Martian Dreams: Red Faction: Guerrilla Impressions

By Kieron Gillen on April 3rd, 2009 at 5:11 pm.


Sitting down to play an early version of Red Faction on an almost-sunny London day, I do get a moment’s cognitive dissonance when I think of myself here, at a corporate event, playing a multi-million dollar product of capitalism designed to simulate the thrill of armed insurrection, when I could just head across town and get involved in the real thing. Except if I did that, I’d probably get in more trouble when I hit someone with a sledgehammer. And I wouldn’t get to play with nanite-disolverers. Or, at least, I don’t think I would. Man!

So – Red Faction then.

Voilition’s shooters had an odd history, especially involving the PC. Its Geo-Mod technology in 2001 was – ahem – revolutionary, to the point where a tech-demo lead to the magazine I was working to giving it a cover feature with a hyperbolic coverline along the lines of “Half-life move over”. And then when it came out, it was thoroughly average with its ability for you to mine into any surface not used to any real effect, so the reviewer gave it an averagey-sixty-percent or so mark. It was a hit over on the PS2 – which you can mainly put down to FPS-shortage on that particular format – leading to a sequel which I ignored so much I had to check whether it came out on the PC or not on Wikipedia just now. It did.

Which means what would normally be the bad news is in fact good news. Red Faction: Guerrilla isn’t anything at all like its prequels. Yeah, it’s got a load of nods in the game to its history. Yes, it’s still set on Mars and about a rebellion of miners. And yes, destruction still plays a key part of the game. It’s moved from a first-person shooter to a third-person open-world action game, and is easy to see as a more serious sci-fi sister game to Volition’s hilarious and playful Saints Row 2. And while destruction is key, it’s no longer about the the “you can dig a big hole!”, instead concentrating on actually taking apart buildings. It’s a total betrayal! A total betrayal which was probably a good thing. Red Faction is much more interesting as a Mercenaries-inspired blow-everything-up game, with revolutionary flourishes.

I mean that in tone rather than mechanics or structure. In terms of the latter, you’ll be immediately familiar with having major missions to complete, interspersed with more random other activities you can get up to. The you-are-a-revolution element is added in those side-missions. Activities can decrease the security level in the area – so unlocking the main missions leading to your cheery victory – or raise the morale of the people, making it more likely that a passer-by will pick up arm and fight the fascist bastards. So you’ll soon find yourself rescuing kidnapped victims, joining in defence of areas, taking down parts of the enemy infrastructure, having demolition challenges and… oh, that kind of stuff. I found it immediately easy to buy into the fiction of the place. Obviously the high-lights are the enormous set-piece missions where… well, stuff goes bang. Lots of it.

It’s a game about banging. The vast majority of your weapons – the iconic ones being repurposed mining equipment – is designed to bring down buildings. While it’s amusing to work your way into a base by just banging holes in everything you see in the way, the moment it clicked – and I found myself openly laughing – was bringing down a smoke-stack. I’d accidentally set the charges in a way which the whole thing collapsed on a nearby other building, taking that out too. Both of my targets taken out in one pyrotechnic flourish. This could grow on a guy.

The explosions continue into the multiplayer, which embraces the destroy-stuff ethos. As well as capture the flag and general deathmatch-esque stuff, there’s ones based around destroying – or reconstructing with a makes-brickies-nervous-about-jobs magical building healing gun – structures and similar. Even the standard missions are enlivened by this destructive tendency. Take the CTF map where the direct route is an enormous bridge. While the superstructure resists, you soon see hammer-weilders determinedly heading from one side to the other bashing to improvise a trench. The on-fly class-based system is another striking part of the game – spread around the level there’s specialist backpacks, which supplies you with a new power. Want to rush for the flag, grab the one which allows you to speed boost or the splendid jetpack. Want to fight close up? Try the firepower boost. Support the team? Try the heal. Want to run through walls cackling? Choose the Rhino one.

I chose the Rhino one a lot.

RHINO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The few hours play actually leave me liking Red Faction a lot. I suspect it isn’t going to end up as a genre-redefining classic – it’s too happy with the post GTA-open-world conventions for that – but it does look like it’s going to manage what no Red Faction game has so far. That is, be a lot of fun.

Seriously, the Rhino backpack. It’s hilarious. Try that thing out.

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46 Comments »

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  1. Ian says:

    Rhino, eh? Sounds fun.

  2. ...hmm... says:

    “It’s a game about banging.”

    hmm. shouldnt this be on ms. alexanders website? GET THIS FILTH OF MY INTERWEBZ

  3. Ross says:

    I think I enjoyed the tech demo from the first game more than the game itself.

  4. Dave Gates says:

    Hmmm, the first was a pretty poor game. Not in any sense of being compared to its peers (as it was fairly standard) but it seemed to suffer from all the hype that surrounded it. Half Life came along, people expected it to be good and it was brilliant, Redfaction came along, people expected it to be amazing… it was gash.

  5. charlie says:

    Did anyone play Viking on 360? That had a similar thing where you rescued vikings clans and villages to build up strength in your army to win the next battle. It didn’t live up to this at all though really as it just worked as a way of structuring the game. Seemed to be a good idea though that Red Faction could do well.

    Seriously though, Viking IMO was a fun game, not amazing but well worth a tenner. God of War with some really epic battles. It was Creative Assembly too if I remember right.

  6. charlie says:

    Oh and have they taken out the Erasergun sniper rifle thing? I remember it ruining multiplayer the 1st game for me. Dig a big tunnel to hide in and then shoot anyone anywhere in the whole level through the walls.

  7. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    @ …hmm… : “there’s no excuse for Kieron Gillen” has rarely seemed more appropriate, although I’d have said “it’s amusing to work your way into a base by just banging holes in everything you see in the way” rates higher on the inneundometer.

    This cropped up on my radar a while ago as another possible open world dumb fun romp, good to hear that it plays as well as it looks.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Vandelay says:

    I think I must be the only person that actually quite liked the original. I haven’t played the single player in years, but I seem to remember it being reasonably enjoyable, if not the revolution it was meant to be. The multiplayer though was heaps of fun with a couple of people. Blasting holes through walls and floors to take out people from various angles did add a lot to the standard death match model. I’ve gone back to it a few times and enjoyed it each time.

    It is a pity that the game was badly received; maybe we would be seeing other games incorporating similar technology. As it is, everyone decided that it didn’t work amazingly for Red Faction so it is obviously impossible to perfect anywhere else. A shame, because I still think destructible environments have a lot of potential and no one has attempted the same scale since.

  9. ...hmm... says:

    meh i can only spot the obvious innuendi in this tired state im in, and yes it does look fun if it doesnt randomly ctd like every other pc game ive bought in the last few months T_T

  10. Larington says:

    The original wasn’t bad, some people had stupidly high expectations though, which never helps. If I were making a game, i think I’d much rather make a surprise hit, like say, Stronghold was. Back on topic, I’m not so keen on third person, but this preview is warm enough that I’ll put it onto my maybe list.

  11. qrter says:

    Hm. The third person thing turns me off, depends on how the camera is used ofcourse.

  12. Heliocentric says:

    The best way to play red faction is with an unlimited ammo cheat. I own rf2. Never installed it… I need to see a doctor about that habit.

  13. Kris says:

    I like the idea of it, the video’s out there of it are hopefully only tasters, but I’m more hopeful about Black Paradise as imo it has a better pedigree and an arcade fps feel.

  14. MetalCircus says:

    With the sheer fun I had in Saints Row 2, this should hopefully be just as fun. Volution might be one of my fave “fun” developers if they pull this off.

  15. FreudianTrip says:

    The original Red Faction was a great game for the sole reason that I freakin’ rawked at it. We used to give it a few rounds online while bored at a local LAN cafe. I can proudly say that out of about 30 matches I never came anywhere but first.

  16. Griffinheart says:

    I can’t wait. I loved the first Red Faction and played it on two man LANs when dial-up just wasn’t fast enough for my friend and I…man, the map Killbox really lived up to its name.

  17. bhlaab says:

    Wait, volition made saints row 2?

    Not looking forward to playing this on the pc, then…

  18. Andrew says:

    Never played any of the red faction games before but the trailer i saw a while back looked pretty cool so i might pick it up if the reviews are good. Blowing up buildings sounds awesome. Immense destruction is the way to many a mans heart.

  19. Marcin says:

    So it’s really “open” open? As in, you’ll be wandering around on the edge of controlled and hostile territory and there’ll be border skirmishes? I love that stuff, if so.

  20. malkav11 says:

    I shall buy it only if they deliver the promised Ostrich Hammer.

  21. NuZZ says:

    Yo bhlaab,
    it sure does run terrible (saints row 2) on pc. I was going to wait for more patches, but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.
    I just really hope it runs decent on pc provided you have the right physics acceleration. I will be putting in a stray 8600GTS for phsyX in hope of awesome framerate alongside my 8800GT and 2.4g Athlon. I won’t expect very-high settings but damn. I know I need to blow $1000 or so on an upgrade.

  22. Caiman says:

    The best part about Red Faction was the Descent-inspired sections near the end. Oh, and the greenhouse.

  23. bhlaab says:

    Nuzz: I don’t think 8600GTSs are capable of physx acceleration. 8800s with 65nm processors and above, I’m afraid.

  24. viscioN says:

    Q3:Team Arena’s rune/weapon combos did the ‘on-fly’ class system pretty excellently almost a decade ago; I’d be surprised if this new iteration ends up working half as well. More destruct-tech is definitely always welcome though.

  25. Dave L. says:

    @NuZZ: I’m pretty sure the PC version of Red Faction isn’t going to be using PhysX. From what I understand it’s all Havok based on 360 and PS3, so I doubt it’ll be different on PC.

  26. born2expire says:

    whoop!

  27. Indianapowerball says:

    Looks like something I could play. is going to be released on pc?

  28. Premium User Badge

    ordteapot says:

    @bhlaab
    I can vouch from personal experience that even an 8600 GT mobile can technically run PhysX, but the performance ranges from mediocre to so botheredly poor that you’d want/need an 8800 or better anyways. Your point stands, I guess.

  29. ZIGS says:

    I, for one, loved the first Red Faction. The pistol in that game remains as one of my favorite weapons that feels great to shoot, with the assault rifle in Blacksite: Area 51 coming in close second.
    Anyway Kieron, that early version you played was on the PC? If yes, how did it run? The PC version of Saints Row 2 on the PC was pure garbage so I’m a bit concerned

  30. Scandalon says:

    One other redeeming quality the original RF had was the detpacks. That you could attach to people. Oh yes.

    Not that I ever actually finished it, mind you.

  31. BarkingDog says:

    Also, decent glass effects and a pretty flamethrower! It was good at the time… Not that we had any time to play in between going down t’mine, of course.

  32. Dave Gates says:

    Very nice glass effects, yeah. If I remember correctly PCG went into quite alot of depth on the glass in its preview. Technicaly it was very impressive.

  33. Kieron Gillen says:

    Didn’t play the PC version, but saw it running – it’s going to be a month or two behind the console release. They made noises about wanting it to be a good port. Rather than doing it internally, they’ve got an external team working solely on it.

    KG

  34. ZIGS says:

    Rather than doing it internally, they’ve got an external team working solely on it.

    Capcom delegated the PC version of Resident Evil 4 to Ubisoft… we all know how that turned out >_>

  35. sinister agent says:

    The best thing about the original was attaching the demo packs to people, who would then run acround howling in a panic, while their nearby friend tried to helpfully shoot it off them, and succeeded only in setting the thing off and killing them both. Yes. It was merely average though, despite some nice moments here and there. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who played the second.

  36. rocketman71 says:

    Saints Row 2 isn’t precisely a shining example for Volition. The PC port was such an enormous turd that I’ll certainly wait for comments and reviews before even thinking of buying this.

  37. Arca says:

    @malkav11;

    The overwhelming response to the April Fools video of it spawned an entry on the RFU blog, saying that they intend to keep/ship the Ostrich Hammer as an unlockable for the sledgehammer.

    I quote;

    “We had no idea the reaction to the video would be so positive and that gamers would really like to kill someone with a very large bird.”

  38. AndrewC says:

    Volition do not understand PC Gamers.

  39. Pantsman says:

    @Sinister Agent
    My little brother used to play the second one on GameCube a lot. He quite liked the multiplayer. I never really tried it though.

  40. DigitalSignalX says:

    Looking forward to pirating this. Volition burned their credibility with my wallet after Saints Row 2.

  41. NuZZ says:

    I have looked around alot, and researched the subject of PhsyX a few days ago.
    I forget the details, but I think I confirmed that PhysX acceleration would work in this game. It has to do with CUDA I think…
    The 8600GTS also obviously can run PhsyX. On its own just to run PhysX, it is more than enough for any game I have to assume. It can handle Crysis on medium, afterall.

  42. Dave L. says:

    “Rather than doing it internally, they’ve got an external team working solely on it.”
    Which is the same thing they did with Saints Row 2. Hopefully it’s a different team this time.

  43. NuZZ says:

    digitalsignal
    yeah i feel you. this game is so promising that if it runs decent ill buy it… :) if not? fuck you volition!

  44. HurricaneJesus says:

    Ugh, the first Red Faction was an amazing game, and to me is more fun than Half Life. The sequel was not nearly as good, but I still played through it.

    The first game was just pure awesome. I doubt this guy even played through it. I for one am disappointed in the change this game has taken. When RF first released, all I could think was ‘holy **** these Volition guys really have something here’. I thought about how amazing RF could be in the future. Too bad it never materialized the way I thought it would.

    RF is an awesome game, and I highly recommend everyone check it out. It is all played out in the first person perspective, like Half Life, with no ‘levels’, just short load times, and then you continue on. Not only that, but it is one of those games where you think you are at the end, then it turns upside down and continues for a little while.

    I love RF. My first experience with it was on the PS2, but I have played the PC version and it is great as well.