Thursday, 18 June 2009

Red Faction: Guerrilla review (multi)

There’s nothing like a dash of soviet imagery to set the tone for a game

*Since trying the multiplayer I've decided to put up the overall score slightly.


Back in 2001 the original ‘Red Faction’ was released on the PS2, PC and Mac by Volition Inc. The game pioneered a new and ambitious engine known as the Geo-mod engine which allowed players to actively sculpt the environment by tunnelling through it. The geo-mod engine revolutionised how players thought about the game environment allowing multiple dynamic entrance points to any given scenario. The game took place on Mars in the year 2075 within the mines of galactic megacorp Ultor. Red Faction saw the protagonist Parker thrown into a full scale uprising against the Ultor Corporation when a guard kills a miner in front of him and a full scale riot breaks out. The intro to this game was incredibly well done and did a fantastic job of immediately drawing you into Parker’s universe. Furthermore, the game actually managed to maintain this high quality of storytelling through strong narrative and impressive scripted events. It wasn’t just the single player experience that shone though; the multiplayer was pretty fantastic as well. Although I never personally owned the game (never had a PS2) I have many fond memories of visiting friends houses so I could get another shot from this fantastic game.

It’s like Half-life all over again only this time you don’t have to feel bad about slaughtering Barney

On the back of the success of ‘Red Faction’ it wasn’t long before we saw a sequel. Red Faction 2 was released in October 2002 on both PS2 and PC. Unfortunately the sequel held very little in common with the original in regards to plot or overall quality. Instead of the more free-roaming style of the original, Red Faction 2 favoured a more linear on the rails approach, which needless to say disenfranchised many of the originals fans. The main storyline took place on Earth and followed a group of nanotech infused soldiers in their exploits. The only, rather tenuous link to the original was that the soldiers in the game had the nanotechnology that had been introduced in Red Faction. A more cynical man might suggest that this game wasn’t developed as a sequel, but was labelled as such to increase sales. I can’t personally comment on this one as I never had the displeasure of playing it, but I take it on good word that this was indeed a metric tonne of ass juice.

Don’t look at me… it’s too shameful

Considering the sort of pathetic whimper of a game that was RF 2, there were many people who were pretty sceptical about Red Faction: Guerrilla (myself included). If anyone out there is still maintaining that level of scepticism it’s my great pleasure to inform you that you need do so no longer. Volition have in fact gone completely the other way with this one. Where RF 2 was an unrelated, plain on the rails FPS; Red-Faction: Guerrilla is a massive, exciting, sandbox style direct sequel to the original. While this is a direct sequel, don’t expect to get what you’ve become accustomed to with previous Red-Faction titles. This is a completely different type of game to its predecessors… it’s also a lot better.

Boom bitches

The Engine
One would argue that perhaps the most important improvement to RF:G is the fantastic Geo-mod 2.0 engine (in combination with the standard Havok physics). The focus this time has been shifted from destructible landscapes to dynamically destructible structures. Now if you’ve played as many games as I have, you’ve doubtless seen lots of destructible structures in other titles. The thing is, you haven’t really, not on this scale. RF: G takes everything you know and expect from destructible scenery, defecates on it, puts it in a rocket, fires said rocket into the Sun… then the Sun explodes and everything you’ve ever known and loved is consumed by the glorious flame. Every material in this game has been modelled to break apart realistically on impact, every building has been designed brilliantly with key structural supports and weaknesses. When you destroy a building in this game, you tear it down piece by piece. Often you’ll find buildings shudder and creak for a few moments before finally becoming unstable and collapsing (Note: this is the closest any game has brought me to climax Very Happy). This is most definitely the Angelina Jolie of physics engines.

This game gives me happy times in my pants


Fifty years have passed since the original Ultor riots and Mars has changed a great deal in that time. The whole surface has been terraformed in order to sustain life and to allow full scale planetary mining. Unfortunately, in the fifty years since the fall of Ultor a new equally sinister organisation known as the EDF has seized control of the planet and its workforce, once again forcing the people of Mars to work in unreasonable conditions for unreasonable hours (oh the martianity!). Needless to say, the people of Mars are once again rising up and fighting for their rights (to party). This is where you come in; you take the role of a miner named Alec Mason who is pulled into the conflict almost immediately on his arrival on the planet. As the game starts you meet your brother who straight away tries to recruit you into the Red Faction. At this point you have no intention of fighting the man or fighting for the people, you are just there to mine. However this dream is shattered when the EDF kill your brother in front of you and then attempt to kill you because of your relationship. As a result of all of this, you are unwillingly forced into the Red Faction and into bringing down the EDF. Mars’ surface is divided into six sectors (Parker, Dust, Badlands, Oasis, Free Fire Zone and Eos), each of which need liberating individually; I’ll go into this deeper later on in the review. Aside from the EDF and the colonists there is also a third presence on Mars’ surface known only as the Marauders; you don’t know much about them to begin with but they become a large part of the plot later on. Now, nobody is going to win any awards for the script of this game, but for what it is, it’s pretty good. It’s important not to expect the story to act as anything more than a pretext for this game, after all this is a game about blowing shit up.

Think of the hammer as the physical embodiment of your in game schlong (or boobs, I’m all for equal opportunities)

Game play

In a game where the sole emphasis is on destruction the most important concern should be, is the destruction satisfying. I can gladly say that this game achieves something far beyond satisfying. Every glorious moment of in game action feels close to masturbatory in its sheer odious pleasure (It almost feels sinful). This is largely due to the incredible physics engine that underpins the whole experience, but thankfully there is also a really good game to accompany it. As mentioned above, each of the surfaces six sectors needs liberating from the EDF presence. Achieving this goal is a multi-facetted feat requiring completion of story missions, destruction of key structures and a number of side quests for the Red Faction. My personal favourite task is taking down the EDF structures. In each case it is completely up to you how you go about bringing the enemy down, whether that means placing charges around the structure, driving through it, firing rockets at it or disintegrating it with nano-bots (we’ll talk about that later).

Each sector has two gauges assigned to it, one that shows the level of EDF control in the sector and another that indicates Red Faction moral within the sector. Bringing down the EDF within any given sector requires you to bring their level of control to zero before banishing them within the context of a story mission. The moral gauge has a number of affects on the game environment; these include the amount of salvage you acquire from completing missions, the amount of ammo you receive from ammo crates and how ready guerrilla fighters are to jump to your aid during combat. While these things aren’t necessary for your progression through the story, they do make things a little easier. There are a number of ways of bolstering moral, but generally speaking it involves destroying enemy propaganda and completing Guerrilla missions. It is possible to lose moral by dying or by accidentally killing colonists, but for the most part you won’t need to worry about it. The Guerrilla missions come in a number of different guises, each of which is pretty fun to play. Listed below are all of the types of Guerrilla action:

Defense: In these missions you help groups of Red faction fighters defend valuable locations from EDF assaults. These missions for the most part appear randomly on the map when you are driving around and are only available for a short period of time.

Controlled demolition: These missions require you to destroy buildings as quickly as possible with whatever weapons are prescribed to you. This is all about using your noggin along with a good deal of brute force to get the job done.

Convoy: Often you’ll get hailed on the airwaves as nearby EDF vehicles try to get between locations with valuable information. Not a big fan of these ones but there’s no punishment for not doing them, so I don’t begrudge their existence

Collection: These missions require you to find valuable vehicles scattered around the map and bring them back to the nearest safe house as quickly as possible. Often become more difficult than you’d expect as legions of EDF attempt to stop you from reaching your location.

Collateral damage: In these missions you find yourself at the helm of a rocket launcher mounted on the back of an old junker being driven by a crazed old Martian. The aim here is to cause as much destruction to EDF property as possible along a pre set path. Needless to say, these missions are epically good fun.

Heavy Weapon: These missions require you to distract large numbers of enemy soldiers with a ridiculously powerful weapon as your team mates infiltrate nearby buildings.

It’s like GTA and Jerry Brookheimer had sexy times and gave birth to a beautiful baby game

Any good demolitions expert knows that the key to success is a good arsenal of tools to achieve their goals. Apparently Volition Inc are well aware of this also with one of the most awesome set of weapons in any game ever being on offer in RF:G. To begin with you find yourself equipped with a set of remote charges, an assault rifle and a kick arse hammer. Each of the games weapons can be upgraded on exchange of salvage and more, increasingly destructive weapons become available later on as you complete guerrilla actions and reach certain plot points. To begin with I found myself mostly switching between the assault rifle and the remote charges, trying to balance the killing with the destruction. As I progressed though I actually began to find that the hammer was particularly satisfying to wield as it could competently tackle both structures and guards and look really good doing it. I think the point where I really completely bought into this game though was when the nano forge was introduced. The nano forge is a rifle that fires a swarm of nano robots at any given target and tears it apart into its constituent parts. I still find myself giggling with churlish glee every time I think about taking out one of the games bridges by standing beneath it, disintegrating the supports and wank… watching the ensuing chaos. Other high points include the arc welder (A gun that generates a stream of electricity that can branch out and kill multiple enemies at once) and the thermo-baric rocket launcher (a gun so powerful that it can blast apart entire buildings in one blast). You can only ever carry four weapons at the time (one of which will always be the sledgehammer) meaning that you have to carefully consider which weapons you are most likely going to need for any given mission. Each of the games weapons is great fun to use (in my experience) and make for one helluva gun fight.

Cool guys don’t look at explosions

RF: G also succeeds in providing a fantastic array of interesting and unique vehicles to drive around the landscape. There is a great deal of different types of vehicle classes available for you drive across Mars’ surface, ranging from 4x4’s to sports cars, from taxi’s to heavy mining vehicles. Perhaps the most fun to use vehicles in this game are the giant mechanical walkers. Nothing can stand in the way of these bad boys (not even Chuck Norris); buildings are torn asunder as if they were made of crate paper as you stride forward wailing your massive mechanical arms. As one of my friends correctly put it “it’s like one of those shit mech games only really, really f***ing good”. The Mars landscape feels like it has been designed to fun to drive around with bumps, jumps and falls scattered liberally across the landscape. All of the games vehicles handle relatively realistically and all of them are great fun to drive. In the latter portions of the game you'll find that a jet pack is introduced into the mix. This massively changes how you approach your missions, allowing you to be a bit more haphazard than before. It’s really hard to complain about the driving experience in this game and because of that I’m not going to.

*Edit: A lot of people have been complaining about the sluggish control of the vehicles in this game. Now while I did notice this, I can't say it was a problem for me. It is definitely an issue though and potential buyers do need to be aware of it if they're looking to make a purchase/rental, especially if they think it's the sort of thing that is likely to bother them.

Let the mayhem begin

The controls throughout are pretty good for the most part. The weapon selection system took a little getting used to begin with but over time I actually grew to really like it. To select weapons you have to hold RB (on the 360) and press A, X, Y or B to choose the one you want. It is then possible to quickly switch back to your previous weapon by a quick tap of RB. One thing that really doesn’t work in this game is the cover system, it’s far too fiddly to use and ends up feeling a bit redundant anyway in a world where your cover rarely stays upright for very long. I can’t help but feel that if they’d assigned the cover to the left trigger and gone for the Rainbow Six Vegas style use of cover it might actually have been really good. This aside I never felt myself getting frustrated by unresponsive controls or bad button placement. Everything pretty much flows the way it should.


I’m kind of torn on the graphics in this game. The thing is, the resolution is really impressive, the characters well designed and all of the vehicles and structure are really well modelled. However the landscapes are pretty dull for the most part, there’s really not a lot to look at in terms of scenery or colour. I don’t know what else you could expect on a terraformed Mars though so I’m not sure that this complaint actually holds any water; either way it’s not a major quibble. One thing this game does suffer quite badly with though is pop up. Most of the time you don’t really notice the pop up because of the bumpy nature of the landscape hiding it, but when you do notice it, it is pretty ugly. I can’t help but think that if they’re going to render such plain landscapes, they should really make a more concerted effort to get rid of pop up. To make up for this they have made the explosions really jaw-droppingly beautiful though. The beauty of the destruction brought a single tear to my eye on more than one occasion.

Sooo beautiful!!!


The sound is this game is also worthy of note. Each of the games sound effects has been created with a great deal of love, especially the falling buildings. Each building has a different set of sounds based on what materials it has been constructed out of. The last few moments of a buildings existence are always a treat for the ears with each shudder beautifully reverberating through every part of its remaining support and echoing around the decrepit walls. What I would say though is that this game is not going to win any awards for voice acting. It’s not badly acted or anything; it’s just all a bit generic. I’m almost certain that it won’t bother all but the most picky among you.


Red Faction: Guerrilla offers some of the best multiplayer I have ever played. Volition have gone to a great deal of effort here to produce a valuable and interesting multiplayer experience which to be honest, could have stood up as a stand alone title. there are a number of different game modes on offer here with the standard set of death match variants and a capture the flag mode. Also included in the mix are modes where the emphasis is shifted to destruction (as you would expect really). One particularly interesting mode has each team assigned with base buildings to protect from the enemy. Upon building destruction these buildings can be rebuilt with the use of a special gun, (not unlike how the link gun is used in unreal tournament 2004) allowing for fiercely tactical matches where you have to be clever about choosing when to attack or defend. As I mentioned above, in the single player mode you get to unlock a jet pack later on in the game. Now in the multiplayer they've massively extended the list of backpacks that you can use. There are cloaking packs, healing packs, damage increase packs, speed packs, impulse packs (similar to the jet pack, but they send you up to a great height in one press), rhino packs (that allow you to ram through buildings), vision packs (that highlight all of the foes on the map) and concussion packs (which send out a small area wave that blast nearby foes off of their feet). I think that's all of them but there's so many of the bloody things it would be easy to miss one out. The backpacks really make this game stand apart from other online experiences as they do massively change the state of play in regards to tactics without making the game unbalanced or cheap. the game also includes an offline wrecking crew mode where you take it in turns to reap as much destruction as possible on the landscape within a minute. The wrecking crew mode also contains a number of interesting variants, which are a good deal of fun to work through with your friends (presuming you have any). I have a sneaking suspicion that RF: G may well end up being the next online multiplayer phenomenon; it certainly deserves to be.


In my personal opinion this game offers pretty much everything you could ever reasonably ask for from a sandbox shooter. The environment is vast, the missions are fun, the interface is easy to use and there’s a lot of depth of experience (but it’s never force fed to like another game that I shan’t name). This game isn’t preachy and it’s not going to change the way you see the world (or Mars for that matter); what it will do is give you hours and hours of unmitigated fun in both a vast single player campaign and it's thrilling multiplayer component. I just hope that we see a lot more from the geo-mod 2.0 engine as it really is superb. It’s been a long while since I’ve wanted to sit people down while I’ve been playing a game and say “look at this… man did you just see that!?”. I really can’t wait to see what Volition pull out of their hats next. Anyway you’ll have to excuse, I’m off to play some more Red Faction.


Story: 4/5 (it’s not exactly inspired or anything, but it does the job)
Game play: 4.9/5 (Every moment is truly glorious, it’s just a shame that the cover system wasn’t better)
Sound: 4.8/5 (The dialogue isn’t exactly amazing but the sounds of shuddering buildings as they slowly crumble more than make up for that)
5/5 (I think I might actually prefer the multiplayer on this to Halo 3)
Overall: 4.7/5 (There’s an awful lot of bang for your buck with this title… there’s also a good deal of boom, kerplow, pchhooorrr and smash)

Thumbs up purchase… seriously, go and buy this game right away. Go and give them money so they can make more!

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