Red Faction was a good yet forgettable FPS that was ported to the early Playstation 2 days back when FPS titles were pre-Halo bubble. Now fast forward nine years later, and the team at Volition Inc. decided to revive the series with a third installment in the title. It followed the same formula for the sequel, Red Faction 2, and was a good, but again forgettable entry into the shooter market. But now, Volition decided to go the 3rd person route with “Red Faction: Guerilla.”
Now I give a lot of credit for mixing up a series, especially in a day and age where sequels usually build upon their predecessors in a by the books way. “Guerilla” is a 3rd person view, free range open world, which involves mission based stories rather than FPS linearity, offering a degree of freedom in the entire narrative and, in my own opinion, making you feel closer to an actual resistance movement. As Alec Mason, you basically become the number one soldier in the resistance movement known as the Red Faction against the comically evil Earth Defense Force, meaning you get to blow up buildings, raid strongholds, and just cause total anarchy on the newly terraformed colony of Mars.
But despite initial first impressions, a lot of problems arose rather quickly. For starters, the game borrows a lot of mechanics from other sandbox games, most notably “Mercenaries 2” and Volition’s “Saints Row” series. In fact, comparing it to “Saints Row 2” one would find similar mechanics in using weapons, mission objectives, and even side quests, all in a similar control scheme. It’s actually almost uncanny, which detracts from the story in a gameplay sense because the mission structure, based on wanton destruction and mindless violence all out in the open goes against the entire idea of a resistance movement.
And it doesn’t help the fact that the main story, which can be done in less than fifteen hours, is a cliché- ridden fest of boring exposition. Every character you interact with is one noted, every cut scene seems forced and tacked on, and you never really feel like you’re in a resistance movement. It feels more like you’re part of an army commander leading plenty of troops into battle, which detracts from the overall experience. Sneaking around, for example, never works, leaving you to do a full on assault until you succeed, or until you die, which almost never happens, even on the hardest difficulty. The game feels very shallow in this sense, as if you’re a guerilla for the namesake only. You could have easily been a gangbanger, an army commando, even a diabolical alien traversing the world in the same backdrop. It’s almost interchangeable.
I will admit though that one of the coolest features is the new physics engine in the game. With every crash, boom and bang of your guns, explosives or your sledgehammer, the world’s infrastructure literally crumbles in one of the most awe inspiring and realistic interpretations of destruction I have ever seen. And frankly, it’s fun to just go around, place a explosion on a buildings doorway, and watch the entire structure topple in a demo-mans wet dream. The engine is so good, that it makes you want to play the game more, to address some of the challenges and side missions that involve timed explosions and a degree of strategy and timing that would make anyone’s twitchy finger happy.
And you will be doing this a lot, because destroying key targets and random buildings yields scrap metal, which is used to upgrade and purchase new weapons, armor, and abilities for your quest of a not so covert rebellion. The system feels tacked on, but it gives an incentive to grab some admittingly cool weapons and upgrades, such as a buzz-saw spewing gun or my personal favorite, the nano-breaker, which literally shoots an orange beam at things and disintegrates them to nothing. Add on a forced multi-player that uses guns and special, multi-player only jetpacks to spice up gameplay and you have pretty much a whole package you would expect for a game.
The game is graphically subpar at best, but that might be due to the physics engine. Since everything has a degree of weight and structure, the textures look plastic and bland on pretty much everything in the game, and when action gets really rough the slowdown really hinders the experience, causing a ton of pop-up at times too. The characters are also fairly bland in animation, but again I feel it’s to compliment the physics, making it a rare case of a gameplay element being the tipping point over graphical beauty. What is inexcusable though is the piss poor sound. Sappy orchestral music and really crappy voice over’s detract, making you want to skip every cut scene and pretty much cut out sound all together, and if it weren’t for the good sound effects, I’m pretty sure many people would have done just that.
“Red Faction: Guerilla.” Is by no means a revolutionary game, and neither does it re-create the feel of a revolutionary experience. If anything Volition Inc. took a ton of risks in straying from the FPS roots that the first two games took, and with the success in some areas, the failure of others hold it back just a bit too much from being a truly memorable experience. The controls are good and the gameplay is fun, but the blandness of everything around you is really the problem, as it detracts from the overall experience too much. If you plan on blowing things up for hours, give it a try. Otherwise, the revolution will come from something else.
Final Score- C+