Red Faction: Guerrilla (PC) review
"Copious debris and a good smattering of hardware to keep you humming all the live long day."
You know what sold me on Red Faction: Guerrilla? About a minute of YouTube footage showing some fella blowing a building to smithereens with industrial equipment. I had to play it, and so when it appeared on sale, somewhere or other, I picked it up. The open world mission based demolition sandbox contained some less-than-flattering imperfections, but the romp turned out to be worth the price of admission anyway.
I had no idea it was about open revolt against an oppressive government, and I didn’t care much when the heavy handed writing began setting up the framework. The structure is robust, but the accents are a mixed bag of well crafted mechanics and rushed design. There is just enough story to justify the guerrilla assault on the authoritarian Earth Defense Force, and enough variety to keep you interested for long play sessions.
Volition demonstrated a working knowledge of task switching to keep you awake and playing. So, what are your tools of resistance? As a miner–on Mars, no less–you are granted access to a rich assortment of explosives, launchers, guns and more to hobble the enemy in EDF controlled sectors. From remote bombs that will cling to any surface you lob them at; a rocket launcher; circular blade launcher; electricity gun to a quantum singularity generator. RF:G has its fair share of “traditional” guns, too, ranging from the waste binnable pistol to the nanotech rifle that eats its targets in a shimmery yellow haze.
The weapons and tools are fun, but you’ll really have a blast with the mechs you’re eventually tasked with piloting. It also helps that some of the vehicles make useful tools of destruction, too. Hop into something I call the caterpillar truck and you’ve got a handy barrier rammer. Oh, and do grab a many tonned dump truck: They’ll wreck a few buildings before their thickly armored carcasses explode from all the abuse.
As we’re on the subject of tools, missions assume the role of tactics political. What have we? About as many as are not fun to deal with in the real world, but put you in the center of the action here: As the frontman for the Resistance, you will be rescuing fellow fighters held hostage; destroying EDF installations such as bases and military outposts, and performing hit and run assaults on vital communications hardware, and so forth. You’re going to be a busy little guerrilla.
The Steam Edition of RF:G runs very well on most PCs, but do yourself a favor and take the recommended specs lightly. By that, I mean ramp up your expectations. Physics acceleration is pretty easy to come by in modern video cards, but the sheer volume of building pieces, debris, dust and weapons fire can drag your frame rate through the dirt. Fortunately, the Steam Edition of RF:G has selectable graphics presets and individually controllable options.
Once you’ve found your desired balance between frame rate and… sepia based pretty… rush on out there, jack a vehicle and find yourself a mission. No, wait. There is no “theft” in RF:G; fellow miners may complain, but as their representative of change, you’re given a lot of latitude. Whilst assaulting EDF property, wandering NPCs may pick up a weapon and join in the action, but keep an eye on losses, as morale dips with each rebel Killed In Action.
Not long after are you introduced to courier chases, EDF caravan assaults, multi-wave base defense, and mech free-for-alls. There are few mech types to play around with, too. Some are small cargo lifters, others slow but nigh unstoppable monsters. One even sports a jet system for leaping through the air like a great mechanical frog.
Volition has done a good job creating a GTA-on-Mars clone, but I wonder at the necessity of the Mature rating. Was the “strong language” and “blood” necessary? Not that you're going to see any - I sure didn't. Would it have been taken any less seriously without them? Granted the grand scale violence and damage warrant some… ratings consideration, but I’ve a thought it could have managed without the M content, which is debatable anyway.
There are some problems with consistency that are more than nitpicks. For instance, a main protagonist, who you are put in the shoes of in bonus missions, has hair that doesn’t match her cutscene renderings. Was it bad communication, crunch time or both? Three teams worked on this title, so something is bound to slip through the not so proverbial cracks. As mentioned, when you tear a building down, it stays that way, except when reset by associated missions and objectives. That’s fine, really, but I wonder what it would have been like to have a mission frustrated by a prematurely demolished target structure?
Ironically, this game about consequences isn’t actually about cause and effect. The primary goal is to smash a lot of hardware, amass a formidable toolset and liberate the Martians of the tyrannical Earth Defense Force. It wouldn’t be all bang and scrap if there weren’t a third faction involved, and by mid campaign you’ll be facing off against the earliest settlers of Mars. They’ve formed a nomadic society that builds some cool looking scrap vehicles and hardware. In the bonus campaign you’ll have a chance to play with some of that equipment, too.
As with all games of this type, the missions increase in scale, but not in nuance. The nomads, likewise, are situated in an area ripe for background story and mission exploration, but it is abundantly clear the development team had a deadline to meet. The bonus missions do explore some of this territory, but the story does not have the same depth as the main campaign.
It is worth mentioning that the four state alert system, which gauges how much the EDF consider you a threat - and how much force they'll use to kill you - can be manipulated pretty easily. Usually, if you can find a cubby hole, the alert will drop back down to idle – green – and you can frolic amongst the troops just seconds ago pot-shotting at your shaven head. Who knew the EDF were secretly goldfish in their shiny helmets?
RF:G was released in 2004, and I mention this because it has a multiplayer component that is all but dead. Not that it suffers, because the game really is all about destruction, and that urge is going to be satisfied by its lengthy single player track. Its age, and the depreciation of multiplayer do have a knock-on effect that suggests its retail price also take a hit. With that said, slap it on your wishlist and grab it on sale. Or, you can pick it up in a bundle containing others from the franchise at digital retailers like IndieGala and Humble Bundle.
Community review by hastypixels (May 28, 2017)
At some point you stop justifying what you play and begin to realize what you're learning by playing.
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