Hands On Preview: Red Faction: Guerrilla (X360)

A video game demo can be a funny thing. On one hand, they can turn what you were considering as a Day One Purchase into a, “Maybe I’ll just rent it.” title. However, they can also make a game that you might otherwise ignore turn into something that you really pay attention to. Today I’m going to talk about Red Faction: Guerrilla, and which category it falls in.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Volition’s Red Faction series. This was the first game that really tried to address the question: “Why is it that a weapon that can cripple a tank doesn’t even bother a cafeteria table?” There has been some questionable design and gameplay segments that caused the first couple of games end up with more of a, “That was kind of interesting, but I don’t want to play it anymore” feel. In Guerrilla, however, I hit a man in the spine with a sledge hammer so hard that he slid fifteen feet and shattered a retaining wall. That made me start to pay attention.

The Hammer, currently not being used to cripple people.
The Hammer, currently not being used to cripple people.

Red Faction: Guerrilla
takes the action back to Mars. You play as Mason, a revolutionary who is struggling against the (and here I’m assuming, because the story is a little bare at this point) corrupt and vile EDF. Your mission takes place in the Dust section of Mars, where miners and other citizens are oppressed by the gun-toting EDF Forces. They actually are being oppressed. You’ll see a few of them harassed, shaken down, and even killed if you wait long enough after starting the game.

There are three segments to the demo. You’ll start on foot, and make your way to a hanger which is housing a Walker, a giant piece of construction equipment. Then you’ll smash some stuff back to a flatbed truck in the Walker. You will finish with a turret-based race against most of a division of EDF armored jeeps and make your escape. Let’s talk about the on foot first.

Action takes place in an over-the-shoulder method that is quite reminiscent of Mercenaries or Crackdown. This makes sense, as the game is an open world shooter. More on that later. You start out armed with a hammer, an assault rifle, and a bandolier of control-detonated explosives. Moving around and jumping is smooth. You can either swing the hammer overhead or sweep it from one side to another. You have a wanted meter that will affect the amount of forces that the EDF sends your way. I’m hoping for more of an explanation of how this works once I have the retail copy in my hands, but the system changes from a green to a yellow, and finally to a red lights. This is slightly easier to understand than a random string of stars. Your Threat Meter might mean just a few security guards, or it might be a squad that piles out of a Martian Humvee.

The projectile weapons are adequate. Nothing seems great, nothing seems terrible. One thing that I did notice that I really, really liked was if you are firing the pistol while moving away from the action, you don’t just back up and shoot. You run towards the screen while firing over your shoulder. Great idea, Volition.

The hammer is a lot of fun, and really fulfills the promise of hitting someone with a sledgehammer that always gets teased by your WWE Superstars. Against most of the soldiers I faced, it was a one hit, one kill device. Granted, I took a lot of hits from incoming fire while running up, but it is worth it. What made the segment great though was the explosives. The bombs adhere to wherever you toss them, and you can detonate them on command with a press of B. I played the demo over and over just to set up traps and awesome scenes with them. Since you can plant four at a time, I would rig a building in and out, making sure to plant them next to convenient hydrogen tanks for extra boom. Then I would take a few potshots at guards and go hide behind the building. The guards run in, I’d press the plunger, and another building would go away.

You can also hijack a vehicle and detonate the building while you drive away, in true Hollywood fashion. They blow up in sequence too, which I love. If you placed four of them in a row and backed up, you can watch a trail of blasts move across your screen. One more thing about the bombs: if you stick them on an enemy soldier, they will run around and panic for ten seconds before pulling the bomb off. It is hilarious to see.

Yes, it is very cool to walk away and then press the button.
Yes, it is very cool to walk away and then press the button.

So, then you get the Walker, right? Oh yes. It looks like a diesel powered Mech, and crushes anything in its path. I was amazed when I slammed the arms into a jeep and sent it flying into a building, which it crashed through, and then it finally hit a silo full of fuel and exploded. The jeep probably traveled fifty yards for this trick. You are an engine of destruction during the Walker phase, and I think that makes this a good time to talk about the GeoMod 2.0 engine.

If you played the first Red Faction games, then you know that there was a limit to what you can destroy, and how that kind of put a damper on things. Not any more. If you level a building, it is completely leveled. You can’t deform the terrain as much as you might want to, or really at all, but you can easily destroy any man-made structure you can see. It might take some doing, but a skilled demolitionist will be the bane of construction workers. The right positioning of explosives and structures will rain debris in glorious fashion, and flammable objects will burn sickly green in the (strangely breathable, maybe we’ve terraformed it?) Martian atmosphere.

Fear the Walker. Love the Walker
Fear the Walker. Love the Walker

The vehicle segment puts you on the back of a flatbed truck trying to outrun the guards. To aid in this, they give you an infinite ammo rocket launcher and plenty of people to shoot at. More fun with physics awaits, and a quick player can put a rocket into the front of a jeep, flipping it up and into the air, and put another rocket into it in mid air to send pieces flying everywhere. The graphics are smooth, and the framerate never stuttered. When we crossed a bridge and I saw the promo ads start to roll, I was disappointed that it was over.

Not everything is perfect, and it is a demo with a few weeks before launch. Some things will hopefully be tightened up. For one, it features a cover based system like nearly every other shooter these days. In this title, it isn’t nearly as seamless as Gears of War. Now, I also mentioned that the game is going to be Open World. I’m not a huge fan of that if something else is available. Sometimes I think it is a bit of a cop out. In this relatively small, one-area demo it feels a bit like “Gameplay trumps story,” but not everything can be Bioshock. The guns don’t seem as powerful as they could either. Also, the Multiplayer promises a lot of fun, but was nowhere to be found here.

Take this for a spin...and park it halfway through a building.
Take this for a spin…and park it halfway through a building.

Ultimately, I was more than willing to dismiss this game before I played the demo. After I downloaded it, I lost half my weekend to it. There is a lot of fun there for the taking. Driving a man’s body through a wall with a hammer never gets old. Do yourself a favor and grab the demo. You might just be adding another game to your summer gaming list.



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One response to “Hands On Preview: Red Faction: Guerrilla (X360)”

  1. […] the past month has been a smorgasborg for fans of the Sandbox genre of games. With inFamous, Red Faction: Guerilla and now Prototype all being released within a few weeks of each other, there is plenty of mayhem […]

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