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Red Faction: Guerrilla
Graphics: 8.5
Gameplay: 8.8
Sound: 8
Control: 8.8
Replay Value: 9
Rating: 8.8

The original Red Faction dropped back in 2001 on the PS2 and was one of the first top-quality titles for Sony's new console.  Since then, we've seen more installments in the franchise but most will agree that the games have gone downhill, at least in some respects.  Perhaps this was part of the inspiration behind changing the most recent title, Guerrilla, to a third-person shooter.  And as it turns out, the game plays a lot like GTA on Mars, with a few interesting twists tossed in for good measure.  You do have relatively free reign of the Red Planet and you almost always have multiple mission options; some can be considered to be side missions while others advance the game along.  For the most part, the game mechanics work very well and not surprisingly, the most appealing feature of the game is that GeoMod 2.0 technology that allows almost anything to be smashed to smithereens.  For whatever reason, this just never gets old and given the number of destruction possibilities during the course of your adventure, the small sense of repetitiveness takes a backseat to a high, continuous entertainment factor.

Despite one small introductory sequence, you will be able to roam around and try a variety of mission objectives right off the bat.  As you are part of a rebellion that has risen up against the power-hungry EDF (Earth Defense Force), the faction who were originally the good guys in the original Red Faction game, as they were the team you fought with. In Guerrilla, you will be able to find safe zones in the form of Red Faction headquarters, which is where you can upgrade your weapons, refill your ammo, and pick up a vehicle to go cavorting around.  You can sprint without tiring but you really need a vehicle of some kind to move around the planet effectively; some locations are quite far apart, so feel free to hijack a vehicle on the road.  It's doubly important when you have to be somewhere in a certain amount of time, and having a vehicle on hand is also a good idea when dealing with the EDF...thing is, they are alerted when you blow up their stuff, and a vehicle usually lets you beat a hasty retreat if you're outnumbered (and you often are).  But if you choose to stay and fight, you can lay about with your sledgehammer or use the firearms you have equipped; this is where the third-person mechanic really comes into play...and it plays quite well, for the most part.

It's pretty standard stuff.  You can either manually select a new weapon or "quick switch" to the previous weapon you just had equipped (this allows you to switch back and forth between a rifle and the sledgehammer, for example), precision fire, jump, and take cover.  This all works just fine with the possible exception of the latter: because almost anything can be busted up, this can have a negative effect on the cover system.  For instance, you may find yourself holding firm behind what is now an invisible wall, or what is infinitely more frustrating, realizing that certain rubble simply can't be used for cover.  But other than that, I have very little in the way of significant complaints concerning the base gameplay controls.  Everything seems to move fluidly (no lapses in frame rate or anything like that), and taking down massive structures with a diverse array of explosive devices can be immensely satisfying.  I guess my only real problem with this very open-ended style is that the story, which starts off with a bang, quickly takes a backseat to your exploration of the planet.  This isn't necessarily a problem, but why did you start us off with such a plot grabber (which I won't give away), when it kinda disappears for many hours?

I did mention earlier that this game has a certain repetitive nature; i.e., drive to location, blow everything up, fend off the EDF, rinse and repeat.  Of course, there are other mission types - rescuing hostages is just one example - and there are even an assortment of mini-game-esque missions that allow you to increase your ability in a certain area.  You will also earn extra salvage, which is this game's form of money; you can collect bits of salvage (you'll see them shining on the ground) when something gets blown up real good.  The more you get, the more you can buy.  It's that simple.  But yeah, if you're really hell-bent on completing many - or all - of the available missions, you will find yourself doing the same thing over and over.  However, this tends to be the nature of many open-ended games, as most of you know; take the great inFamous, for example.  You will handle several of the same missions more than a few times.  But the key revolves around one simple premise and question: "is it fun?"  If yes, as it is in both inFamous and Red Faction, than there isn't much of an issue, is there?

What's great about Red Faction is that, much like inFamous, there's a certain perfectionist quality to the game, where you won't feel satisfied until you've grabbed control of every sector and leveled the EDF's every high-end sandcastle. There's a satisfaction you get being that one little guy who obliterates these massive structures and watch them come down right in front of your eyes. And when I say massive, I do mean massive. It's also nice to go and pick a fight then wait until your Guerrilla reinforcements come to aid you, so that you don't have to go at it alone. It would've been nice to not have infinitely respawning enemies, but seeing as how the EDF controls Mars and are everywhere, it's understandable. Furthermore, shooting feels punchy and rewarding, but it's the sledgehammer and the demolitions that really make an impact on you. You'll find yourself spending a lot of time demolishing things with the aforementioned two items, because they're just a ton of fun to use.

Lastly, multiplayer offerings are healthy here. With a 16 player online capacity, it may not be epic, but the game modes, such as Anarchy, Siege, and Damage Control are plenty of fun. Wrecking Crew mode, a local/offline multiplayer offering boasts an assortment of mission types to play with your friend, mostly centered around who can do the most amount of damage. It's good fun, trust us.

As far as the picture goes, considering that virtually every little thing in the game is interactive and can be destroyed, Red Faction: Guerrilla is a solid looking game. For starters, the most impressive thing about this Geo Mod 2.0 engine is how it calculates the physics. When you destroy a building, it doesn't just fall apart after one impact or two or three. For starters, you'd have to hit the building at key structural points, such as support beams - and once you've broken enough support beams, the building will not be able to maintain a lot of its weight and after some juddering and cracking, it'll give and breakdown. Now, of course, you don't have to use the sledgehammer, you can toss a few well placed explosives and if the structure is large and heavy enough, it'll be enough to destroy the foundation to the point where it can't sustain that weight. This is all done through the physics engine, and it's really impressive to witness, because it makes the feel of the game that much more intuitive - trust us, again, you have to experience the chaos.

Now, beyond the technical aspects of the game engine, I know a lot of people will probably complain about the game's color palette. Well, all we can say is, what else do you expect from a planet like Mars? I don't think Volition could take on a creative license and deck Mars out in greenery or lush foliage, it just doesn't work that way. What I will say is that there isn't enough variation in the game, as most of the characters look the same, and there aren't enough different types of vehicles to choose from. Yes, again, this is Mars so these vehicles require an off-road design, but a bit more variation would've still been nice.

Regardless, overall, Guerrilla is a nice looking game with a fantastic framerate. There is an every teeny-bit of draw-in, but it's on the very edge of the horizon behind hills and elevations that you probably won't notice or even care about. The texture detail is nice, and the game can be upscaled to 1080p with no adverse affects on the framerate or image quality.

As far as the audio, with the amount of destruction you'll be causing, I'd have expected nothing but proper booms and kabooms from this game. The voice acting may not be the best, but seeing as how the story or the cut-scenes aren't a core focus of the gameplay, the average voice acting won't bother you much, at all. You'll be listening to the soundtrack in the background that'll come on when you're causing major damage and enjoying the aural bliss of everything crumbling down.

To conclude, we liked Red Faction: Guerrilla quite a bit. It's the Martian equivalent to inFamous and that's a surprise to us. Guerrilla's gameplay is solid and enjoyable, boasting fun mechanics that really draw you into the game, especially with the amount of destruction you're capable of. It's also got an extremely impressive physics engine that calculates your destruction in a way we've yet to see. The mission structure may be a bit repetitive, but that's to be expected in open-ended games such as this, so it's a flaw that comes with the territory. Our biggest complaints are the lack of a decent story, not enough character and vehicle variety, and not enough diversity in the gameplay. We'd say they're small complaints, and that Red Faction: Guerrilla is surely worth a purchase.

6/4/2009   Arnold K. and Ben D.