Red Faction: Guerrilla Makes Open-Worlding Fun Again
Although Red Faction: Guerrilla will always be known first and foremost as a game about blowing stuff up, it should also be hailed for breaking the bonds of the open world genre. Don't get me wrong, the results of rocket-launching, bomb-laying and nano-reducing 99.9% of the objects on the terrain are an absolute blast to play with (no pun intended) and well worth the standard fare for a 360 title all by themselves. Surely the developers knew that this was going to be the best part of the game, so they did something incredibly smart with the gameplay: they got the hell out of your way.
To me, the draw of open world games is the freedom of play. The idea that you have to find your own way from point A to point B, approach enemy X from angle Y and destroy it with weapon Z is mysteriously intriguing to me, perhaps only because of the immense number of possible scenarios stemming from all the options provided. Somehow this request has reached developers and, in most cases, has been translated to a cry for "more realism!" which certainly includes our multi-variate style of play, although usually with more realism baggage than we care for.
As is the case with any open world game, there's going to be at least one time when you're stuck in the middle of nowhere, at least a ten minute walk/run away from the nearest objective or save point. GTA or Far Cry 2 come to mind immediately (with the latter being the most brutal abuser in this particular case). This is boring. Who wants to spend their free time in a virtual walking simulator? Sure, it's realistic, but I didn't buy a game that realistically simulates my 40-hour work week, I bought a game that lets me blow buildings up and kill untold numbers of armed soldiers in futuristic body suits. Games are games and, ideally, they provide some sort of entertainment while challenging your puzzler just a little bit.
Here's what RFG does right: it encourages you to return to the fun parts of the game. If you're stuck in the boondocks with no transportation in sight, a Red Faction member will automatically drop off a ride for you. Now you can quickly get to the next mission. If you've just finished a firefight and you're low on ammo for your favorite gun, there's likely an ammo crate around that next corner (and conveniently marked on your mini map). Now you can go raid that next base without a tedious trip to restock at your safe house. Battles with dozens of heavily armed soldiers will take a toll on your health bar and even likely kill you a couple times, but if you survive your health bar returns to full after a couple seconds of peace. The character that you play can sprint for hours on end, not because the character is an athletic runner, but because it's boring to have to rest and catch your breath in any game that's not a breathing simulator. "Get back in the fight!" the game tells you. And you listen.
With that out of the way, the gameplay is fairly standard with the added benefit of destruction. The explosive weapons feel like they have awesome destructive power against buildings but the enemy soldiers can resist quite a few of your standard bullets. The story is very sparse and it seems like a lot of thought went into the it before most of it was thrown out the window in favor of keeping players playing. Some subtle details remain, although they're difficult to figure into the main story without doing some conjecture. I won't get into the details of how you play the game in the interest of keeping this review on the shorter side though, rest assured, there are lots of other reviews that will tell you how the missions work.
All said and done, RFG a fantastically *fun* game to play in an era where games seem more and more like chores punctuated with a couple moments of enjoyment, especially when a game is sold on such unique gameplay element like building destruction. Luckily, it's not just the explosions, it's the well-connected and smooth flow of moments between the explosions that make a game, and in particular what makes Red Faction: Guerrilla such an enjoyable game to play.