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Red Faction: Guerrilla Review

The original Red Faction achieved years ago a sort of visceral pleasure that gamers even today clamor for: massive, real-time, user-controlled destruction. Being able to create their own cover, their own sniping spots and their own escape routes through walls was nothing short of euphoric for thousands of gamers, and in many respects that level of destruction in a shooter had never been replicated. That is, of course, until Red Faction: Guerrilla came on the scene, a years-in-the-making sequel that ups the ante in most every regard.

Red Faction: Guerrilla, a shooter for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, eschews the ground deformation and replaces it with a level of destruction that’s much more rewarding: structural devastation. No, you can’t blow holes in the ground or in hillsides; instead, you can level entire buildings based on real-world architectural and engineering-based specifications. A few well-placed detonators or gunshots, and entire buildings come crumbling to the ground, always based on real-life physics and gravity.

What this destruction means three things for the combat in Red Faction: Guerrilla. First, it makes playing the game immensely more enjoyable than most run-of-the-mill shooters, because there’s not just strategy involved in deciding which targets in the open-world environment to take out first, but also strategy in deciding how, when or whether to destroy entire structures (ideally collapsing them upon squads of enemies). Second, it makes every combat scenario different, as the placement of charges and accuracy of gunfire truly does have an effect on how buildings fall to the ground or explode, keeping the gameplay fresh and the risk of “splash damage” always in the fore. But the third thing, as enjoyable as the other two may be, almost ends up being a detractor from the game: enjoying the structural damage so much that the actual shooter mechanics and narrative fall by the wayside entirely.

From a technical standpoint, this is obviously a good thing, because Volition’s dedication to creating a believably destructible world obviously pays off in spades. Honestly, finding new ways to blow up buildings is a blast, whether it’s secretly tossing a bunch of mines onto support beams and detonating them safely from a distance or planting a bunch of charges on a vehicle, driving it into an enemy base and jumping out at the last minute, only to detonate the vehicle once it’s through the gates.

However, from a holistic gameplay standpoint, this interest in destruction isn’t entirely favorable, because it makes the rest of the gunplay, mission structure and story seem weak by comparison. Volition does an admirable job in The Energy RC-Micro home theater system delivered the sound for this review.Red Faction: Guerrilla of trying to get players interested in weapons, primarily by having them collect “salvage” from the wreckage with which to buy new weapons and weapon upgrades as they stage a guerrilla resistance against the formidable Earth Defense Force. But regardless of the weapons at hand, it’s hard not to revert to one or two simply for their destructive effect on the open world’s structures. Likewise, Red Faction: Guerrilla tries to cobble together a story of revenge and conspiracy, but the game world’s cities/regions seem so similar — even as they’re spread far apart — that going from one mission to the next and one plotline to the next gets rather tedious. From here, the game just turns into one macro mission to find the next big building to blow up. That’s not much of a game, per se.

That is, not until you get online, which is where Red Faction: Guerrilla really comes into its own. The traditional game modes are here, all with the added intrigue of destructibility, but the best mode of the bunch is called Wrecking Crew, in which you get a bunch of people together to see who can do the most damage in a set period of time. In some respects it’s like the old Crash competitions in the Burnout games, but with guns and explosives rather than sports cards and semi trucks.

Graphically, Volition really knocks it out of the park with Red Faction: Guerrilla, especially considering all the processing that needs to occur to calculate all the real-time, physics-based damage. None of the character models, vehicles, weapons or buildings look as sharp as, say, Gears of War, but the complete package looks plenty crisp enough to immerse you in the action and make you feel like you’re actually blowing up buildings, not just creating orange pixels on a screen. There are some insanely long loading times, and the enemies look just as clone-like as they act, but Red Faction: Guerrilla is more about destruction accuracy than it is about graphical, and in that case, it delivers a solid performance.

That’s really a pretty safe description for the entire game as well. The destruction elements elicit juvenile-like glee, and if the ability to bring down buildings however you want doesn’t bring out your inner demolition man, then you’re probably playing your first shooter and aren’t due to spend long in the genre. There are definitely some missions structure, gunplay and narrative issues that keep Red Faction: Guerrilla from rising to the top, but when you consider what the game was trying to achieve, it’s hard to deny that it failed in any respect, and it certainly won’t let down anyone looking for a worthy sequel or a purely fun multiplayer experience.

Click here to buy Red Faction: Guerrilla for PS3 from Amazon, or click this link to buy Red Faction: Guerrilla for Xbox 360.

Score: 8.5
The best in-game destruction ever can’t make up for a few major shortcomings, but when a game is built to blow up buildings, it’s hard to find much fault when it does that so well. You’ll definitely overlook the shortcomings and focus on what this game does well instead.

— Jonas Allen

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