"You'll kill soldiers with one swing and take down buildings with just a bit of effort. It's hilariously overpowered, crumbling concrete walls like they were made of styrofoam. In third-person over-the-shoulder shooters, it's rare that a melee weapon is this indispensable. You won't mind that the game forces you to hold it at all times, as there's something indubitably MANLY about running up to things and effortlessly destroying them by swinging a mighty hammer of the gods."
Red Faction Guerrilla is a testament to the pure joy of destruction. That's the point of the game. Sure, there's some sort of paper-thin plot involving your character joining an organization to eliminate an over-the-top evil group from Mars so the people can prosper in peace, but that's just to give a purpose to that destruction. You'll occasionally sit through 30-second explanations of where the plot's going and then set out to smash everything in your path. That's all that matters and all you need to know.
But to humor you, here's the plot. The Earth Defense Force, which played a more heroic role in the initial Red Faction has transformed from liberators to tyrants, as they rule Mars with an iron fist. You control a newcomer to the planet who finds out that his brother is a member of a resistance group. After watching said brother get gunned down after a brief tutorial mission, you take his place and commence kicking EDF ass. Many hours later, you win. Only a few of your allies get names, as do a couple villains. They tend to get more characterization in the instruction book than in the actual game. Like I said, none of this really matters.
What does matter is the sledgehammer you wield. This thing makes Thor's Mjolnir seem like a dollar store special. You'll kill soldiers with one swing and take down buildings with just a bit of effort. It's hilariously overpowered, crumbling concrete walls like they were made of styrofoam. In third-person over-the-shoulder shooters, it's rare that a melee weapon is this indispensable. You won't mind that the game forces you to hold it at all times, as there's something indubitably MANLY about running up to things and effortlessly destroying them by swinging a mighty hammer of the gods.
Of course, there are other weapons, ranging from a pair of rocket launchers to a handful of guns to various explosives. One thing I noticed while playing was that guns tended to only have specific uses, while things that caused explosions were far more handy to keep around. Since you can only hold three non-sledgehammer weapons at a time, I often only held one gun, such as the electricity-based Arc Welder, which was great for swiping enemy vehicles, as it could kill soldiers without damaging their ride.
With weapons in hand, it won't take long to discover that Red Faction Guerrilla is little more than a big, dumb action game in a sandbox world. Enemies aren't particularly bright and alert levels (which will rise as you break stuff) are easy to lower. Just run away from the soldier-infested building you were pulverizing and it won't take long to get back to a nice, safe green level. If things get too heated, all you have to do is make it back to a safehouse and you're clear. The EDF seems to be unable to find these places, even though most of them aren't that far off main roads. Let's face it -- this isn't a bad thing. The goal is to have fun while destroying various obstacles and it's a lot more fun to single-handedly outmatch and outwit platoons of moronic soldiers while driving a dump truck through some building than it is to not only be outnumbered, but also ensured of death upon making the slightest of errors.
This is emphasized by how much you have to do in order to liberate Mars. Its six regions initially are all under EDF control. To lower it, which is necessary to unlock the final plot quest for five of those areas (the Free Fire Zone is basically one long, intense mission without the preamble), you have to destroy certain key targets and do various guerrilla missions. Those tasks are also handy for obtaining salvage, which is used to purchase weapons and upgrades. Also, many new goodies are only unlocked by completing a certain number of guerrilla missions, making it highly advisable to do as many as possible.
You'll likely really want to binge on these capers early in the game. The second zone, Dust, is a gold mine in more ways than one. Not only is there a ton of things to do in this very large place, but it seemed like nearly everything was a perfect combination of fun and challenge. Transporting one heavily-guarded vehicle to a distant safehouse was a grueling test of will, but then I cruised through obliterating a vehicle convoy and trashing an enemy-controlled building. A bit later, I was heavily challenged by the EDF as I attempted to defend an apartment complex from their onslaught and then had to rescue a pair of civilians held hostage before manning a gun to help Jenkins, a somewhat psychotic redneck, raze enemy structures to the ground. After that, for a breather, I simply strolled down a road and used remote charges to blow up a few tiny bits of enemy property. Destroying those propaganda billboards and checkpoint gates might not have lowered control by much, but it was fun and added to my salvage stash. While in Dust, I found myself playing for hours while, in reality, accomplishing very little. But I was destroying stuff and that's all that mattered!
As I progressed through the game, I found myself easing up on the wanton destruction and endeavoring to simply lower control enough to access all the plot missions. While some of the guerrilla jobs, such as the vehicle transporting and ones where you commandeer large tanks and walkers for the purpose of smashing LOTS of enemy vehicles, never got tiresome, I couldn't say the same for others. I was constantly asked to rescue more hostages and keep helping Jenkins, with the only difference being that it got more and more difficult to succeed. By the time I was in Eos, the final of the six main regions, I was simply picking the kinds of missions I'd been enjoying and hoping just doing those and smashing key buildings would be sufficient to lower control.
Fortunately, as many of the guerrilla missions were becoming tiresome, the plot-related ones really started picking up in intensity. Through the first few zones, they were pretty straightforward and simple. If I died, it tended to be because of bad luck or some sort of stupid mistake on my part. During the final parts of the game, many of these missions became quite intense. Look at the sole one in the Free Fire Zone. You need to take out the EDF's artillery base, which is the final line of protection for their headquarters in Eos. First, you have to drive there, dodging other vehicles along the way. Once there, you must take out the generators powering the base's cannons. Alone, on foot, against a horde of soldiers.
That was great preparation for the final missions of the game, which included an attempt to take out a number of snipers while fending off unlimited footsoldiers in an intense, chaotic scene; as well as two lengthy battles at the end as the EDF made its final stand. As I closed in on beating Red Faction Guerrilla, I found myself spending more time perched on the edge of my seat than reclining.
Red Faction Guerrilla isn't perfect, but it provided a good amount of fun. Not all the missions were particularly interesting and some optional ones were decent ideas that got overused, but I never got tired of finding ways to destroy things, which kept me playing it daily until it was beaten. Whether it was firing rockets into barracks or detonating remote charges on manned EDF vehicles, I was able to find enjoyment in obliterating things from my humble beginnings as the new guy on the freedom fighting team until eventually being recognized as a savior.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (July 06, 2011)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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