Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Red Faction Guerrilla

Post-Launch Review
Red Faction: Guerrilla
Developer: THQ
Publisher: Volition, Inc. / Reactor Zero (PC)
Released: June 2 2009 / September 15 2009 (PC)

Red Faction: Guerilla is an open-world, third-person action game set on Mars, where protagonist Alec Mason and the guerrilla organization Red Faction work to overthrow the totalitarian regime of the Earth Defence Force. The game features a dynamic destruction engine, allowing the player to demolish any structure in the game. Guerrilla is the third game in the Red Faction series, but the games are fairly loosely related, and don't need to be played in any particular order.

At Launch
The game received positive review scores, averaging in the low-to-mid eighties percent-wise. Reviewers praised the game's destruction engine, long play time, quality gameplay and mechanics. The game took a lot of criticism for its weak plot and voice acting, relatively poor-to-average graphics, often repetitive missions, and uneven difficulty, with some reviewers getting so frustrated that they turned down the difficulty for certain battles.

Post Launch
The game received three DLC packs. The first two packs are included with Windows retail versions of the game. No DLC is listed on the Steam store page; presumably the Steam version includes all of it.
The first, Demons of the Badlands, added new missions focusing on Sam, Red Faction's inventor. It also included new weapons, vehicles, and achievements.
The Multiplayer Pack added new game mods and maps for multiplayer.
The Smasher Pack added new maps and a game type for the Wrecking Crew mode.

The Good
If it was built by man, it can be destroyed by man. You can use your basic sledgehammer, or flashier tools like remote explosives.

The EDF is a military organization with money and equipment. Red Faction are underground rebels. You don't have the same capabilities as the EDF, so you improvise — when you destroy a structure, you'll often find salvage in the form of scrap metal. Red Faction uses salvaged parts along with industrial tools and mining equipment to build improvised weapons. Basically it's just a standard economic system — you get money for accomplishing goals and searching for loot — but it's nicely dressed up. Plus, it's fun to get 'money'!

Most of the weapons are relatively standard: assault rifle, shotgun, rocket launcher, remote charges, etc. But there are a few standouts. The game's iconic sledgehammer is both a neat visual design and fun to use; the singularity bombs create a vortex that sucks in surrounding material in a swirling vortex before exploding; and the thermobaric rocket launcher just creates really, really big explosions.
There are also some really neat backpacks available in Wrecking Crew, like the tremor pack that shakes apart nearby buildings, or the rhino pack that lets you charge through walls.

Wrecking Crew
This is a really cool single- or multiplayer mode where the goal is to cause as much destruction as possible within the time limit using predetermined weapons. Each player has a turn with the same weapons on the same map, and the player that demolished the most things wins the round. You can also set the weapon selection to random, so you won't know what you have until the round starts (everyone still has the same gear per round though). It's a fun competitive mode that embraces the fun of exploding stuff.
The downside is that the game is aging so there's a low multiplayer population, but it's still fun to load up each map on your own with a thermobaric missile launcher and see how flat you can make the place.
The Neutral
Cover System
It's pretty average. I didn't actually end up using it most of the game.

Bonus Missions
You get a new explorable area, some guerrilla actions, a few new vehicles, and three missions to explain how Sam left the Marauders, but not how she joined Red Faction. It's pretty much more of the same except you play as Sam, so whether or not you'll like the bonus missions depends on if you like the main game.
One note: there are no achievements in the bonus missions.

The Bad
Intro Is WAY Too Fast
In the space of about ten minutes: you arrive on Mars and meet up with your brother intending to do some honest work and generally stay out of the way, but then learn that the EDF is an oppressive totalitarian regime with death squads, you “mine” some salvage, have your brother try to recruit you into the rebel Red Faction, watch your brother get killed in front of you, get harassed and sentenced to death by the EDF, rescued by Red Faction, and join a guerrilla organization.
You're not given any history or reasoning or anything. The first ten minutes are literally “EDF bad, Red Faction good. Congratulations, you're a guerrilla fighter!”. I don't necessarily have problems with black-and-white morality if it's done well (Star Wars!), but holy crap, give me a second to get my bearings.

Plot (or lack thereof)
The plot pretty much consists of “Welcome to Red Faction! Your mission is to destablilize the oppressive regime by blowing up all their crap. Good luck!”.

Poor Sound Quality
This only applies to character voices. It's weird — it's as if everyone is talking through a radio with poor reception... even my character who's standing right there and I don't need to hear through the radio.

Endless Waves
Once you attract the attention of the EDF, they keep coming after you, sending multiple waves of guys to take you down. This makes sense. The only way to get out of combat is to run away. This also makes sense. I'm a guerrilla fighter, I shouldn't be mowing down entire armies of guys.
The problem, though, is that the EDF never ever stop until you've run away enough, and the waves progressively get harder.
This is incredibly frustrating in two cases: when you're driving around and run into a patrol car and suddenly you've got an infinite army on your tail; or when you're taking on a big objective (such as destroy a factory complex with 12 smokestacks and a central building) and there are just so many guys that you have to actually drop what you're doing or risk death.
Maybe this was completely intentional. Maybe it's supposed to take multiple hit-and-run attacks to destroy a large base or complex. Maybe, for whatever reason, you're supposed to attract the attention of every EDF soldier on the planet when you so much as clip a patrol car. But that SUCKS. It's annoying. I actually turned the difficulty down to easy because I got so frustrated by endless pursuit and being unable to finish objectives in one go.

Black and White... or Black and Black?
I mentioned above that Red Faction's morality was pretty black and white. Let me explain that a bit more.
The EDF are an oppressive totalitarian regime with utter domination over Mars. They work the civilians like slaves. There are public executions of insurgents and even the people who just mouth off. They confiscate property for their own amusement. They harass miners for fun and kill anyone who so much as annoy them. They killed your brother.
Red Faction is fighting for the workers and for freedom. So they're the good guys and the EDF are the bad guys, right? Well, no. As you progress through the game it becomes apparent that Red Faction is, in a lot of ways, just as bad as the EDF. They have a noble goal — a free and independent Mars — but holy crap are they ever ruthless.
You kidnap a colonel to get the access codes for the artillery base and interrogate him. That's fine. A little violent, but you need the information. But AFTER you get the information, one of your “associates” continues to torture him until he begs to die — beating him, breaking bones, cutting — and then she executes him.
Some big corporations are investing in the EDF for the huge mining and terraforming profits... so Red Faction murders the CEO's.
The Mars government is being controlled by the EDF... so Red Faction massacres the Mars government.
Red Faction needs to repair a mass driver, so it allies itself with the Marauders, a group of savage raiders who have been attacking, stealing from, and killing colonists for years. You might expect to discover that they really aren't savage barbarians and have a culture all their own... but they really ARE savage barbarians. Further, it's never explained why Red Faction can't repair the weapon themselves.
So, by the end of the game, I've allied myself with bloodthirsty barbarians, murdered the Mars government, pushed all financial investment off Mars, and demolished the command, communication, and production infrastructure. Mars is now run by an organization that seems completely unwilling to negotiate and whose solution to every problem is “blow it up”.
How exactly is this better?

The Verdict
Recommendation: Maybe.
The gameplay is mostly fun. It's a little light on story, but there's a ton of exploration and secrets to discover. There's a wide variety of vehicles to mess around with. You can explode just about anything that's not dirt and rock. The negatives are mostly pretty minor. The two really big ones for me are the endless enemies and the weird brutality of Red Faction. Personally I struggled to stay interested. Despite having seven or eight hour blocks of time over about a week which I could fully devote to gaming, I only played Red Faction for two to four hours at a time before finding something else to do.
Maybe you'll enjoy the game more than I did, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it.

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