Review: Red Faction: Guerrilla

Blast factory
By MITCH KRPATA  |  June 23, 2009
3.5 3.5 Stars


VIDEO: The trailer for Red Faction: Guerrilla

Red Faction: Guerrilla | for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 | Rated M for Mature | Developed by Volition Inc. | Published by THQ
It's strange, when you think about it, how unrealistic most video games are. Not in the sense that they feature superheroes and space mutants — that's easy to accept. But as they render their environments with increasing verisimilitude, it becomes harder and harder not to wonder why nothing ever gets damaged. Grand Theft Auto IV gave players a picture-perfect virtual New York City in which you could fire a rocket launcher at a building and the worst thing that might happen would be a broken windowpane. This is not the case in Red Faction: Guerrilla. Everything can be knocked down, brick by brick.

How to wreak that destruction is left up to the player. As a member of Red Faction, a group of insurgents on a colonized planet Mars, it's your job to pulverize every building belonging to a fascistic occupying force. You're armed with a sledgehammer, which is surprisingly useful, especially in combat. You can also earn in-game currency to purchase increasingly powerful explosives and matter-dissolving energy weapons — all of which become necessary as the targets become bigger and sturdier.

No game can succeed if its most fundamental mechanic isn't fun, and demolishing buildings in Red Faction is a blast, pun intended. Every structure is put together logically, with supports at key places that require a little extra juice to destroy. It's easy to pound away at drywall with your sledgehammer, but when it comes to concrete and steel, you may need a rocket launcher — or you could drive a tank through it. How much fun is it to lay waste to Martian real estate? Red Faction offers a mode called "Wrecking Crew" that's nothing but a competition to see who can cause the most property damage within the time limit. Like "Horde" in Gears of War 2, this is the game reduced to its essence, and it's a hell of a good time.

In its single-player campaign, Red Faction follows the open-world model: mission objectives can be accomplished in almost any order, and you can explore side alleys at your leisure. The crimson Martian landscape is a refreshing change from the drab urban environments that are so in vogue these days, though there's not much to do besides trash enemy-occupied territory (no dart-throwing mini-games on a barren mining planet). The design is smart, packing the mission objectives and giving you a limited fast-travel option early on.

Red Faction does suffer from a pitfall common to games of this type: die during a mission and you have to drive halfway across the planet to start over. This kind of abrupt shift from mayhem to mundanity can kill your momentum. Not only that, but the vehicle controls are suspect. They tip over at the slightest provocation, and they come to a near-stop when they land after getting air. Still, nothing beats launching an armored truck off a hill and crashing through the roof of an enemy base.

There are also a few multi-player modes, and here, too, the basic joy of smashing stuff makes all the difference. Some of the game types are based on the simple conceit of knocking down your opponents' property while defending and repairing yours. In this way, the buildings themselves seem to be the enemies and the opposing players just hazards. Even the plain vanilla death match takes on sprinkles when you can charge through walls and ceilings in pursuit of your quarry. Really, fighting against people isn't nearly as entertaining as battling architecture.

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