The original creators of the destructible environment shooter are back and this time Volition want to up the ante with their new and shiny Geo-Mod 2.0 engine. Will the Saints Row series developer be able to recapture the look, feel and critical acclaim that the first two Red Faction titles garnered or will the glory days turn to gritty red dust – read on my friends and we shall take this one step at a time .
Red Faction: Guerrilla is set almost 50 years after the events of the original Red Faction title in 2208. Originally part of the alliance with the Red Faction operatives that helped save Mars the Earth Defense Force (EDF), have become the main antagonist this time around. The organization has become corrupt and in a desperate bid for survival it has taken to kidnapping people and putting them in forced work camps for their own profit.
This time out you play the role of Alec Mason. Alec arrives on Mars, at his brothers request, to try and put his life back on track after the death of his father. Soon after arrival you notice that the good living and opportunities that your brother lured you to Mars with are a falsity. All around you people are being rough-housed by the EDF, doors are being kicked in and people executed. Your brother explains that the Red Faction are rising once more and that the EDF have become the oppressor they once sought to eradicate from Mars. Shortly after arriving your brother is gunned down by the EDF whilst on a mining trip. Before they EDF can finish you off Red Faction fighters appear and take them down. Alec is given no choice, he has been labelled as a member of the Red Faction by association with his brother so all he can do is seek revenge for his brother.
Now in the original two Red Faction games you spent a large amount of your “destruction” time smacking holes in “most” cavern walls or through small areas inside the games “corridors”. Now with Red Faction: Guerrilla the corridors and underground caverns are long gone. Replaced instead with a MASSIVE (truly HUGE) open world environment. The ability to smash through these tunnels is replaced with the ability to cause some major collateral damage. You can now demolish whole structures and buildings. You have lost the ability to modify the actual landscape in any way but that is a small price to pay for the pure joyous carnage that ensues from twatting a windmill with your Miners Hammer and watching it topple over on some poor EDF grunts.
As you can imagine from the two key words in that last paragraph – open world & highly destructible – the graphics would need to be compromised… right? WRONG on most counts! First whats wrong – you have very little impact on the environment around you, for example your vehicle leaves no marks int eh red dust of Mars and kicks up no grit or debris. You character, the NPCs and the vehicles all seem to float above the ground in a weird disjointed fashion. And there are the odd clipping issues (arms through doors of cupboards etc) and frame wobbles. Now, that was more negatives than you thought right? Well let me just say that these faults matter not a jot when you have just ploughed your truck into an EDF chemical plant, debris and flames are spewing forth and EDF soldiers are diving for cover. It looks spectacular! Totally over the top and arcadey, but spectacular non the less. Character animation is passable but a lot of the characters walk with an inert stiffness that jars from the immersion a little. The game seems a little light on some of the normal bells and whistles of a shooter (such as COD 4 or Killzone 2) but these are not missed with the amounts of destruction taking place.
Now, graphics are one thing, but this game needs a whole separate section dedicated to the GeoMod2.0 engine. You have not seen anything like this before – I promise you! Sure plenty of games have done destructive environments. Battlefield: Bad Company gave it a great go. The levels of destruction in this game are another thing just not seen in anything else before it. Even the likes of inFamous or once again Battlefield: BC can not even touch this. All elements in the game are based on proper, and I mean real world, physics thanks to the Havok and GeoMod2.0 technologies. Not only that but all structures conform to the laws of engineering as well. Structures are built as they would need to be built in a real world setting. For example, a guard hut on the edge of a quarry would have supporting “stilts” coming down from it to support the section of the building that was over hanging the quarry. So in one mission you need to take down a PA system that is housed ont he top of the buildings. Simple, either drive a truck through the supports or take your trusty hammer to them – run like hell and then turn around and watch as the structure become destabilized and the slowly crumples down the side of the quarry. Fantastic!
This highlights another key element of the gameplay mechanic – choice. There is almost always another way to do a mission. Whether you choose to take out buildings from a distance with the rocket launcher, drive through it with a truck, smash it up with a large “mech”-like frame or simply throw a few demolition charges around the foundations there are multiple paths to destruction. You are truly empowered to make these choices for yourself and that is both overwhelming and totally awesome! Enough of this gushing for now my friends as I am sure by now, you have seen the videos, played the demo and have a good idea of just how frikkin’ awesome this game looks in action.
Now the biggest departure for the third title in the franchise is that it is no longer a standard first person shooter. The gameplay is vastly different to anything in the franchise before. Now you are placed firmly in the third person and given a vast sand-box to play in. I think the best way for me to describe the experience is Saints Red Fact Row: Guerrilla. That’s not to be flippant, it just feels more like Saints Row or GTA than it feels like your standard FPS/3rd Person shooter. You start out in Parker, the smallest of the areas currently under the control of the EDF. The idea of the game is to liberate Mars sector by sector until the EDF is driven from the planet. To do this you basically undertake “turf” wars in each region. You must taken on the defined story arc missions to progress to the point where the region is on the brink of EDF defeat. Then to tip the balance you must taken on the multiple side-missions that lie about the region to make the overall level of EDF control drop to zero – at this point a final mission will be undertaken as a last push to eradicate EDF control from that area.
You are free to undertake whichever side-missions you see fit. These take the form of simply rescuing locals from the EDF (House Arrest missions), riding shotgun on a missions, repelling advancing EDF troops from local settlements and many more. One of the best, in my opinion, are the missions that require you to destroy points of interest. To loosen the EDF grasp you have a number of points marked on your map that denote items that would hurt the EDF is destroyed. Wind farms, electrical generators, chemical plants, outposts etc. The idea then it make your way to the area scout out the targets to be destroyed and then taken them down. Great fun can be had experimenting with the ways to destroy as much as possible. You have to make a hasty retreat though as your alert status will quickly escalate from green to yellow to red and then the cavalry is called in by the EDF and all hell breaks loose (think max wanted stars on GTA!).
There are plenty of vehicles to aid you in your trip around the various sectors on Mars. Around 30 all told to be precise! You can jack any you see as long as they are friendly to your cause. The other way is to kill the occupant (friend or foe) and just take the thing. This leads me on to the next aspect of the game dynamic – the people. You are part of a liberation force on Mars and as such you want to avoid killing any civilians. Any injured or killed will mean the moral of the region takes a dive. The better the regions moral the more help and scrap you will find. Scrap is used as the currency of choice within the local populous. You collect scrap fragments from anything you destroy and the more important or high-tech the item that was destroyed the better scrap you get. You then trade this scrap for weapons and weapon upgrades. If you keep the regions moral level high enough then people will start to join up with the Red Faction and help fight the good fight.
The only real criticisms that can be leveled at this open-world approach is that there traveling from A to B to get the job done only to get twatted half way in to the mission and end up back at the start again – having to travel to the mission point again.. very GTA3! The other issue is that, and this is a credit and a curse, the side missions and the main meat of the game get blurred so very much that, if you wanted to just progress through the game, it becomes awkward knowing which areas to pick to do so.
The game does a great job of changing up the missions and pacing the introduction of new weapons so that you never truly get bored but things do head along repetitive street towards the end of the game. Talking about the end of the game, man is this game large! To give you an example I have been playing for about 5 hours and I was only part way through clearing the second of the five sectors! Pretty meaty stuff for a shooter really. And then you have the whole multiplayer aspect to delve into once your time is up. Like all sand-box games the playtime depends on if you just want to do the necessary or if you enjoy exploring the game. There is plenty of replay thanks to the unique ways you can go about the missions and there are even collectables (audio recordings) and other unique places to visit that keep you coming back for more.
Sound wise the game also manages to deliver. A lot of titles recently have pressed my “meh!” button in the sounds department. Weak effects, poor voice acting and sloppy music have all been in evidence. Not so in Red Faction: Guerrilla. The weapons sound great, the music does the job well, the voice acting is good and the effects.. oh the effects… When you hear the structure your wailing on with your Miner Hammer you will stop and shudder with fear and delight. You know that at any moment the whole place is going to fall down on you just from the rumbles and screeching of metal. The many weapons, both conventional and custom built all sound just right. Plenty of meaty bangs and crackles give you the feeling you are holding an item that sounds just as devastating as the effect it produces. Sure some of the music can be a little bland and blend with the background carnage but it is by no means bad and flows and peaks with the action greatly.
Now, I would love to wax lyrical about the multiplayer, but sadly, I got very few games at all during my testing period (the blessing and curse of getting a game before release!). What I can tell you is that there is a fully featured set of options available to anyone looking to spread the destruction over the internet. There a plenty of game modes available such as traditional death matching – although this has a whole new spin thanks to GeoMod2.0! There is also another mode that splits you in to opposing teams – one trying to destroy targets and the other trying to protect them. Al fairly standard stuff except you smash and blow your way through the walls – no place to hide campers! Another Added bonus to the multiplayer element are the backpacks. The little mods give you a certain edge like more health or stunning shock waves etc.
One of the modes I did manage to get a fair few games of was Wreaking Crew. This is a multiplayer game but is a local “pass the Pad” game. You each take it in turns to rack up as much destruction as you can in an allotted time frame. The one who causes the most mayhem and destruction wins 🙂 Simple but oh so addictive with a group of mates around yours.
Adding to this heady selection of game modes are detailed online tracking features such as an in-depth statistic tracking system to keep track of your kills, flag captures etc. This is as well as a progressive unlock system that hinges on experience earned in matches
The game is a real beast. Weighing in at around 18 to 20 hours for an average play though there is plenty to keep you coming back in this title. The multiplayer works well enough but won’t be tearing you away from Killzone 2 of COD 4. The real meat of this title is the huge sandbox of destruction. The problem is that after 10 or 12 hours of this the shiny starts to wear off ever so slightly. It is still great fun and sooo satisfying but the main trick the game has is the destruction. The story is totally forgettable and barely strings things along. The character development is almost non-existent. There frustration levels, especially in the latter levels, and with most of the House Arrest hostage levels, goes through the roof at times. The real draw at all times is “What can I blow up next – and how will I choose to do it this time!”. I’m being a little harsh most likely but the problem is that this title suffers form so many throw-back issues of most sand-box / GTA type titles. You have a cover mechanic that feels pretty much shoe-horned in and, to be honest, becomes totally useless in the later parts of the game when swarms of enemies are thrown at you. Mix with that the odd graphical glitch, the relative sparseness of the Martian landscape and you have your reasons why this game avoids the, very rarely given, 10/10 on BG. Oh and the load times are a little harsh (20 – 40 seconds between deaths) but the install at the start of the game is only roughly 5 mins so that was a bonus. Sorry for such a huge review but I have barely covered it all even now. I have not mentioned the innovative GPS system that guides you to your destinations, the Safe House warping or the mining or Ore. The game is just too large!
Red Faction: Guerrilla is a top game. A real departure from the previous entries in the series. The game attempts to meld the 3rd person action genre with a GTA style gameplay mechanic. It looks good, sounds good and is great fun to play. Sure the reduced draw distance is a shame and the clipping issues cause the odd jar but all in all the game is a technical marvel. So much destruction and freedom to enjoy. I have not enjoyed a Volition title so much since the second Red Faction title so this is complete double thumbs up from us here at Brutal Gamer. Go grab your copy now and feel the power of destruction!