"A vast game of utterly mad possibilities. There's not enough of a culture for Guerrilla to be proclaimed a true masterpiece, or even a revolution, but it's not a long way off. Rarely has open-world mayhem been so invigorating, so satisfying and hilarious. Far and away the best in the series so far, Guerrilla is the absolute statement of Volition's explosive plan - and Red Faction would struggle to return to its linear routes after this outstanding effort."
While it might be a stretch to say that Red Faction has transitioned from revolting to revolutionary, this third installment in Volition's destructible saga is immeasurably, fundamentally improved from the ground up. Considering your character is a miner, the decision to remove the ability to smash through terrain might seem a perplexing one. But there's a reason, and the shift is key to Guerrilla's success. This is a game in which occasional rock deformation is unimportant and unnecessary. And by focusing the game's destructive power on immaculately crafted, realistically weighted and completely evisceratable man-made structures, it shines, and provides for some of the most remarkable, unpredictable and thoroughly enjoyable action romping in ages.
In Guerrilla, a game built purely around unwanton destruction, the thrill emerges from the base, instinctive joy of blowing things up. So sensible is Volition's choice to focus their game on this, rather than simply include technology that allows it, that the static ground and rock formations fade from significance within minutes. As an unwitting recruit to the Red Faction - an expanded version of the heroic freedom-fighting regime from the first game - your progress through the game is absolutely defined by how much damage you can cause to opposition structures, and how quickly. Missions range from simple to complex, but almost all involve some sort of smashing or exploding, in a desperate but calculated bid to liberate various sections of Mars from the tyrrany of the Earth Defence Force, once the saviours of humankind but now oppressive dictators, enslaving the populace of the Red Planet.
Story missions are few and far between, with a handful in each gargantuan area required to complete before progress becomes available. Far more of your time will be spent meticulously hacking away at EDF defences, completing optional side-quests and generally wreaking havoc across the vast open world. The Red Faction is really more of a terrorist group than measured revolutionary organisation, given its penchant for mass demolition and fierce weaponry, and the story is thin enough to make it slightly uncomfortable if the politics stick in mind; nevertheless, it allows for a multitude of creative killing sprees and destructive possibilities.
Nearly every mission in Guerrilla goes wrong. That's where the fun lies. It's all about improvisation: what to do if you run out of explosive charges, how to cope if you run out of ammunition, or where to hide if five EDF tanks show up at once. As you smash your way through the game, you'll collect salvage from the wreckage, which you can trade for new weapons, armour, tools and upgrades that provide new opportunities for mayhem. And though the game struggles to get going in its opening hours as a result, when things start to open up the missions become immensely satisfying as you work out where to place your charges, which beams to fire rockets at and where exactly you want to shoot that bolt of electricity to down the most guards in one go.
And when the inevitible occurs - when hundreds of EDF soldiers show up with tanks and machineguns, when you run out of ammo or your getaway vehicle bursts into flames - there's nothing more satisfying than a lucky rocket collapsing an enormous tower onto the entire settlement you've been sent to destroy, taking out four buildings in one go and blocking the path of bullets between you and your oppressors.
Fall into a routine, and Guerrilla can stagnate pretty quickly. It's something of a necessity to keep conjuring up new ways to bring down structures, evade enemy forces and generally cause as much chaos as possible. There's certainly an element of having to create the variety yourself, which may disappoint some. But the same was true of Far Cry 2, a title with which Guerrilla shares many of its achievements. If you invest enough thought, it repays by the bucketload. Of explosives. In the back of an armoured truck.
Indeed, Red Faction's problems - the less than consistent visual design, occasionally shaky vehicle handling, and the lack of a tangible culture on the surface of Mars - rarely become an issue as long as you're making the most of your time in this dusty world. If you start to look for problems, you'll absolutely find them, but you'll be cheating yourself. It would definitely have been nice to see a little more life on this barren planet, a little more depth to the procedings. But it's by no means a deal-breaker, particularly when there's so much fun to be had courageously ploughing through a town hall in an enormous mech suit.
It all translates perfectly to multiplayer, as well. The largely team-based game modes are again focused on your destructive finesse, with both sides plotting to take out opposition structures, or carefully rebuild them, in all manner of ways. Tactics are surprisingly important, with different players taking on different attacking and defensive roles in order to score the most points by the time the clock runs down. And if online play isn't your thing, you can always hand the controller around the room and see how many points you can all score in Wrecking Crew mode.
It's a vast game of utterly mad possibilities. There's not enough of a culture for Guerrilla to be proclaimed a true masterpiece, or even a revolution, but it's not a long way off. Rarely has open-world mayhem been so invigorating, so satisfying and hilarious. Far and away the best in the series so far, Guerrilla is the absolute statement of Volition's explosive plan - and Red Faction would struggle to return to its linear routes after this outstanding effort.
Freelance review by Lewis Denby (June 12, 2009)
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