Monday, February 25, 2013

Blast from the Past - Red Faction: Guerrilla

Excuse me while I perform necromancy upon this blog. POOF! There, that should do it.

I'm fittingly making the first post since Obama's first administration about a game from, in terms of technology, a few yagrillion years ago. Released on Steam and other platforms, and unfortunately festered with Games for Windows Live, Red Faction: Guerrilla started blowing shit up in 2009. Volition designed it for publication by the late, spectacular THQ.

A well regarded sequel to a pair of somewhat troubled Red Faction titles, Guerrilla capitalizes on a concept introduced by its predecessor, and does so with far more success. The idea was to include massively destructible environments, and the original games focus that idea on cave walls, the ground, and other dirt and rock type stuff. The sequel doesn't feature terrain that can be blown apart; it instead makes structures, like buildings, bridges, and vehicles, susceptible to damage and destruction.

Why write about it now? Three reasons: I'm filled with insomnia and boredom, it's a hell of a fun game, and most importantly, Guerrilla is cheap. Steam offers it for $20, and if you look around Ebay, and other discount sites, you can find it for even less.

Rather than leading the player around by his balls or her labia, Guerrilla is an open world game I'd hesitate to call a shooter. Don't get me wrong; there's shooting a-plenty, and your four slot carry arsenal has the option to fill it with lots of different guns, rocket launchers, and other typical shooter fare, but one of those slots is permanently occupied by a hammer. Not just any hammer, either. It's not Mjölnir, but it's not Grandma's picture-hanging wuss hammer, either: It's a demolition hammer, used for knocking down pretty much anything built by human hands.
Mars is a busy place. No sign of any of the rovers, though.

Mars, the game's setting, is filled with man-made structures, too. Not-Mjölnir gets wielded upon houses, enemy bases, wind turbines, propaganda signs, and enemy soldiers who get too close. In fact, when you strike down an enemy with the hammer, it makes a delicious, meaty thud that should have won somebody a special achievement award for sound effect design.

Better than the Originals

The first Red Faction is fair at best, but the biggest problem with it was that, although it heavily advertised destructible earth (mars?), in the tradition of early Peter Molyneux games, it doesn't fully deliver. Only certain areas of the play space really are destructible, and in some cases, you can break the game by excavating too voraciously. The immediate sequel, Red Faction II is, if I recall, similar but shorter. It does contain a groovy railgun that shoots through walls and lets you pick off enemies from a safe place, but otherwise, it isn't very memorable.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion made a song whose
title would be a good caption for this.
Guerrilla kicks the originals in the jimmies. You play Alec Mason, freshly arrived on Mars seeking fortune and glory, or something. The good guys from the first two games, the EDF, has grown too big for its britches and needs to be slapped down. With explosives. Alec has no intention of being a soldier in a revolution until bad guys kill his brother, after which he Luke Skywalkers his way into the rebellion and starts filling up body bags.

Primarily an open-world game, Guerrilla splits the terraformed, inhabitable areas of Mars into several zones, and the story progresses from one to the next until you've won or gotten bored. The latter is unlikely, because the game makes breaking stuff so amazingly satisfying that, if you've ever clicked the "tornado" or "earthquake" buttons in a SimCity game, you'll play the shit out of Guerrilla.

Explosives and Other Loving Touches

Like any self-respecting game with vehicles in it, Guerrilla allows Alec to steal (or, perhaps, borrow for the rest of all time) vehicles, even when they're already occupied. That's where the Grand Theft Auto inspiration ends, though. Alec uses bits of destroyed structures, called salvage, to fund the Red Faction rebellion's economy. Handing in salvage unlocks things like mining explosives, machine guns, arc welders, and even better armaments that I won't mention because that would spoil the experience for anyone who hasn't played the rather unfortunate sequel, Red Faction: Armageddon.

Some douche brought a gun to an arc welder fight.
Salvage also unlocks weapon enhancements, such as ammunition carry capacity, the ability to throw more mining explosives before having to detonate them, etc. Like I said, Alec has four carry slots, one of which is always occupied by the superhammer. That brings a touch of tactical thinking to the game - should you carry an assault rifle in case of bad guys, or focus on shit that you'll use to knock down structures? 

Other currency-like stuff  that drives the game forward are rebellion morale (which you can increase by destroying IDF propaganda, keeping Red Faction soldiers alive, and completing objectives), and enemy control over sectors (which goes down as you succeed as missions). The missions themselves are varied enough to keep the game interesting for hours. Some encourage Alec to take out certain, or a certain number of, structures; some focus on hostage/prisoner rescue, and so on. Among the myriad of missions are story missions that advance the plot of the game, but you can always spend time breaking things, grinding for salvage to better outfit your arsenal, and just plain exploring an alien planet.

In case it doesn't already show, I love this game. It so worth salvaging your copy (har) if you haven't played in a while, or spending a few bucks to check it out. Were I to give Red Faction: Guerrilla a score, it would be:

892 piles of rubble out of 1000!


  1. Nice post ocne again... Had heard of the franchise before but never really bothered checking it out.

  2. Thanks! It's definitely a game worth looking into.