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Old 06-09-2009, 02:43 AM   #1
lost
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[360/PS3/PC] - Red Faction Guerrilla Review

Title: Red Faction: Guerrilla
Platform: PS3/360/PC
Platform Reviewed: PS3
Developer: Volition Inc.
Publisher: THQ
MSRP: $59.99, 39.99, €59.99
Writer: Martin 'lost' Perry

Red Faction: Guerrilla Review

The Red Faction franchise returns and abandons its FPS roots in favor of open-world mass destruction. Does the game marry high impact explosives with big bang action or whimper onto the B Team of the genre?

I'm a big fan of the original Red Faction games. The first in particular was a game ahead of its time. Between the world altering Geo-Mod technology, intriguing story and excellent FPS gameplay it is one of the most unappreciated games of the last generation. Red Faction 2 followed a different path with the gameplay heading to Earth and providing similar spills without the same thrills. Regardless the pair of games are a strong lineage but unfortunately one that I feel this new game, Red Faction Guerrilla, doesn't make much of a contribution to.

The problem is most certainly not the obvious changes to the franchise's gameplay construction. The move to third-person, open-world shooter can only really be welcomed when the developer, Volition, have proved themselves quite so capable at understanding that genre. Saints Row and its sequel are games that embrace everything people love about these sandboxes. Lots of variety, lots to do and lots of tricks up its sleeves. It is quite bizarre then that in this trip to a mining colony on Mars Volition seems to have left these commandments at the spaceport. Red Faction Guerrilla is not, by any means, as fun as its gangster brother.

Easily the biggest issue (and its certainly a big one) is the games mission design. The Geo-Mod 2.0 destruction technology, which I'll get to in a minute, conjures up some pretty interesting ideas without an awful lot of effort. Rather than build around its strongest asset the developers have instead fallen back on the most basic of open-world concepts. The main story missions and the five or six repeating side missions all follow the age-old GTA rules of escort, assassinate or collect. Little effort has been put into dressing up these missions as anything else. My particular low-point was driving a taxi to pick up a squad of men as I heard an epic battle rage over my radio. What's up with that? Am I the hero or just an odd-job man?

Unfortunately the story does little to motivate you through these scenarios. The main cinematics are done outside of the game engine via perhaps a dozen CGI cutscenes. When developers pick this method of storytelling it always sets off alarm bells. Although these sections can be outsourced and save on complicated in-game cutscene programming they often number only a few and detach you from the game world. That is pretty much what happens here. You'll plod through the side-missions, completing the same tasks in slightly different locales, in order to reduce the Earth Defense Force's hold on an area. Once you have battered these antagonists enough they will prepare to leave that area and, provided you've done a couple of 'escort, assassinate or collect' main missions, you will kick them out and move on. Very little happens in between with a looming Battlestar Galactica look-a-like eventually being dispatched with the help of mystical nano-bot technology. Unlike Saints Row or its close competitors there is no character development and very little is learned about the world you inhabit.

Red Faction Guerrilla is, at the very least, mechanically sound. Controls are easy to get used to and the vehicle handling is fun. Most of the cars and trucks have a retro NASA look and bounce along the surface in a pretty pleasing way. It's a crime that there is no racing missions, other than time trials, as the shortcuts and jumps would allow for some challenging off-road action. Shooting is straight-forward and once you unlock the jetpack it can become fun to outsmart enemies with daring, improvised leaps through the walls of buildings. These sorts of maneuvers are normally facilitated by your trusty hammer and it too can be used to dispatch the bad guys. Sloppy mission design brings this sort of action to the brink of disaster as enemies spawn endlessly and eradicate any sense of tactical or intelligent play. This also makes the difficulty unbalanced, instant death comes in many forms with a shot to the back of the head usually being the culprit. Also, hiding behind cover does little to help when it is prone to fracturing in front of you so you better get ready to blow the dust off of your strafing skills.

Weaponry is provided to try and overcome this broken design but unfortunately the choice isn't presented particularly well. Red Faction bases provide the means to swap Salvage, the in-game currency, for upgrades to weapons. Main firearms are normally excluded and as such have no real identity of their own. Picking up an opponents automatic is a roll of the dice – the HUD icons do little to identify your options of primary assault weapon and despite different visual effects they all have very similar effectiveness. Those weapons focused on destruction are a bit different with the upgrade system facilitating their growth although often at too high a premium. As an example the Nano Rifle requires significant Salvage investment, and therefore an investment of time in the dull side-missions, in order to become really useful within fights. That's a tricky thing to deal with when you had to save a fair bit of cash to unlock it in the first place.

Red Faction Guerrilla's saving grace is that the repetition of missions and a large playing area deliver plenty of value. The game is the perfect example of mindless gaming and is decent rental fodder for a quiet weekend. It becomes difficult to cope with the disappointment, however, when the game lets through a glimpse of intelligence. You can earn Salvage by completing puzzle-based destruction tasks. Although spread thinly across the maps these were the most enjoyable aspect of the entire product. With a limited arsenal you are challenged to take down specific structure. They demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of the destruction technology that Volition have perhaps spent a little bit too much time on and will perplex you for at least a couple of minutes.

Geo-Mod 2.0 facilitates the accurate, piece-by-piece dismantlement of the buildings found in this bland Mars sandbox. The building models are over-used, duplicated like almost everything else in the game, but are impressive. Before you blow them up you can wander into the majority of these towers, pods and homes to witness Martian toilets among other things. It's a similar sensation to that first level in Halo: Combat Evolved where you would spot something a mile away and actually be able to visit it. Slightly in reverse of course as you send home comforts and supporting structures, admired in person like a cross between IKEA and a doll's house, flying across the bizarrely gentle height-map slopes of Mars. Taking out enemy building targets is, by a far stretch, the most enjoyable way to reduce their influence in an area but it's still disappointing when taking out a garage or administration office has no effect on the groups mobility or organization. It would have been excellent if a Crackdown style system had been employed to reinforce your impact on the world. Take out a garage, the EDF loses it's tan ks - not the case unfortunately.

Gamers are a pretty geeky lot. We like physics a fair bit and it will probably be the lab coat side of your personality that will stop you enjoying Geo-Mod 2.0 to its fullest. It is maddening to watch a building tumble, blown apart by your charges, only to bounce off an invulnerable red planet. The two PS2 games allowed for both building and terrain destruction, ordinary weapons had actual impact on surfaces too but not here. Disappointment also swept over me when, as my first experiment, I tried to take down a smokestack lumberjack style. Often structures will remain standing despite being damaged in such a way as to demand collapse from gravity, apparently Newton's homegirl has chosen to stay on Earth. The technology provides excellent simulation of material splintering but not of the forces applied to them when a structure is changed so after I chipped away the base of the smokestack the slightest of walls kept it standing. Perhaps this would be asking a little too much but then the marketing for this game has focused heavily on this supposed marvel, expectations will be high.

In all Red Faction Guerrilla has enough right with it to recommend it as a rental title. There is plenty here to play and Geo-Mod 2.0 facilitates enough experimentation to warrant a try-out. I wouldn't say the game relies on it because it doesn't. The actual open-world game familiars stand opposed to the destruction system and provide two distinct experiences. Volition has failed to carry over the successes of Saints Row into this new title and so the bread and butter gameplay is unsatisfying and often snooze-worthy. Presentation and music slip between borderline or uninspired. Even the multiplayer levels are unceremoniously dumped onto the main menu, decent modes will be forgotten by a gaming public that will probably never try them. The whole game feels like it didn't receive an awful lot of love from its developers but within the destruction and inherited technical strengths of the Saints Row engine there is enough to warrant a weekend of beer and friendly chat over XBL/PSN. Just don't expect it to hold your interest.

Score: 2.5 out of 5


The Good
  • The destruction model is certainly a step in the right direction and impressive in parts.
  • There's plenty to do, regardless of the quality there is enough content here for a 20 hour game.
  • The handling model makes for some bouncy vehicular fun across the surface of Mars.

The Bad
  • There are also glaring holes in the destruction mechanics. No terrain deformation and buildings that remain standing against the normally unrelenting rule of gravity.
  • Poor story which, especially compared to its predecessors, provides only flimsy motivation to play.
  • Weak presentation – music is wimpy, visuals are bland and Mars is devoid of intrigue or discovery.
  • The world and upgrade system offer little depth or exploration. This is the wrong kind of sandbox.

The Ugly
  • Rubbish mission design – cookie cutter objectives duplicated time and again.

Average press score:

TestFreaks: 9.0/10
MetaCritic: 86/100
GameRankings: 87.56/100
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Old 06-09-2009, 04:44 AM   #2
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I disagree with a number of your points - its a gem of a game.

On the mission design, alot of people approach the missions as a shooter. I dont think that is what is intended - your a guerilla, smash, blow stuff up then high tail it out of there. Your fighting a professional army, standing toe to toe against them leads to you getting outflanked pretty damm fast.

Mission design isn't 'rubbish'. Its well integrated, covers a wide range of options (rampant destruction, guerrila ambush, racing across mars akin to time trials?). Missions even pop up when your out and about. Beats alot of sandbox games you mention.
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Old 06-09-2009, 05:47 AM   #3
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Well one thing is clear to me. After your gushing 100% KZ2 review and this one, I can't base myself on your opinion to know if I'll enjoy a game. To each their own.
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Old 06-09-2009, 06:31 AM   #4
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I guess I find it a lot more compelling than you to be able to go through buildings rather than have to circle around them to complete my objectives.
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Old 06-09-2009, 08:36 AM   #5
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I also have to disagree with a number of points in this review. The mission structure seems pretty sound to me especially the fact that missions pop up while you're just running around. Adds a bit of an urgency feeling to the game. I'm also a collector, so I like the fact that I can go searching for the black crystal formations scattered all across Mars to mine them or that you have to blow up all the EDF containers along the way.

The missions are made to be more guerrilla style with a lot of in-and-out style tactics which, for me, is a lot more fun than the usual run and gun.

I've also seen a lot of "litttle things" in the graphics such as the NPCs mouths all move when they talk, or the cool smoke trail when an NPC is smoking. Also, the NPC dialogue can be really cool and fitting at times.

For me, this game is a solid 4 and is way more than just a rental.
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Old 06-09-2009, 10:21 AM   #6
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I think lost has some valid gripes but I think he judged the overall game a bit harshly due to some of those setbacks. Overall it's a really fun game where you can blow shit up and blowing up buildings is a lot more fun than making holes in rocks as the first level in the first Red Faction can attest to. I'm glad I bought it, full price too, because I'll be coming back to it again and again to try different things.
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Old 06-09-2009, 01:39 PM   #7
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I knew my opinions were a bit out of sync with the current ranges of scores so I'll go for the addendum.

The missions certainly push you in the direction of running in, blowing things up and running out. That's how I played the game, that is how it commands you to play it. I'm fine with that but let me plan out an attack, let there be constraints on both me and the enemy and me have to overcome them. Don't just dump the elements in front of me and spawn enemies.

As an example in Far Cry 2, where I'm taking on a large group as one single man, I can scope out an area and stealth my way into it. I expected to be able to have options in how I played each mission in Red Faction - to be able to creep in, craftily plant explosives before high-tailing it out of there. This is not to say that I was expecting a stealth game, far from it, but I want choice from my sandbox game. Most objectives are stuffed away in areas that can only be reached via a single route. Sprinting up to the door just doesn't do it for me - there should be a variety of challenge.

I didn't actually criticize the mission structure but merely the lack of variety in the mission objectives. Sonderval, I'm not sure if you missed the bit in the review where I mentioned the time trials. What about races though? There was even a checkpoint system demonstrated in the Free Fire Zone mission. What about bringing some of the multiplayer concepts into the main game? What about using the strengths of the destruction system to create mad shoot-outs in enemy buildings?

One of the few missions I really enjoyed was grabbing the nano-bot factory. It was multi-faceted, showed you new and exciting areas, gave you some back-story elements, mixed in different gameplay styles and supporting clever use of the destruction. I wanted more of that and less of 'Destroy all the EDF'.

Like I said in the review the destruction element is compelling and the best moments come from being able to combine them with other elements of gameplay. I constantly felt like I was constrained though - why no garage system? Why not let me be in control of squad recruitment? These are features they've actually had to strip out of Saints Row.

I found a lot of visual niggles - I know I didn't discuss them at length. The cold air the character puffs out seems to come from his neck. The draw distance and method, on the PS3 version at least, means that you see background hills slipping in and out of view. The surface of Mars seems unnaturally smooth and there's very little to look at - I know it's Mars but it is still colonized Mars. The grass in Oasis is literally drawn only about a few feet in front of you and pops in and out. The textures lacked detail too - it just didn't match up to other games in its genre.

Music was a real disappointment and the lack of even a limited number of radio stations, ala Fallout 3, seemed daft. You could have had a similar dynamic of Red Faction and EDF stations playing off against each other. 'The Voice of Mars' can even be heard around the world so why not let me hear it in my car? The background music was pretty static too and didn't build on the scenario. If I'm leading a one man onslaught against an oppressive force I want some high tension, action movie epic music. Not light plinking in the background.

There is definitely a set of people that will enjoy the game, that much is evident. I just feel that those who don't wish to play the game exactly how it wants to be played won't have much fun. As a reviewer I can't enhance my opinions because of a decent Metacritic score, it wouldn't be right - I just lay it on the line and then we all have a chat.

I was thinking around a 3 out of 5 for the first 3/4 of my playthrough but by the end I was yawning. That's not something I can control - it must be an accurate reflection of my enjoyment of the game.
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Old 06-09-2009, 02:10 PM   #8
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I found the demo to be a lot of fun, but I'm one of those people who lets political messages bother him(forever ruining 90% of Music, Movies, and literature) so the commie theme in these games puts me off a bit.

Well, now I'm off to watch red dawn over and over and listen to some truly horrid country music.
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Old 06-09-2009, 03:58 PM   #9
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Well of course not being a PS3 exclusive hurts too.

/ducks
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Old 06-09-2009, 04:30 PM   #10
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Well of course not being a PS3 exclusive hurts too.

/ducks
Hah, PS3 version reviewed here. Gears 2, Fable 2, Ninja Blade and Left4Dead say hello!

Interesting lost review facts...

Average PS3 Exclusive Review Score - 4.16 out of 5
Average 360 Exclusive Review Score - 4.25 out of 5

I am a neutral party folks!
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Old 06-09-2009, 05:15 PM   #11
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Hah, PS3 version reviewed here. Gears 2, Fable 2, Ninja Blade and Left4Dead say hello!

Interesting lost review facts...

Average PS3 Exclusive Review Score - 4.16 out of 5
Average 360 Exclusive Review Score - 4.25 out of 5

I am a neutral party folks!
No fair! -- it's more fun to toss bombs at you than talk about your FACTS!
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Old 06-09-2009, 07:00 PM   #12
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No fair! -- it's more fun to toss bombs at you than talk about your FACTS!
EXACTLY!

You damn Killzone 2 WHORE!

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Old 06-09-2009, 08:37 PM   #13
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For the most part I would have to agree with the review.

I don't mean it's bad, but perhaps it's not my cup of tea.
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Old 06-10-2009, 02:12 AM   #14
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EXACTLY!

You damn Killzone 2 WHORE!

Sony sends around Helghast POWs to do my gardening after that review.

I stand by it!
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Old 06-10-2009, 07:19 AM   #15
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IMO the review is spot on, and the game's flaws become apparent around the 3rd zone. There is so much potential in the game system, but hardly any interesting set piece. Compare it to Far Cry 2, which has it's own flaws (respawns, sigh) but every story mission plays in a fantastic designed specific area, which saves the game. In Red Faction, it's 90% copy and paste and mindless driving. The mission design really lets the game down.

Anyone else has the feeling that the destructive force of your weapons isn't big enough? It becomes cumbersome to bring down even the smallest buildings, when they refuse to collaps when they are already standing in ruins.
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Old 06-11-2009, 12:00 PM   #16
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Anyone else has the feeling that the destructive force of your weapons isn't big enough? It becomes cumbersome to bring down even the smallest buildings, when they refuse to collaps when they are already standing in ruins.
Yes. A trash truck is the best weapon in the game.
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Old 06-17-2009, 08:07 AM   #17
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Yes. A trash truck is the best weapon in the game.

You say that like it's a bad thing.
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Old 07-07-2009, 01:00 PM   #18
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The lack of discussion on the online portion of the game (which I found really fun in the demo) is a bit disturbing. Nice to know that the missions are cookie-cutter - but I had planned to rent before I buy anyway.
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Old 07-07-2009, 01:04 PM   #19
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The lack of discussion on the online portion of the game (which I found really fun in the demo) is a bit disturbing. Nice to know that the missions are cookie-cutter - but I had planned to rent before I buy anyway.
Partially a matter of space. I'm trying to spend more time with online portions of games lately.
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Old 07-15-2009, 06:25 PM   #20
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I went ahead and bought it based on the recommendation of someone whom I know will never steer me in the wrong direction.

I was not disappointed.

I'm with Mr. Green here about your reviews though Lost. We disagree rather severely about some big games (killzone 2 comes to mind), but to each their own. It just seems as though we're often playing two completely different games.
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