It's been a while since I posted a game review, partially due to life catching up with me, and partially sticking with some old favorites on the PS3. Then two weeks ago I got Red Faction: Guerrilla used from Gamefly for $5 after some rebates. I'll pay $5 to try a game, not too worried about wasting that money, especially when the online media made it look fairly yummy.
So what's it all about? If I had to summarize the game in three words or less it'd be: "Communist Sci-fi GTA".Yes, I cheated by using some abbreviations, but still, that sums it up quite nicely. The game starts out with you meeting your brother on Mars, sometime in the not so close future. Mars has been colonized by Earth, and is controlled by a military group named the Earth Defense Force (EDF). They maintain control and security because at this point in the future we've ravaged Earth's resources, and we have to get our metals from Mars.
Of course, the game wouldn't have a plot without strife, and naturally the EDF has taken a turn for the totalitarian regime. This regime manifests itself in the typical ways, forcing workers to work long hours, illegal search and seizure, and, of course, executions. Naturally this angers you in the bottom of your 'just wanted to come and earn a living' soul, and you join up with the Red Faction. Red Faction being the stereotypical worker uprising, complete with pick-up trucks for APCs, mining tools for weapons, and cheesy lines on the underground radio broadcasts designed to uplift the huddled masses.
Enough about the background, you'll learn all that and more in the opening cut-scene, how's the game play? I liked it... a lot. I'd even go so far as to say I loved it, if in a guilty-pleasure kinda way.
The controls were for the most part intuitive and par for the course for a PS3 game. A few tidbits caught me, such as having a more accurate look at your targeting reticle be a toggle, rather than just a mode you'll drop out of after releasing the button. My biggest concern was the variance found amongst vehicle controls. In a normal car R2 goes forwards and L2 goes backwards (mostly). If you get into a car with a turret and shoot, it'll track to the nearest enemy... sorta. But, let's say you get into a tank? Now left thumb stick moves you forwards and backwards, right thumbstick is turret control, and you shoot with L1/R1. Oh, you're in a walker? Well if it has jump packs you'll be using the X button, though if it has rockets those will be L1/L2... ARG!
A unified control scheme there is not! Thankfully, the 3rd person perspective was as I'd expect, and most ordinary vehicles behaved correctly, most of the time.
In a word, "fun". If I got two, perhaps "non-so realistic," but I'll stick with "fun". This game uses the Havok engine, which allows for a lot of fun stuff, such as an almost completely destructible environment. You can't impact the ground, but just about every building, vehicle, and sign can and will go kerblooey if met with sufficient force.
The buildings react fairly correctly, as far as I'd know having never taken down a building using det mines and a well placed dump truck. They teach you throughout the game how to take down buildings using more and more elaborate means, but basically if you find a building supported by anything, take out the anything and it'll crash down. They crash in the direction of the supports you removed, and if you're quick enough it'll come straight down.
Vehicle physics... not so good. Throughout the game I had issues with vehicles. I couldn't figure out why, but backing up in a car seemed it or miss. I always had to gas it a little forwards, then switch into reverse to get moving! Plus, you can climb many, many surfaces that you shouldn't be able to... things that are 75% grades that let you drive up them, for instance. Sure, "it's Mars" but still, all you ever had to do if you were stuck, was turn your tires slightly, and hit the gas. This technique, plus a dump truck, levels most buildings in fairly short order. Further, there were times I'd somehow ramp a vehicle over a small bump and find myself achieving darn near escape velocity, in my opinion. That said, it was awesome the time it happened on my way into an EDF camp and I smashed through a few buildings before coming to rest.
Overall, the physics were fun, and I'd say the quirks actually added to the fun, rather than detracting from it.
The graphics weren't at the level of some games that can, say, load a new level before you drive across a continent, but they were quite good considering some of the vistas you can look at. Mars is fairly well done, lots of red, lots of dust, and, uh, somehow a breathable atmosphere. You can even stumble across the Mars rover if you go hunting for ore deposits, and no... it's not destructible .
The buildings are not very varied. After you destroy 5-10, you'll know exactly how to take them down in 30 seconds or less.
The plot was kind of a typical Sci-Fi deal... you have colonists, oppressive military, easily predictable twists, but enjoyable overall.
Combat I'm torn on. On the one hand it was fun once you started building up a repertoire of weapons. My typical load out for most of the game was my sledgehammer, det mines, grenade launcher, and an assault rifle. That let me deal with infantry (rifle/sledge, and yes, you'll use the sledge the entire game, and no, it never gets old), armor (mines/grenades), buildings (see previous), and buildings (all of the above). The controls for combat made sense, although felt a little simplistic coming from a lot of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
My big issue was the difficulty. I played through on 'Normal', but even then I was dying a... freaking... lot. What's more, I got the feeling the game was designed that way, as the death penalty was measly in my opinion. Not that I'm bothered by frequent deaths, but when the loading times after a death were 30 seconds or a minute, I'd keep a book on my table just in case.
And the last level? Let me just say this flat out: Take your time, do it right, it's designed to kill you.
One of the game's strong points to me. There are a few main types of missions (Raids, Defense, Convoys, Couriers, and Heavy Metal). Heavy Metal was my favorite, and a great example of the diversity in the game. The basis is just "Kill X amount of Y EDF," where X is a number between 25 and 150, and Y is a vehicle or soldier. Sounds simple, but every one is different. In one you get a rocket turret, in another a tank, in a third a combat walker. They never get old. The same holds for raids, where you go in to either blow up a building or kill all defenders so they can blow it up. In some missions you'll hit an office building, or maybe a garage, or maybe a warehouse type building. Bottom line is while, yes, you can easily solve them all with one well placed theremobolic rocket, you'll need to adapt to the situation as you reach it.
Overall I'd recommend the game off of Gamefly or used. I'll probably keep playing through (after beating the game they unlock a harder difficulty, and reopen all the missions to replay), so I'm glad to have my own copy. I can easily see this game becoming repetitive to some, and others getting annoyed at the vehicles and their controls, so maybe don't buy it right off.
There's a lot I didn't touch on for brevity's sake, and I need sleep. Salvage that you blow stuff up to get to upgrade your gear for instance. But then, some needs to be left up to the reader to find out.
Oh, and if you're looking for a multiplayer game, keep looking. I've spent a full two minutes in the lobby queue without enough people to start a game.