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Red Faction: Guerilla

Score: 95%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Volition
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 16
Genre: Action/ Third Person Shooter/ Free-Roaming


Graphics & Sound:

We were big fans of the previous Red Faction games for two reasons: They were good shooting games and they featured the craziest destructible environments. We should say they featured what we thought were the craziest destructible environments, because we're pretty sure that Red Faction: Guerrilla has raised the bar considerably. Imagine strolling through any open-world game and being able to demolish anything and everything. It's like the switch that went on the first time we saw a true open-world game, where points on the horizon were actually objects in the game, rather than drawn on a flat canvas. The images of destruction in Red Faction: Guerrilla are inspiring, enough to keep you coming back for more. Explosions are followed by a palpable shake in your controller, and accompanied by flying metal, smoke, and flame. If you damage a building sufficiently, you'll see it start to crumple and sway and ultimately fall smashing into a million pieces. The noise that accompanies this is very satisfying, and you'll also have the sound of people running and screaming as the devastation mounts.

The voices done for Red Faction: Guerrilla are top-shelf, and the story spins out through a series of cut-scenes featuring great animation. The faces are especially well done, recalling some of the work done for games like Mass Effect, where you could see emotions in the characters. Visual cues in the game are rarely subtle, making Red Faction: Guerrilla more approachable than some other open-world games. Finding your next mission is often as simple as watching the mini map, or you can use the larger map to select a destination and plot a course that instantly becomes an easy-to-find beacon. The heads-up display isn't minimal, but it doesn't steal attention away from the on-screen mayhem.


Gameplay:

Unlike its predecessors, Red Faction: Guerrilla isn't calibrated as a FPS of any kind. The format here is very much an over-the-shoulder experience, similar to amped action/shooting games like Gears of War. The first person perspective isn't something you'll miss from a gameplay perspective, other than feeling slightly less immersed in the action. Playing as a newly arrived miner on the planet, you notice right away that all is not right in paradise. The militia that once was a force for good has abused its power and become what it originally opposed. The people need a champion, and you find yourself pushed into the conflict. The main game that blossoms from this moment where you become part of the conflict, fighting on the side of the opposition, is really a joy to play. Being part of the Red Faction has never been more fun, and your capabilities are more outrageous than ever. There is a ton to do playing solo, and even more you can get into with a friend or over XBox Live. The networked games are fairly predictable variations on King of the Hill or Capture the Flag, but there's an added dimension of being able to repair structures. Opposing teams attempt to dismantle structures on the other side, while defending teams try to rebuild and protect their ability to rebuild through direct conflict.

Direct conflict isn't exactly the strategy to take in the main game, since you'll find yourself outmatched and outgunned. The tools of your trade begin to take on new significance, whether it is detonating remote charges or using an arc welder to slice through enemies in hard-to-reach places. You'll have to earn the best stuff, but a trusty sledgehammer will also be at your side for those "close encounters" with the enemy. Jacking vehicles becomes part of how you explore your world, take out structures or other vehicles, and transport rebel personnel back to a safehouse. There are other missions where driving or collecting items is important. When you aren't driving, you can cruise around and explore the big, open world of Red Faction: Guerrilla, mining if the spirit moves you or just interacting with other characters. Being called into a mission and completing it successfully will drive up the morale and control in a specific area, eventually displacing the so-called Earth Defense Force. Moving from area to area is the name of the game, eventually liberating the entire world. If this sounds a big heavy, try playing multiplayer games on Live or launching the Wrecking Crew game mode to play some pass-around with the controller. You set the dynamics and choose your weapons, then compete for points awarded based on the level of destruction you can create within a set amount of time.


Difficulty:

The lowest difficulty setting in Red Faction: Guerrilla makes it playable by anyone, including someone that never got into heavy action or shooting games. The destruction level is aided by a setting that makes the buildings more vulnerable and prone to collapse, plus you can dial in a few more settings. Seasoned players will find the A.I. steps up considerably and that the EDF will hunt you down with a passion after you make trouble. Even with training wheels, Red Faction: Guerrilla manages to create great tension for the player. Any suspicion of rebel activity will lead the EDF to crack down, but you may be surprised to find that moving explosive objects around won't attract attention. Bumping into an EDF vehicle will lead to an instant manhunt, so things aren't tuned perfectly in the A.I... Dialing up the difficulty will definitely result in more persistent opponents, measured by the frequency and duration of your wanted level. A bit like the "star" system in Rockstar's crime simulators, Red Faction: Guerrilla introduces a color-coded wanted system that tells you how hard the EDF is coming for you. Their reaction will depend on how hard you hit, and whether you attack strategic targets. You can't really avoid some missions, but if you play it smart, you'll find that people around you become allies and battle on your side. The measure of EDF control vs. morale is an indication of how well you're doing, but it also influences events around you in the game. This is a neat touch, a bit like the transformations that happened based on your actions in a game like Fable. The balance between destruction and repair in multiplayer creates some interesting dynamics that are often more challenging than straight knock-down/drag-out action or shooting frag-fests.

Game Mechanics:

Red Faction: Guerrilla stays true to its roots by following all the conventions we'd expect from a third-person shooting or action game, but works in some special touches that make it stand out. Even without the crazy, destructible environments, this would be fun to play and a breeze to control. No special approach is required to blow some stuff up, but you'll use some different techniques during battles until you gather a truly impressive arsenal. The idea of rebel fighting is to use speed and a low profile against an enemy with superior firepower. The EDF qualifies in the latter category, with loads of guns and fast, heavy vehicles. The trick to working against them proves to be using explosives strategically, bombing out buildings, and setting traps. The action never takes a break, so simple mechanics are favored over deep menus. Holding the right button (RB) will bring up the weapon menu, or you can just tap it to switch back and forth between two weapons. Selecting from one of four choices in this menu can be done through the D-pad or through the face buttons. Attacks are on the triggers, which may seem harder than tapping a face button, but it becomes second nature quickly. The face buttons are reserved for important things like setting off remote charges; use a couple of these things and you'll instantly fall in love. The menus are reserved for reviewing the map and planning your next mission, or learning more about the world of Red Faction: Guerrilla. Upgrades can be purchased using salvage credits gathered during your missions, or mined from the ground. All the incentive you need to go out looking for salvage is in the Wrecking Crew or Live mode, when you can see all the cool weapons available (for a price) later in the main game. Keep mining!

Nothing yet has caused us to lose faith in this franchise. It manages to keep its original "big idea" alive in the destruction element, but also changes its stripes and moves away from being another FPS. We wouldn't rule out the possibility of falling in love with another Red Faction themed shooter, but we can find lots to love right here. You'll get plenty of play time in on the main game, and then be able to extend the shelf life with sessions on Live, and playing pass-around with your friends on Wrecking Crew. A huge variety of missions, locations, and characters keeps things fresh, and no two buildings collapse in exactly the same way. Red Faction: Guerrilla is a technical feat that also manages to be incredibly intuitive and entertaining. Grab this one now.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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