Friday, July 24, 2009

Red Faction: Guerilla

When I first saw this game I thought it was going to be some solid lowest common denominator entertainment. However, what you actually get is a surprisingly deep, if a little repetitive, respectably long single player. For me, this is the spiritual sequel to the original Mercenaries and a worthy purchase if you are looking for something to play over the summer.

The main selling point of this game is the impressive physics engine, so I should probably start with that. Exploding stuff is fun. Sometimes the buildings feel a little fragile and yet remarkably can stay standing on a single support. None the less, the demolition requires thinking and it is rewarding when they come down. The fact that every man made structure is destroyable and stays destroyed makes the world come alive. Destroy a bridge and you will see people having to drive round it, for example. I was a little surprised to discover you couldn't destroy the rocks (that was, after all, the main selling point for the original Red Faction) but fear not, there is not a shortage of things to destroy.

However, that is far from the only link to Mercenaries, which also had loads of permanent destruction. The single player takes place in a large explorable world with plenty of driving. The single player is a lengthy experience that will take about 15 hours to complete with plenty still to do. In some ways, the game play can get quite repetitive and you spend far too much driving around. While there is a wide variety of types of missions, they most boil down to exploding buildings and driving vehicles. However, the vastly superior (in numbers and weapons) enemies force you to use the map in imaginative ways to try and get in and out as quickly as possible.

That is probably the single players greatest strength. For the most part, you do feel like a guerilla using hit and run tactics. It is a pleasant change from the normal one man army who defeats everything. The learning curve for the single player is also excellent and towards the end of the game it is very challenging.

In fact, the single player experience does load right, an interesting world to explore, collectibles with in game rewards, a believable population, nicely paced game play and climaxes coming at the end of each area that you liberate. However, one of my favourite parts to the experience were the demolition challenges. In these you get a limited set of equipment and within a set time you must destroy a building. These required a lot of thinking, with some of them being very challenging.

However, the single player is not perfect. For me, the biggest let down is the story. For once, the actual story has not really been overused. For most games it is a complete evil you are fighting. However, in this, you are basically fighting a corrupt power. However, I think the game does a poor job of turning you against them. Straight after the tutorial they kill your brother. This would, in theory, turn you against them. However, the developers go to early, you don't really know or care about your brother. I think there needed to be an extended period at the start where you were helping the Red Faction without going on all out attack on EDF (Not sure how they would stop this being boring). That way, when they kiled your brother, you cared. Also, they could use this time to show the EDF abusing their power.

The ending is a bit of a let down (aren't they all!). The climax comes right before the final boss battle, which just feels tacked on and lame. I also thought that they could have done something more interesting with the world after you had finished it; immeditatly after I defeated the EDF, I got called to intercept one of their couriers.

None the less, overall the single player is one of the better experiences in recent memory. The audio and visual presentation is fantastic and the world presents a suprisingly large amount of variety when exploring.

The game has two types of multi-player. The online multiplayer does nothing for me. The jetpacks do make combat an interesting experience but the game isn't about to supplant Halo. It is perfectly functional but things like 3 shot rocket launchers and proximity mines feel unbalanced and frustrating. It also doesn't really make full use of things like destruction to set it apart from other games. It just feels like an online mode that was there because a game should have online, not because they had anything special to add.

However, the game also includes a "pass the controler" mode. Yes, that is right, a take it in turns multi-player which you probably haven't seen since Worms on the PS1! However, it is suprsingly good. Basically, you have to destroy more than your opponents in a time limit. However, to make things interesting, all of your actions use time as well. So, swinging the hammer will take 3 seconds off your time. Therefore, it is key to think about your actions. In one game, for example, I rigged a tower to fall on top of a building to score more. The forthought required for this is a rare feature in any multi-player games and reinforces my point there is more to this game than meets the eye.

In conclusion, I really like Red Faction. The single player is long, challenging and interesting. Whilst the story won't do much for you, some excellent pacing and an interesting world make is a must if you are looking for something to play over the summer. The explosions make for an interesting focus to the game. Sometimes it needs more variety, but for the large part, it is highly entertaining.

The multi-player is not fantastic, but it isn't bad. There is nothing in the online mode to keep you, it is basically a standard online experience with some unbalanced and frustrating weapons. The pass the controller mode, on the other hand, is really good. Although I am sure that given enough time, you could work out exactly the dominant explosions, when you first start it with somone else, it is entertaining, different and plays to the strengths of the game.

This review is based on a copy of the game supplied by the publisher

"All your base are belong to us"