One of the final missions of Red Faction Guerilla asks the player to take lead character Mason to a building to use a computer. Emphatically over the in-game headset, orders are barked not to destroy the building containing the device.
It’s interesting because the players first reaction is one of confusion. The entire game, Mason has blasted through doors with a sledgehammer, fired a rocket launcher at support beams, and been challenged to destroy things as quickly as possible. When the order comes to leave something alone, it is almost offense to the game design, as if the story is suddenly sapping away the fun over the past eight or so hours.
Still, that’s one mission, and despite the brief weird looks at the TV, Guerilla is about destruction. Developer Volition has developed a stunning engine, appropriately titled GeoMod 2.0, an evolution of the system that began on the PlayStation 2.
Even if you figure out the basics, playing with the engine is pure bliss. Yes, buildings are divided into blocks in regards to their concrete exterior, but internally there is a lot happening. Barreling through a building with a dump truck (temptation is too high not to) reveals actual structure to the digital architecture. Not hitting key support beams will keep the building standing, although unstable.
Demolition side missions joyfully challenge the player to bring down towers, smokestacks, statues, and residential zones in record time, arguably the best part of the game. That said, Guerilla does play to its strength, and the majority of missions do focus on breaking things. Key targets around the extensive open world map are made to be blown up via a series of charges, mines, missiles, and the reliable sledgehammer.
Guerilla is the third game in the Red Faction series, following a rather awful second installment. This second sequel switches to a third person view, and drops the linear levels, both creating a drastically different environment to play despite the familiar Mars setting.
As with any open world video game, far too much time is spent driving (or running; Mason is a fast mover) from point A to point B. Mission objectives are frustratingly far at times, and until you purchase the ability to warp to safehouses, this problem is compounded.
The world map is split into multiple sections, each requiring a set number of missions to pass. One of the final ones, EOS, is unclear as to what needs to be done to trigger the last part of the story. It’s a frustrating waste of time unless you were lucky enough to purchase the proper item from the shop earlier.
Mechanically, Guerilla is sound. Shooting feels awfully familiar, particularly to players of BioWare’s Mass Effect. Gunplay is lifted directly from the latter sci-fi epic, and thankfully translates into well-designed multi-player. Here, various backpacks are strewn throughout the map, each offering various powers such as earthquake generators, shields, and more. The destruction engine means never having to worry about a sniper. Simply destroy the building under his feet.
The final challenge of the single player campaign in Guerilla has the player driving a tank through enemy lines, blowing up vehicles blocking your path. It’s here where you realize that while incredible in its scale, blowing up trucks and tanks doesn’t carry the sheer joy of seeing buildings crumbling on top of Mason.
The real issue with the game lies in that breaking things is far more enjoyable than the game itself. Trying to find new ways to take down buildings, friendly or not, generates a thrill and excitement the smooth yet generic gunplay fails to match. In fact, the infinitely re-spawning EDF troops trying to crush the Red Faction rebellion are more of an annoyance.
Some times, you just want to be left alone with your sledgehammer.