Thursday, July 14, 2011

Game Review: Red Faction: Guerrilla-J.D.

Game: Red Faction: Guerrilla

Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3

Released: 2009

Reviewer Platform: PC


It is likely that this review will be about as chaotic as the game it rates and describes. So be it. It is my sincere and likely misguided hope that it will be half, nay, one quarter as fun. This title was one of the few I have ever pre-ordered, and a part of an even more elite group: games for which I have paid the full price. Which, believe me, is a veritable aristocracy. At the time, there was a promotion, which, when RF:G was purchased, the first two offerings in the franchise were included for free. The first one was quite fun, but unfortunately equally un-memorable. For those fans of the Half-Life franchise, especially the original, this is a good title, and certainly worth playing. I may even end up reviewing it eventually. The second one was…gimmicky. Review NOT forthcoming. On with the review proper!

“Destructibility”, I was intrigued by this word. Well, not word so much, but concept, certainly. I believe this really was the principle driving force behind my decision to spend the then immoderate sum of 40 USD. In retrospect, I believe the purchase was not only justified, but wise. I have been disappointed more than once by promises of revolutionary, or even novel, game-play experiences, however, Red Faction: Guerrilla did NOT disappoint. Not in the least.

The Story (Spoilers)

The year is 2120, Earth’s resources running low, the Earth Defense Force or, “EDF”, have imposed the equivalent of martial law on the residents of Mars, colonized and terraformed years before. History has taught us that situations like this inevitably turn violent. Thus is born, or re-born, the Red Faction, a group of freedom fighters intent on the liberation of Mars from any oppression. This is one of the few good points with respect to the story, which is, overall, tepid. It is odd to see denizens of our beloved planet earth portrayed as villainous in any sort of inter-planetary conflict. However, their ignobility is never once called into question. This, I suppose, is the mark of a great villain. Once again, this is probably the story’s strongest point.

Enter Alec Mason, the protagonist of the game. Hoping to find his brother, and escape some sort of unspecified trouble on earth, he quickly becomes embroiled in the denizens of the Red Planet’s struggle for equality and freedom. After the obligatory training sequence, which, thank heavens, doesn’t break the fourth wall, Mason’s brother, a member of the Red Faction (surprise, surprise) is killed in an EDF raid of the area in which the brothers Mason had been “training”. With help of a Red Faction counter-attack, Mason escapes with his life, but not before being branded as a member of the Red Faction himself. And oh, what a member he would become. One rather predictable thing follows another, and Mason finds himself saving first, most of the Red Faction, and subsequently, the lives of a large portion of the innocent citizenry of Mars. A final mountain-top battle involving artillery, tanks, and other various machines of war, and the hero manages to destroy the enormous EDF airship which had been, for lack of a better phrase, keeping the man down, and threatening to destroy anyone who dissented. All pretty typical villain-y stuff. As I’m sure you can tell, I was not a big fan of the story in general. In fact, I give it a rather unenthusiastic 4.0 out of 10. However, it had very little impact on the amount of fun this game has to offer. A lot of the finer points of the plot and environment are left purposely vague above, for the simple reason that I frankly believe them to be largely inconsequential as far as the overall quality of the game goes. I will say this though: I would have rated these aspects even lower, had they not provided an adequate engine for tying sequences of game-play together.

The Gameplay

Ah, yes, game-play. Oh, the possibilities. Rare are the times when one can describe the amount and quality of fun in a game as literally limited only by one’s imagination. Red Faction: Guerrilla is one of a very few games about which this is true. Coming back to destructibility, virtually everything that is man-made can be destroyed. As a result, the fun is nearly endless. As one might expect, driving a truck laden with explosives over a make-shift ramp comprised of debris, and the dead bodies of fallen EDF soldiers and into some sort of EDF command center, only to bail out and run away frantically just before detonation never really gets old. Neither, I think, will being able to crush a full meter of concrete with nothing but a sledge hammer. I’ll leave up to your imagination what it does to humans. Honestly, other than mentioning that the whole game takes place in a massive sandbox, which really contributes to the amount of fun you can have, there really isn’t much more to say about the game-play. The format is a third-person action/shooter, and feels quite smooth and polished, the UI is good, but not great, which is to say, it was just kind of…there. It neither interfered, nor greatly aided the experience on the whole, with the exception of the Mayhem meter, which kept track of the amount of damage you have caused, and more specifically, the amount of money you have cost the EDF throughout the entirety of the game. THAT was a good touch. Also, something must be said for the side-missions, not a single one of which was tedious. Spread throughout the game, there are many, many side-missions which one may choose to complete. I chose to complete all of them. However, even if you aren’t inclined to do so, there really is something for everyone here. Not only that, but there are plenty of each type of mission, usually with its own unique twist or aspect. Most of the missions involve racing against the clock, whether it be completely destroying a building the time provided, with limited materials, or literally racing…in cars. Every good part of the game-play experiences is herein represented, a rare feat for any video game. For these reasons, and others which are difficult to describe, I give the game-play a perfect 10 out of 10. You should buy it, and play it. Right now.

The Setting

The game takes place on Mars, not much more needs be said. The light is harsh, the landscape barren and desolate. However, even this, in its own way, lends a sort of credibility to the game. It genuinely looks like a sunburn waiting to happen, which is how, at least I imagine Mars looking like, even after terraforming. However, it does get rather dreary to look at. There is also the issue of each distinct zone of the map having its own atmospheric hue, which, although not a fatal flaw was…odd…Overall, I give the setting a rather mediocre 6.0 out of 10.

Final Thoughts

My overall impression of this game is rather deceptive. I think this is because I really had a lot more fun with it than I think I should have. It is a thinking man’s game. You, as the player, have the sole responsibility of keeping it interesting. This, I think, is why I am having such a hard time being honest with myself. The objective overall score for this game is a positively lackluster 6.7 out of 10, this, however, is not really reflective of the game’s true potential. That is why I will add my own subjective score of 9 out of 10. The game, now a few years old, and aging splendidly, is a bargain at approximately $20, depending on the platform and condition you choose to purchase it in. That is why I think you should buy it, play it for yourself and see if you come to the same conclusion I did.


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