Red Faction: Guerrilla – The Verdict

Red Faction: Guerrilla – The Verdict

rfg 2009-09-18 01-17-06-87

If you like smashing stuff up, Red Faction: Guerrilla is the game for you. It sounds like an obvious statement – and it is – but this is a game that truly relishes in you causing more complete and utter destruction upon Mars than Handy Andy ravaged upon the song If I Had A Hammer back in 1999. Previous entries into the Red Faction franchise have been first person shooters, but wisely Volition have taken the move of making the latest game into an open world game in a similar vein to their previous game, Saints Row 2. The move makes a lot of sense, after all why impose a linear path on a concept based on making your own?

So the game itself then – playing as a new recruit to the Red Faction on Mars, your mission is to basically break as much stuff as possible, with something resembling a plot around avenging the death of your brother and bringing down ‘The Man’ – in this case the Earth Defence Force – by smashing his stuff up. Completing missions and other tasks gains you favour with the local population, making them more inclined to drop what they’re doing and take up arms to join the Faction. These missions consist of, primarily – blowing stuff up, destroying buildings and generally making a mess – as expected. It’s not an overly fantastic plot, as is the case with most of these open world games. It doesn’t really need to be mind, but the game doesn’t really try and make a big deal of trying to cover it up. But by the same token, you never really feel connected to the characters at all during the game nor really finding yourself caring whether or not the Red Faction prevails. In a game like this it’s not a big criticism, but it’s worth noting what might be fairly obvious – people looking for a game rich in story would do better to look elsewhere.

rfg 2009-09-18 01-19-27-87

Visually the game makes it very obvious that you’re supposed to be on Mars – it’s very dusty and very, very red. Some criticism could be levelled though at the fact that unlike Saints Row 2 a lot of the areas feel a bit bare and barren. Of course, you can argue it’s Mars and it’s supposed to be like that, but it does mean that going between destinations can be a little uninspired. However, in the areas that are populated, massive props (is there a pun there? If so, let’s pretend it was intended) goto the Geomod engine which really does a good job at making the destruction look and feel suitably solid and satisfying when you do start smashing stuff up. Some people have reported it’s fiddly to get the settings right, but personally I found settings that worked on my rig (a 2.1 Ghz Quad with a GeForce 8800 and 2GB of RAM) fairly quickly, with only some slight slowdown during acts of mass destruction.

The main problems with the game are in the controls. Credit where it is due, technically it is a pretty good port working fairly well with both keyboard and mouse as well as gamepad. However the driving model doesn’t quite feel right – most vehicles don’t seem to have a great turning circle and I found myself using the mouse and keys for on foot action, with the gamepad for driving. This proved most irritating on missions where I had to escape from many angry men shooting at me because I’d broken their clubhouse or something. Also combat can be infuriating at times, simply due to the lack of any sort of lock on button. There may be aim assist and I agree I’m certainly not the world’s best shooter by far, but on Normal I died far too many times simply due to the lack of being able to aim at people accurately, even when in cover. And woe betide you if your cover gets smashed, I found trying to recover my aim like trying to wrestle in treacle. It’s a game that is badly missing some form of lock on feature for playing on any difficulty higher than the easiest setting. The friendly AI can also have moments of absolute stupidity at times which can prove disastrous on escort missions or even just for getting in your way while trying to take a shot.

rfg 2009-09-22 17-23-38-32

Looking at the positives, the destruction is great and manages to remain fun for the entire game, and there’s something about being able to make your own door into any building. The weapons get ever more explosive and satisfying to use and the faction idea itself (do missions well and people support your cause, even taking up arms to join you) is brilliant. But Red Faction’s main trump card is something that took me by surprise – it’s the multiplayer. Once you get over the fact it’s the infamous Games for Windows Live system, modes like Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Team Deathmatch are there as almost standard multiplayer fare (more on the almost later) along with Bagman (hold onto a bag for as long as you can) and of course, destruction based gamemodes. The dash of genius comes in the Backpacks found in the multiplayer game. Each one gives a certain buff, whether that’s super speed, invisibility, a jetpack or just the ability to bash down walls with the Rhino pack. The caveat to these awesome powers is that you can only have one at a time. It’s a system that helps to develop a kind of class system into the game, with a well structured team being able to support each other well and even the single player modes as the player can find the best backpack to match their particular playstyle. I dare say I’ll be getting a lot of play out of the multiplayer for some time to come.

rfg 2009-09-18 01-27-02-81

A bit of a mixed bag then overall, I would definitely say this is a game worth hazarding a purchase on while waiting for the heavy hitters later this year – the single player has a few flaws but they are of the sort that will depend on the player to how frustrating it gets – I would recommend playing it on the easiest setting and enjoying the ride of smashing something up. But the multiplayer has the fun coming out of it in spades and is truly the hidden gem of this game. It’s a good game, but there is a certain something stopping it from greatness. Obviously depending how much you love smashing stuff up will have a massive factor on your enjoyment of this title. And unless you’re dead inside, that’s probably a lot of you.

A Pretty Good Game
Enjoyable, but more bowling ball than wrecking ball. Great multiplayer.

12 thoughts on “Red Faction: Guerrilla – The Verdict

  1. Did I just read a review for a PC game.. In which the reviewer complains that there isn’t an automatic aiming lockon feature?

    .. Furthermore, did said review completely ignore half the game’s content and all of its depth?

    This is so much more than just ‘blowing shit up’ – the game is made to be played on Hard, where ‘guerilla’ activity is necessary, where you have to actually play sneaky to survive and cannot prevail against endless guards.

    The core of the game is in being outnumbered and outgunned by a superior force, using upgradeable weapons and improvised tools to make quick hit and run attacks. Only on Easy can you play it any other way; which is why I the reviewer must have died so often.

    Think before you play – you were told by ingame characters many many times not to try to go toe to toe with the foe.

    If this were a mainstream review on a more established site I’d email the editor and file the opinion that the reviewer is not doing his job.

    In case of any accusations of fanboyism – I’m a regular reader here, and yes I did love this game on Xbox when it was originally released – but my only motivation here is to see that The Reticule maintains the same quality of writing that drew me here in the first place. This brief summary failed to tell me anything about the game’s content beyond the fact that the reviewer can’t aim, prefers ‘smashing things’ to atmosphere, depth or the myriad variety of methods you can use to complete each mission.. And simply doesn’t appreciate one of the most technologically innovative games we’ve seen released in the mainstream for.. years.

    … Seriously! O.o

  2. I’m sorry but whether you’re supposed to go toe to toe or not, I found the aiming to be far too counterproductive even with my mouse on top sensitivity and aim assist on I could barely shoot at anyone well at all, and I mean even on just getting rid of one or two bad guys in order to destroy an objective. I mean, I said I’m rubbish at aiming anyway, but even on a game like Resident Evil 5, which also doesn’t have a lock on, I can still hit zombie’s head fairly well. Running away as an option worked occasionally, but more often than not I had to dispatch a fair few guards anyway, especially on rescue missions, or the AI of the hostages would run rather unhelpfully into the fire of the enemies or in my way. The game may tell you not to go toe to toe, but honestly, I tried playing the game more stealthy and considered and encountered exactly the same problems. Heck, I could aim far better on Saints Row 2, and that was the same developers and I don’t think that had a lock on either. The destruction is very good but for me personally, the guns were not.

    As for your point about much more than ‘blowing shit up’ – I’m afraid I’d have to disagree with you on this as well. Here’s a list of the basic types of missions in the game:

      Raid: Kill as many of the EDF and blow their shit up.
      EDF Assault: Stop the EDF from blowing your shit up. Usually by blowing up their vehicles.
      House Arrest: Rescue hostages.
      Interception: Blow up messengers, steal their stuff, escape.
      Convoy: Blow up a convoy,
      Collateral Damage: You ride shotgun and try and blow shit up.
      Heavy Metal: Blow shit up to distract the EDF
      Transporter: Transport something.
      Demolitions: Blow shit up.

    Out of those, only Transporter and rescuing hostages isn’t really blowing stuff up. From my perspective, that’s primarily blowing it up, granted there are various ways of blowing stuff up, but overall that is all you are doing.

    I admit, it is a fairly negative reading review, although I don’t think it’s entirely a bad game at all. Just for me these were the main faults I found with the title that stopped it being brilliant. Agreed it may be technically impressive, but for this review I was concentrating on the game more from a gameplay perspective.

  3. I have to agree that the aiming and shooting leaves something to be desired. The target reticule is horrendous and makes it a chore at times to take on the enemy. That is why I don’t play it as much as Batman or Resi Evil at the moment really!

  4. Jakkar: It’s *totally* just about blowing shit up. In fact, it was only when I realised this that I began to absolutely adore the thing. Take it for much more than a technologically advanced, wonderfully dynamic shooter where things explode for a whole multitude of different reasons, and it starts to feel a little shallow. Take it as just that, and it’s a riot.

  5. Strange. I might have to acquire the PC version to check this out – for my curiosity, could you describe the aiming problems in a little more detail? It might make a good addition to the review text, as without meaning any offense it does come across immediately – (I’ve shown the articles to a few friends, who agree) – as whiny.

    I can’t imagine what they’ve done to a third person mouse aiming system to make it quite that difficult but I do recall a few port jobs that leave thumbstick based mouse-acceleration on. I had to do a little config-editing to stop Deadspace feeling like Isaac was very, very drunk – slow, heavy, totally unpredictable and uncontrollable aim, as though the gun weighed 50lbs.

    With regard to ‘just blowing stuff up’ – I played Hard, then replayed on the unlocked final difficulty mode, and found that the challenge was far less to ‘blow everything up’ – rather, to blow anything up without getting shot in the process 😀

    The emphasis is only in mass-destruction in the ‘minigames’ – the extra-curricular activities that comprise the majority of the numbered missions but only account for a small proportion of actual game time.

    I think of the Raid, Assault, House Arrest as a seperate category, given that they’re each uniquely programmed, and involve creative thought and a real struggle to complete while maintaining a solid atmosphere. The number of ways you can accidentally crush the hostages by zealous demolitions.. Is alone enough to suggest it’s not just about casual destruction.

    Many of the buildings can be seen as puzzles – the Demolition minigame shows you how study of a target can reduce the amount of time and ammunition required to bring it down.

    Maybe I just get into the atmosphere of a good game more than most people, but I found RFG to be a thought-provoking, challenging game when played in accordance with the atmosphere and on a decent difficulty level.

    My sympathies for the aiming problems – I imagine they could have ruined it, and diminished the whole experience. I hate thumbstick aim myself, but couldn’t wait for the PC version (or indeed afford it – I use Lovefilm rentals) – and found the aiming system to be among the best I’d encountered on Xbox. I could snipe effectively. With.. with thumbsticks. This is bizarre.

    Didn’t mean to come across as offensive, but I remain adamant that this review comes across -whether deservedly or not – as whiny and overly casual. There are a lot of details unfairly ignored – such as vehicle combat, the random attacks by the ‘third faction’ that really complicate some missions and make them a lot more entertaining, the ability to destroy bridges to alter enemy routes prior to a mission, to create roadblocks using vehicles and debris – the detail of rebel camps, the artstyle of the third faction.

    You could also warn people the end mission is agonisingly godawful. I was lucky to be warned in advance, which prevented by controller going out the window 😀

  6. “Lastly, aiming turrets can be frustrating- it feels like they forgot that PC gamers use mice- there is no acceleration. They made it too sensitive to aim well, but slow enough that it takes too long to spin the turret 180 degrees. This is despite the fact that aiming with your character works perfectly. ”

    Quote from a 9/10 user review over on Metacritic for the PC version – he describes the issue I’ve had with several recent 360-to-PC ports, but applies it only to the turrets and claims on-foot aim is perfect. Could this be a variable issue? DeadSpace PC’s problems were fairly rare, few players seemed to be experiencing the same issue with aim I also had to disable V-sync in order to stop all inputs having a .5 second delay, despite perfect performance.

  7. Another bit of spam for you – feel free to delete these additional comments once you’ve read them.

    One help thread on gamespot (gah ._.) briefly described Ambient Occlusion causing some terrible mouselag, only for another user to immediately argue that he uses it without a problem. Have you tried disabling that or the ‘sun rays’ – both are new graphical options added exclusive to the PC version, and AO in specific has caused me some very unusual performance issues on other recent games.

  8. Personally (I can’t say for Ben) but I found the the target reticule was the worst part of the game (apart from my sound issues) as it lacked any sort of ‘focus’ on a target, it would just sit there nice and big while I shot. I felt really disconnected from the shooting.

    Also checkpoints and autosaves? Gargh!

  9. Pretty much agree with you there Chris, the lack of focus was pretty much what I was getting at when I said I felt like I needed some form of locking on system.

    I agree it reads a bit of a whiny review – I make no objections to that – but that’s genuinely how I felt coming away from the game, a lot of maddening almost baffling problems seriously spoiling my enjoyment of what is essentially a pretty decent game.

  10. Honestly, the targetting never bothered me, seeing as my weapons were: Giant 1 hit kill hammer, giant 1 hit kill axe, giant explodey death RPG (which I also used to kill the final boss with before he’d even managed to finish of his dialogue) and the 30 explosive charges (which are also hilariously fun when you get then stuck onto an enemy, try it!)

    Oh, and did anyone else have the problem that A) You’re supposed to hate a villain who’s entire personality comes from a cutscene where he’s essentially told “let the big boys handle this” and some garbled lines on the final mission which you can’t hear over the explosions anyway?
    or B) The fact that potential love interest was a terribly 2-d character who had a terrible accent. I don’t know if it’s real or not, but sweet jelly-belly jesus it grated.
    or C) The mauraders make NO SENSE, either in their motovation or their weaponry. Think about it, they should be better armed that that.
    or D) Jenkins.

    Oh, and your brother has way to awesome a voice to die that early. Booo!

  11. @Nerfball – Haha, yea melee weapons and explosives certainly seem the best way to play the game 😀 Loved hitting the EDF with the hammer!
    Can’t believe the brother was killed so early, I know it was to advance the story, but he was cool!

  12. I didn’t see her as ‘potential love interest’ – but I guess I prefer to blank expectations and avoid feeding the tropes.

    Melee was handy, but the best way to get yourself killed on hardmode. Perhaps second best, after ‘standing still at any point while making the EDF angry’.

    On the other hand, you’re playing a demolitions expert miner, a man who has never had firearms training or experience before this point. I guess that might explain his rather hazy grasp of aiming ;D

    When I replayed on Insane, I found the game was both easier and more entertaining if I avoided guns altogether, and solely focused on hit and run car-bombings, hijackings and escapes. They just aren’t time/cost effective for one man against an army. Stick to blowing stuff up and running away =P

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