledgehammer destroying the building and watch the sniper fall to his doom? I think you know which one I chose.
The open world is truly open, like no other game I have ever played, and if I would be so bold, I would even say this game could change the way you look at open world games. Now, for this to happen the game would need to gain enough popularity and make a big enough footprint, but if it does then its effects will be great. The most important thing about the open world set up though, is it is subtle. You don't notice its awesomeness while you play it, because for once the game makes sense. If you go back to playing any other game, you think “oh thats stupid, in real life I would just jump over that fence” or whatever. Now it's “oh thats stupid, in Red Faction I would be able to smash through that with my hammer.”
They've created a perfect playground for a game to stand on. But is the game perfect? Sadly, no. But it is damn good. The things that let the game down are a few minor things, such as the cars. There is a good variety, and they do seem to fit in with the mars theme very well. They do fit the general feel of the game, rough and gritty, but it would be nice if handling was a little better, sometimes it feels there is no difference between the brake and handbrake, and steering can feel blunt. I've already mentioned the quick transitions but the biggest problem with this game is story. It has so much potential, but most of the story is created through on screen descriptions, and radio messages in the background. Everything is laid out perfectly, but it's not really taken anywhere, for example the characterisation. You don't really know anything about Alec Mason, for all you know he could just be a really really angry fireman. And the hostility of the EDF is obvious and in your face, but there is no why, no real explanation. But, the game doesn't try to have an amazing story and fail at it. It knows full well the limitations of its storyline, but instead concentrates on gameplay. At no point do you think the story is lame, you just wish for more.
Other than that the game is truly great, everything feels like it has been thought about, to the way buildings fall down, to the extremely intelligent enemy who know there's no point in shooting you if you're hiding behind something and will either rush you or throw a grenade. The music is well done as well, and really helps build up the tension in some of the epic missions. Is this game a classic? No, because no one will ever know anything about Alec Mason, there's not enough story for that. But is it worth playing? Oh yes, very much so.
By The Fat