You play as Alec Mason, demolitions expert and a new arrival on Mars. Alec meets up with his brother, who fills him in on the situation in Mars since the latest Red Faction game. Previously, the Earth Defence Force liberated Mars from the evil Ultor Corporation but since gone from protectors to oppressors, having seized control of Mars for their own nefarious ends. Alec eventually joins up with new Red Faction that is attempting to overthrow the EDF’s oppressive reign after his brother is killed and himself nearly shot.
Once you get control of Alec, you are free to do as you like. One of the first things you’ll notice is that, unlike previous Red Faction games which were played from a first-person perspective, Guerrilla is a third-person shooter. Tutorials pop up the first time you try to do something, making for an intuitive experience, and the instructions given are clear and easy to carry out. The sandbox-like gameplay allows you to explore the game environment, accept and decline missions as you please or even just go about wreaking havoc on Mars.
Speaking of random acts of destruction, one of the best things about Red Faction Guerrilla is the Geo-Mod 2.0 engine, enabling you to destroypractically everything out there. Propaganda billboards, vehicles, glass windows, walls, human bodies – you name it, it’s destroyable. See that EDF lackey up there on the balcony? Why shoot him when you can just blow up the building he’s in? The destructive nature of the game is fun and addictive and you can spend hours destroying everything you see and still not get bored as every building can be taken down in a variety of ways, falling apart in different ways.
When you give buildings a good ol’ whack with the trusty sledgehammer that you start the game out with, you actually get to see the debris fall as the buildings get destroyed. The debris itself is also realistically modeled, formed from the actual structure you just ruined. The debris doesn’t disappear until you move out of the map, adding a sense of realism. How would the debris get cleaned up while you’re there anyway?
To assist you in your rampage, you can use a huge variety of weapons. The Red Faction’s weapons are mostly improvised from mining equipment, with interest results. An arc welder is modified to become something of a portable tesla coil able to electrocute soft targets and disable vehicles, while a high-powered angle grinder is modifed to shoot serrated disks at high velocities. You can also steal the EDF’s more conventional heavy assault weapons and put them to good use. One crazy weapon in the EDF arsenal that really stands out is the singularity bomb, which summons a micro black hole to obliviate everything within the blast radius.
All this destruction is not totally senseless though. Everything you destroy leaves behind blue metal parts called salvage. This acts as the game’s currency and allows you to buy weapons and skills upgrades. Destroying EDF forces and property and completing missions given to you by fellow guerrillas also will help to lower EDF control of each sector, unlocking main storyline missions which advance the plot and unlocks new sectors to liberate.
You’ll also be given side missions from time to time, ranging from protecting an area or rescuing civilians to killing an EDF courier. Completing these missions will help to boost morale, and true to the sandbox-nature of the game, there is no penalty for ignoring them. Attacks against the EDF will also raise the morale of the colonists, who will then lend varying amount of help to the rebel cause. The higher the sector’s morale, the more salvage you earn from missions and the hidden supply caches that you use to rearm yourself will contain more ammo. If the morale of the sector is high enough, you will even be joined by reinforcement guerrillas who will help you combat the EDF. These reinforcements show up magically from nowhere and help out as allied firepower or, more commonly, as distractions for you to take out EDF forces.
The attention to detail in Red Faction Guerrilla is what sets it apart from others games. Small things like an effective waypoint system, where guide arrows appear not only on the mini-map but also on the terrain to help you navigate the huge game environment, are a nice touch that goes a long way to making the game enjoyable. Everything you see is rendered beautifully – or as beautiful a planet full of red dust can get anyway. The human characters are well rendered and move fluidly, even in death – the rag-doll physics having been programmed near perfectly.
When the sledgehammer connects with something, whether flesh, concrete or metal, it gives a very satisfying thud, bang or clash when it lands. In addition, the sound of debris going down in a rumble after you smash a building down crashes gives you a real sense of satisfaction for your acts of destruction. However, the gunfire sounds could use a little improvement as they sound like air guns rather than packing any serious firepower. Most of the music was hard to hear. In fact, the only clear music I ever heard was when the EDF were coming after my ass at the highest red alert level. It did sound cool though and fitted the situation very well.
Despite the good gameplay ideas and huge freedom given to the player, there are some minor consistency issues. For example, you can sprint as long as you want, despite the fact that the tool tip says its only usable for short distances, and you can use your rifle butt to knock down walls, which seems rather unrealistic for a game whose physics is otherwise rooted in realism.
Overall, Red Faction Guerrilla is a very fun game, that gives you a large space to play with and multiple tools and weapons to fight your enemy. It has some very minor faults, but with the great gameplay and plot it’s easy to overlook these faults, as you get caught up in the joys of wanton destruction and mayhem. If you ever get sick of destroying stuff, there are other activities you can engage in, such as hostage rescue or delivery missions, that is a welcome variation in gameplay.
If you enjoy causing massive amount of chaos, destroying almost everything you can find and being downright aggressive and have a soft spot for whacking everything with a sledgehammer and seeing the target of your aggression get pummeled into dust, then this game is definitely one you should not pass up on.