The Red Faction series started with a bit of a gimmick; fully destructible environments. Although by today’s standards that aspect alone seems a bit dry, the third installment of the series comes at us with a red, sulfuric firestorm of enjoyable gameplay and cathartic rush every time you make something go boom. Yes, the latest title in the series, Red Faction: Guerrilla, makes up for its sparse storyline by delivering some of the most satisfying and deliciously subversive Martian antics you can find this side of the Van Allen belt. Now if only this review can be completed without making a “get your ass to mars” gag, we’ll be all set.
Players assume control of Alec Mason, a miner heading to Mars to meet up with his brother and start a new life at a new mining job. Of course, all is not as it seems. Alec’s brother is suspected (and rightly so) of being part of the underground “Red Faction” and is summarily executed in front of you by the EDF (Earth Defense Force), the current state of power on Mars. As you would rightly expect, the initial burst of revenge-mindedness compels Alec to join the Red Faction and in short order you will find yourself chipping away at their elaborate infrastructure, one building at a time.
As stated earlier, the main goal is blow things up on a regional basis. With every building you destroy, the “control” factor of the EDF degrades a bit. This also raises morale among your compadres in the Red Faction, as well as the oppressed miners that work at the various regional locales. Do an impressive enough job and you will find these locals abandoning their duties and saddling up with you on a mission, and it is not a rare thing to hear them shout with glee as they gun down an EDF soldier. How you choose to take out a given regional landmark is left largely up to the player. Are you the sneaky type who will plant a bazillion mines around the focal points of the building’s structure and then hit the detonator as you walk home, Joker style? Are you the type who will hijack a large cement truck and ram it into a command tower or storage facility’s support beams until the whole thing topples like a tree? Or are you the “hands-on” type who will take his overpowered sledgehammer to the thing until there’s nothing left but a bunch of red sand and scrap metal? The choice is yours, and all of them equal one thing... sheer destructive joy.
As you progress through the game you’ll have access to more powerful explosives and weapons (and in greater numbers) so you may feel completely at liberty to mix it up. The game does have several nods to THQ’s previous release (Saints Row 2) inasmuch as you can hijack vehicles by pulling drivers out and you will also have to deal with time-based objective missions. Of course the EDF is not going to take kindly to your actions, so expect to get into run n’ gun firefights with the organization’s soldiers, and this also plays much like Saint’s Row 2. The whole game is easy to pick up, and its “rinse, repeat” mission structure makes it a bit on the familiar side, but the sheer joy of watching major structures give way and collapse from your explosive talents is enough to keep it fun and keep you playing.
There’s a tightly constructed multiplayer mode as well, which pits players against each other in a more intimate, focused setting. This mode also offers special-skill backpacks that let your player do some amazing things. Jet packs let you sail about the map quickly, vision packs let you spot enemies through walls, and a pack that makes you run like Agent Smith to cover distances in record time while remaining grounded. These features are offered across the standard host of multiplayer modes including deathmatch, capture-the-flag and the usual suspects.
Graphically, the game does what it needs to do to make the explosions and demolitions deliver the “shock and awe” experience that is key to this title’s success, but not much more than that. The sound effects are decent but not extremely remarkable and the music is absolutely top notch. Yes, out of all the noise, booms and bangs the game offers, the most aurally pleasant aspect is the symphonic yet futuristic music that surrounds and adjusts to whatever may be happening at that given moment. They are definitely the kind of tunes you will find yourself humming after shutting off the game for the night.
All in all, Red Faction: Guerrilla delivers on the promises it makes. If you’re looking for a Bioshock type of storyline with endless plot points to discuss and debate with others, this is not your game. If you’re looking for a solid reason to blow up some buildings and stand there wide-eyed at your explosive accomplishments then by all means pick yourself up a copy and get your ass to… ahhh dammit.