It takes a lot nowadays to do something special in a videogame; something that makes it stand out from the pack and really grab you, suck you in and make you want to play it until the very end. It could be an intense narrative, the satisfaction of gaining a new ability or special attack, or perhaps something even as simple as a new special feature to unlock. In Red Faction: Guerilla, the one thing that makes you want to play the game over and over again is quite simple. It lets you smash things. You can basically destroy whatever you like. The destruction can come in many forms, using multiple weapons and explosive devices, and is always satisfying. Where the previous Red Faction games got their acclaim from being able to make holes in walls, Red Faction: Guerilla takes it to the next level, letting you make holes in any structure you want. Behind all this mayhem and destruction, however, also lies a fairly competent third person shooter, and these things combined make the new game in the franchise from developer Volition hard to resist.
The game is set some years after the first game on the planet Mars, which is completely in the control of the EDF (that's Earth Defense Force for those playing at home). Playing as Alec Mason, you very quickly find yourself playing an integral role in the Red Faction resistance, trying to gain control over the various zones on the planet, thus taking the power away from the oppressive EDF and giving everybody a happy ending. To do this, you have to complete certain tasks to try to loosen the stranglehold they have on the planet, such as destroying key landmarks, freeing hostages, defending specific areas and just generally making life for the EDF as difficult as possible. These missions and sub-missions of sorts are marked on your map, and it's up to you how you want to tackle each objective and in what order, so you have the freedom to explore the planet in your own time.
You start off in one sector with only a few missions that you can partake in, unlocking more as you progress. As you complete tasks, you'll gain morale in that sector, so you'll find that later missions actually will have you being assisted by some of your AI team-mates, and the areas will be less populated by the EDF as well. By completing missions and doing the occasional bit of mining along the way (and by mining we mean, smashing up some ore here and there), you'll gain salvage, which is crucial to upgrading your weapons. There are plenty to choose from too; while you'll start with your basic sledgehammer, guns and remote mines, you can upgrade those to be stronger and more powerful, as well as getting much beefier firearms such as rocket launchers down the track. All the better to destroy things with, and that's the best part!
Any of the structures that you see in Red Faction: Guerilla can be demolished with relative ease, with some of the more complex structures requiring a little bit more thought if you don't have the ammo in your arsenal to do so. Sure, you could just smash the foundations of every building with your sledgehammer (which is pretty satisfying, to be frank), but you could place some explosive barrels around the outskirts of a building and then watch the fireworks display as they all explode in a wicked domino effect. Of course, remote charges are also fun to use, and lining up a few of them in the right places can sometimes work a charm as well. The bottom line is, whichever way you do it looks and feels awesome, and there are enough options in terms of destruction that you can always tackle things differently and experiment with different ways to topple the large buildings in front of you.
Taking on the EDF is often going to resort in being some sort of gun-fight, and Red Faction: Guerilla provides all the right tools to make the battles interesting. There are a variety of weapons, and if you're in close range, sometimes it works well to just use your sledgehammer to crack some skulls. You can take cover of course and also take advantage of your environment, causing rubble to fall on your foes or even running them over with the various vehicles at your disposal. The vehicles can be used as tools of destruction as well; after all, what better way to take down a building than to smash into it with a truck? The game also offers some 'alternate' means of transport, including mech-like creations and jet-packs - but going into detail about how much fun these things are could require a separate review, so just trust us when we say that they rock, big time.
Red Faction: Guerilla both impresses and disappoints in the graphics department. The amount going on at one time on screen is very impressive, the character detail is nice and the explosions and destructions look gorgeous. Watching a building fall in front of your eyes with explosions going off and gunfire zooming past is a nice touch. That being said, Mars is very... orange. There's not much detail in the landscapes, and while it's understandable that there's no shrubbery or interesting elements of a planet such as this, it would have been nice to see something to differentiate the scenery a little bit from the rocks and dirt. Buildings are also usually ugly grey structures, and while it does make sense to the oppressive world the EDF has created, it does get a bit repetitive. The enemies are also sometimes hard to recognise, given that your own team-mates sometimes blend in with them. We often found ourselves losing morale for accidentally smacking someone from our own side in the face with a sledgehammer. Oops.
It's also worth mentioning that the game features a pretty good amount of online fun as well. There are your standard free-for-all and deathmatch modes of course, but even these are jazzed up by special backpacks that contain bonuses like healing, jump-jets and upgrades to how powerful you are. Add that in with the fact that you can potentially create your own pathways to kill your opponents, and you never quite know where the next attack will come from, which creates a nice level of competitive intensity. There are also more complicated modes where as a team you must defend a certain point from incoming attackers, and the games are generally easy to get into with a pretty good matchmaking system, which is good to know for those who like their online gaming to have as little flaws as possible.
It seems when the development team sat down to discuss Red Faction: Guerilla, the main thing they were concerned about was making the experience exciting, cool and most importantly, fun. On this level, the game well and truly succeeds as one of the biggest riots available in gaming, and is a pleasure to play through from beginning to end. The game also succeeds on other levels too. It looks amazing, works pretty well as a competitive shooter and has enough creative spins on destroying things that the experience doesn't really get old. Some might argue that the game is 'samey', and on some level, Red Faction: Guerilla does come close to being a one-trick pony. The bottom line is, you won't really care; destruction for the sake of destruction has never been this much fun, and this is easily one of the most exhilarating games you'll buy this year.