Red Faction: Guerilla

Kombo’s Review Policy: Our reviews are written for you. Our goal is to write honest, to-the-point reviews that don’t waste your time. This is why we’ve split our reviews into four sections: What the Game’s About, What’s Hot, What’s Not and Final Word, so that you can easily find the information you want from our reviews.

What the Game’s About
The Red Faction series is known throughout gaming circles for its revolutionary destruction engine that turns everything you see into a house of cards, with the right weapon. If you think about it, it never made sense that in video games BFGs couldn’t blast through a locked wooden door. Now you don’t have to worry about keys other than your trusty sidearm. Red Faction: Guerrilla takes that concept the furthest with the most robust destruction engine to date. You can create a better door to the bad guys base from the side or you can level the entire map with a single sledgehammer.

You play as Alec Mason, a mining engineer that recently landed on Mars to reunite with his brother. Mason finds out his brother is part of the Red Faction, a separatist group opposed to the oppressive Earth Defense Force that rules all populated areas of the red planet. A mission goes horribly wrong and you become a reluctant leader of the Red Faction as you swing a hammer, shoot a gun and throw some bombs to liberate Mars.

What’s Hot
Open world games are just as common as first-person shooters and water for this generation of consoles. More often than not, the open worlds are set in some variant of New York City or some other large town. It isn’t too often you see a game set on Mars. Red Faction takes you to the red planet looking to free a group of guerrillas by using any means necessary. One of the technical marvels utilized in the game is the Geo-Mod engine designed by the developers at Volition, Inc. that make it possible to let the world around your crumble. To allow for this unprecedented amount of destruction, you are given a variety of tools to get the job done. The staple throughout the entire game is your trusty sledgehammer. Not only is it an devastating close quarters weapon but it can plow through any Martian structure with brilliant efficiency.

One measure of success for sandbox games is how many gameplay scenarios can you set up for yourself. Red Faction answers that question with a resounding, “tons.” You can sneak your way into a base, plant strategic bombs around critical structures and hit the detonator miles away or you can attach remote mines into a mining truck and blow the whole kit and caboodle with you in the driver’s seat. There seems to be limitless ways you can approach a mission and succeed with flying colors.

The only emphasis on the gameplay is that of guerrilla fighting tactics since it is the game’s name. You can enlist the help of other revolutionaries or fight solo against the endless EDF reinforcements. The design of Red Faction is open enough that it doesn’t lead you into playing a certain way; however, here is an importance placed on fighting a hit-and-run war just by the virtue of the way missions are finished. You need to run back to a safe house to reduce your wanted level and quickly stop the stream of reinforcements. It isn’t imperative to do this, but it is a gentle reminder that the title of the game is part of the Red Faction’s DNA.

This is without going into the incredibly deep and insanely fun multiplayer modes to be found included on the disc. There are the standard team up and destroy the opposite team modes, but they aren’t as cut and dry as you might think they are. These modes tend to focus on the destructive nature ingrained into the game. If you aren’t the online type of gamer, you can play a handful of modes that require you to pass the controller to the person next to you on the couch. There aren’t any co-op modes to speak of, but Red Faction makes up that short coming with the previously mentioned multiplayer modes.

What’s Not
This isn’t Volition’s first rodeo. They are also responsible for the gangster crime games Saints Row 1 and 2. The way that Red Faction’s side missions are structured and designed are nearly identical to those of Saints Row. It takes away from the identity of Red Faction and makes the game resemble stale cookie cutter missions a fraction. It isn’t the worst thing in the world since both Saints Row games were top notch games in their own right, but it would have been nice to see Red Faction grow into its own more.

The other area Red Faction should have taken more of an aggressive approach was the visual style. Mars is sparsely populated with many mountains and rocky outcroppings. The background scenery doesn’t always make you feel like you are on Mars, Arizona perhaps. The vehicle design is rather simple and geometric. You do get a sense they are alien in nature but the lack of variety shows through when you look at reskinned models of the same basic vehicle. The characters you interact with aren’t memorable in the least bit. Alec Mason is another semi-bald space warrior with a chip on his shoulder and the people he befriends aren’t much different. You can easily follow the story but you’ll have more fun blowing crap up instead.

Red Faction can’t dial in the right difficulty, as far as gameplay goes. The EDF is incredibly strong and punishing once the wanted level goes up. The worst part is trying to survive the onslaught of waves of reinforcements. Guerrillas and other citizens will join your cause when you are caught in a fire fight but they are as useful as trying to roast a marshmallow with an ice cube. They will run around and look like they are doing something, but they never seem to give you a distinct advantage other than acting as meat shields while you run away from the EDF.

Final Word
What Half Life did with the crowbar, Red Faction does with the sledgehammer making the two entwined forever. The Geo-Mod 2.0 engine is really a technical marvel to witness and gives Red Faction a fresh next-gen feeling. Figuring out new ways to make buildings fall down is most of the fun you’ll have when you approach the controller and sit down with Red Faction each and every time. Red Faction had the opportunity to make a huge splash and make its mark on the open world scene, but unfortunately, the designs of the world, vehicles and characters are too bland and generic to be memorable for long. What this game will be remembered for is the ability to bring down the rain and watch buildings as they buckle from extreme destruction, all the while having a huge grin across your face.