Ever feel like rebelling against impossible odds all while destroying buildings with a sledgehammer? If so, then Red Faction: Guerrilla has filled your rather specific niche. Using the Geo-Mod 2.0 engine, the main focus of Guerrilla is using main character Alec Mason’s seemingly superhuman strength to level all sorts of structures using everything from his trusty sledgehammer to rocket launchers and other explosives. These buildings belong to the Earth Defense Force, (EDF) and they are trying to take all of Mars’ resources for themselves. Although destroying the architecture can be a blast for most of the game, Guerrilla rarely ventures beyond the destruction in favor of the story or more varied game play mechanics.
Alec Mason joins the Red Faction rather abruptly. He originally goes to Mars to start a new life mining with his brother only to find that his brother is a Red Faction member. After a few unfortunate events, Alec hesitantly joins Red Faction only to become the most badass member they’ve ever seen a few hours after joining. After that, the story is pretty straightforward. The point is to drive the EDF off of Mars, sector by sector. And although there are some very minor twists and plot points that threaten to change the story, they never do and the Red Faction continues to claim Mars for themselves.
What I did not understand about the story is how Alec became such a notable figure in Red Faction right after joining. Right after he joined he was sent out to do major missions and the only training he had was a quick romp around a junkyard swinging his hammer. I can only assume that he adapts very quickly to using guns and other new weapons, and navigating a landscape he has never been to. Either that, or he’s a superhero. Either way, the Red Faction realizes they can’t do anything without Alec, so it is his job to purge Mars of the EDF threat almost single handedly.
There is a lot of open area in Guerrilla. It makes sense since the Martian colony is still under construction, but it would be nice to see more variety instead of constantly driving through barren landscapes. Aside from the vast areas of nothingness, the graphics hold up well. The character models and the buildings look good and futuristic, even if they are a little repetitive, and the Geo-Mod engine does a great job at making the buildings crumble. I was pleasantly surprised to see a large structure crash to the ground with little to no frame rate issues.
The first thing you will probably notice about the voice acting in Guerrilla is Alec’s grunts and yells when he swings his sledgehammer. Almost every time he swings he emits a yell or a grunt, which by the end of the game probably struck fear into the heart of his enemies. Surprisingly enough, this fits well and does not get annoying even though you will hear it throughout the entire game.
As for the rest of the audio, some of the voice acting is decent, but many of the lines feel forced and unnatural. The music is usually a dreary sounding ambiance, but it picks up the tempo when you are being chased or are in an intense mission. The sound effects really hit home because the only thing better than hearing a building fall is seeing it, and in Guerrilla you get both.
The single player campaign is a mission-based system, and these missions are usually well thought out and fun to play. However, to unlock the main missions you have to lower the EDF’s control on your current sector by completing side missions and destroying important EDF buildings. The side missions include objectives like rescuing Red Faction members, getting intel from the EDF, finding a certain vehicle and bringing it back to base, or just sitting on a turret and destroying stuff while some maniac drives you around. At first, these missions are fun and they seem well thought out, but they are the same in all of the sectors you have to liberate, so they get a little stale around the halfway point.
During these missions you usually get help from some Red Faction members who happen to be nearby, but are concealed very well until you start the mission. While they are good distractions for the enemies, the AI can be pretty dense. By the end of the game, I had the belief that my sledgehammer had a magnet on the end that attracted my allies’ faces because when I was busy swinging away on a building they would constantly run right next to me, stop, and get their face caved in by my hammer. This goes for the enemy AI too. Sometimes they are very smart and flank your position and kill you rather easily, but other times I can walk right up to one and kill him without any of his buddies noticing until a little while later.
That being said, Guerrilla is pretty difficult. If you don’t have your allies distracting the enemies, odds are you will have the entire EDF army on you after a few seconds of being in one of their establishments. You are also given only enough ammo to take out a handful of them, so in the end it comes down to bum rushing them with the hammer and hoping you don’t die. There is no real penalty for dying other than a slight morale drop and the fact you have to drive back to where the missions are, but you will probably have to retry a couple missions two or three times throughout the game.
The first thing I had to do when I started Guerrilla is change the controls. The default controls have you do your primary and secondary attacks with the right and left triggers respectively, and while that might seem okay at first, it maps the aiming function to pressing the right analog stick. I could never get used to that, so I switched the aiming function and the secondary attack buttons and while that was still a little awkward, it was much more manageable. The other thing I really didn’t like about the controls was the fact you had to hold the right bumper (or R1) and press a direction on the D-Pad to switch weapons. Throughout the entire game I never used the D-Pad for any other function, so there was no reason for me to press the extra button. Doing this requires both hands so you are unable to move fluidly when switching weapons which doesn’t really help when you are in a high fire situation.
Even though the controls are a little strange, the main focus of Guerrilla is destroying stuff, and that has to be fun, right? Yes, it is very fun. You can destroy just about every structure you find on Mars, even your own base. However, if you destroy civilian buildings, the Red Faction’s morale will lower and you might not get the extra help you need on some missions. In the end, it is awesome to destroy the supports on a giant tower or building and watch the whole thing come crashing down. The only thing that is strange is the durability of the buildings varies. Some buildings come down very easily, while on others you need to destroy every single support, even if an entire second floor is impossibly standing on only one metal pole.
The destruction also carries over into the multiplayer mode, Wrecking Crew. There are various game modes to play with different objectives such as destroying as much stuff as possible in the time limit, destroying all red barrels, or destroying as much stuff as possible with limited ammo. This will probably be fun for a short while, but overall the handful of modes probably won’t have you playing Wrecking Crew for very long.
Overall, Guerrilla is a fun game at first, but it might not hold your interest to the end. Destroying things is entertaining and the main story missions are fun, but that’s about it. The story is rather weak and predictable, the side missions get old about half way through the game and the landscape is mostly a vast desert with some interesting points here and there. Wrecking Crew is fun for a short while, but after playing the modes a handful of times it’s not worth going back to. Guerrilla is worth checking out for the destruction aspect, but after that novelty wears off, it has little to offer.
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Published by: THQ
Developed by: Volition Inc/Reactor Zero
ESRB Rating: M for Mature
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Release Date: June 2, 2009 (360, PS3), September 15, 2009 (PC)
Genre: Third-person action, free roaming sandbox