Red Faction Guerrilla - Xbox 360
The protagonist, Alec Mason, arrives on Mars and joins up with his brother Dan, who happens to be involved with the local resistance movement, Red Faction, and suffers an untimely death at the hands of the EDF. Mason swears revenge, and sets off on a mission of jolly destruction.
Red Faction Guerrilla takes the open world concept laid out by many titles previously and ships it off to Mars, and you can't help but get the feeling that you've seen a lot of it before. Try crossing Mercenaries with Total Recall and you have it. The landscape of Mars makes it easy to have an "open" map, as it can easily be contained with rocky landscape that you can't drive over.
You will spend a lot of time in vehicles as they are both the primary method of transport and also play a large part in the variety of missions that are spread across the six zones. Essentially the game is a process of swinging each area into your control, but by undermining the EDF's influence in that zone and winning the hearts and minds of the local populace.
Entering a new zone will see things stacked in the EDF's favour, but through your guerrilla actions that lend the game its title, you start to shift the balance of power. To do this you basically lay waste to as much of the EDF infrastructure as you can. As civilian morale rises, they'll be more likely to rise up in arms and support you as you go about your destructive ways.
The main emphasis of the game is around destruction, featuring the much lauded Geo-Mod 2.0 engine which enables structures to be destroyed in hugely realistic way - watching a tower crumble from a distance is simple awesome. The fact that you can smash just about anything with your sledge hammer makes it all the more fun, accepting the fact that, well, you're smashing down steel and reinforced concrete with a hammer. On Mars.
But smashing stuff is immense fun and Red Faction Guerrilla is not really fussed about how you do it. Taking out a chemical processing plant? You could use mines, rocket launcher or even your car. In fact, taking out structure with your car becomes one of the fastest way of doing things, especially as the enemy gets on to your case and starts hurling everything at you.
The EDF come as various forms of troops, with a range of vehicles to drive into you with, which are easy to steal too. Like GTA, if the EDF bail out of their 4x4, you can run over and jump in, often whilst soaking up a few bullets. An alert status is indicated on your HUD, where green is safe, and you can roam around without risk, but when it gets up to red, the EDF pursue you. It is easy to lose that status though with a bit of driving or heading into one of the safehouses dotted around.
The enemy is not entirely without AI, they do in fact make good use of cover from time to time, so much so that it is possible to keep them pinned down. They also do a good job of hiding around corners, so sometimes reverting to the hammer is as good a way as any. There are some great rag doll physics here too, as bodies fail as you hit them hard. They do tend to just keep coming though - take them all out and more will appear.
Weapons aren't the most accurate, even in aiming mode, so it is mostly a case of spray and pray. Weapons can be upgraded, but they don't just fall into your lap, you have to work for them. As you go around the place smashing it to pieces, you'll be able to salvage the debris and take it back to base to be exchanged for upgrades. It's a system that works relatively well, and as the game increases in difficulty, you'd be encouraged to upgrade your weapons because you'll need them.
Difficulty seems rather variable, with some missions almost happening without thinking, such as the transporter "retrieve a vehicle from..." mission, which are pretty boring. Some of the others, such as destroying a particular structure or a guerrilla raid with your Red Faction buddies get pretty tricky. That's not a bad thing, but it takes a while to figure out what sort of game you are playing.
At times the full-on Rambo style approach is definitely called for, allowing yourself to take a few bullets in the process before running away. Sometimes, though, running head first into the action will get you killed time and again, when there is a better approach to be had by driving through the back of the building, laying some mines and getting the hell out of there.
But variety does keep things pretty fresh and you don't have to do everything, you can avoid particular missions if you want to, or change course halfway through if you find you're losing interest. The game auto saves and you can manually save if you wish, but when you die you respawn at the nearest safehouse. Reloading also puts you back there, so there is little benefit to be had in manual saves, irritatingly.
Aside from the main single player action, there is a hilarious Wrecking Crew mode, which means you can sit around with friends and have a few competitions seeing who can score highest with plenty of options to make it exciting. Online multiplayer is great fun too, with clever use of the backpacks aiding you in your task of cutting down your opponents.
VerdictOverall there is plenty here to get your teeth into here. The graphics are relatively good, perhaps lacking the sheen of some of the latest games, but it plays out well. There is unlockable content and a number of upgrades to keep you coming back and the free roaming nature means you can dive in and out of short or long gaming sessions.
The story might not be the most engaging, but at least you can take yourself off and blow some stuff up when you get bored.