The Landscapes are Ugly, but they Blow Apart Beautifully
The Red Faction series has had somewhat of a cult following over the years. While the series has garnered critical acclaim since the first installment, it has failed to reach true mainstream success. Now, almost seven years since Red Faction II hit consoles, developer Volition, Inc. brings us Red Faction: Guerrilla. Did the developer's latest outing on the Xbox 360 prove to be a success? I'd say it did.
Red Faction: Guerrilla still takes place on Mars, like the previous games in the series. You play as Alec Mason, who is visiting the red planet to visit his brother, Dan. It turns out that the Earth Defense Force (EDF), the allies in the original Red Faction, have invaded Mars to take the planet's resources due to earth's dying economy. The EDF troops are cruel to the Martian people, and rule the planet in Totalitarian fashion. Of course with all Totalitarian governments, there's an underground resistance: enter the Red Faction.
Upon learning of his brother's involvement in the Red Faction, Alec is bewildered. Not a minute later Dan is killed by EDF soldiers. Alec is swept up into the resistance upon being saved by a RF Guerrilla, and that's about as deep as the game's story goes. There is virtually no plot in the game, and to say that the characters are one-dimensional is being generous. However, the action is where Red Faction excels, and believe me, there is plenty of it.
That's not to say the game completely forgets it's plot however, as every now and again we get cut scenes explaining why you're helping the resistance fight a seemingly unwinnable war. The downside to this however, is that these cut scenes are rendered in poor CG that often looks flimsier than the already underwhelming in-game graphics. The visuals here aren't very pretty folks, and pop-up is abundant as you're cruising around Mars. The voice acting is generic sounding, with the characters sounding like your typical genre types.
The gameplay in Red Faction: Guerrilla is centered around liberating the different sectors of Mars. Each sector has a number of targets to destroy, which are buildings that are central to the EDF's control of that region. As you destroy these targets, the control will drop, and you'll unlock missions from the Red Faction to kick the EDF out and liberate the sector. These destruction targets are arguably the most enjoyable aspects of the game: the physics engine and destructible environments combine to create beautiful explosions, which are quite satisfying to watch.
In addition to destroying buildings and other EDF property, there are side missions known as "Guerilla Actions" for the player to complete. These actions can earn the player salvage, the game's currency, lower EDF control, and raise the morale of that sector. The morale system of the game is essentially how much your fellow Guerrillas like you. As you raise it to the higher levels, you'll notice it bears little difference on the gameplay. It's really just a tacked on system that does little to change the experience. The Guerrilla Actions range in types from escort missions, transporting vehicles to safehouses, destroying certain structures with only the weapons given to you, and a few others. These side missions can be fun at times but some, particularly the transport missions, can feel frustrating and difficult. Overall it just feels like the developers added these side quests just to artifcially lengthen the game. They aren't entirely unenjoyable, but they get to feel monotonous and boring after a while.
The weapons are a strong part of what makes Guerrilla so much fun. While there are your typical assault rifles, pistols, and RPG's, there's a number of other weapons that help make the game more unique. Among them is the sledgehammer, which will quickly become your best friend when your other weapons are out of ammo. The hammer is strong and powerful, destroying support beams with ease, and proves to be a good alternative to explosives when you're trying to rescue a hostage. Along with the weapons are various "Backpacks". These range from Jetpacks, which are self explanatory, to others that heal you, "eject" you from hairy situations, give you super speed, and many other power-ups.
The game's multiplayer mode combines everything good about the single player component with a fluid matchmaking system and the destructability that made the single player so much fun. Even with massive buildings collapsing around you, lag is a rare occurence, and the game does a good job of transferring servers so you don't lose connection due to a bad host.
The multiplayer modes themselves are pretty typical. There's Anarchy (deathmatch), Team Anarchy (Team Deathmatch), Capture the Flag, but also Siege mode, unique to the game. Siege has one team trying to destroy as much of the other team's property as possible while the other team tries to rebuild and defend the land the opposite team destroyed. It's a pretty fun mode, but I found the most fun to be had with Capture the Flag. As you progress, you earn XP for unlockables such as new color schemes for your gamertag and more characters. The unlocks are really underwhelming, the saving grace being the ability to unlock new hammers. The amount of customization for private matches is seemingly endless, allowing for a lot of fun with friends. What's even better is that you can still earn XP in private matches, meaning that you'll earn unlocks as you would in matchmaking. The multiplayer is great fun, arguably better than the campaign.
Red Faction: Guerrilla seems to go for a "quantity over quality" viewpoint. While it seems pretty generic and the visuals are generally bland, the amount of destruction and mayhem one can cause in both the single and multiplayer modes make up for most of it. Your enjoyment of the game will mostly depend on whether or not you enjoy mindless fun, as the game is a perfect candidate to spend a rainy summer day with.