June 3, 2009

Red Faction: Guerrilla - First Impressions

So, I didn't post anything yesterday, partly because I've been very tired lately, and partly because I spent the night (more of it than I should have) engrossed in Volition's newest title Red Faction: Guerrilla. In short, I have to say the game is a blast (quite literally, I suppose). If you like blowing stuff up or watching buildings crumble, just go pick it up, you won't be disappointed. Otherwise, I suppose you can read on, though I will try to keep this brief (so I can get back to liberating Mars myself).

The game clearly is cut from the same cloth as Volition's previous Saint's Row titles with a number of side missions (called "guerrilla actions") and optional destruction targets alongside the game's main storyline. In addition, red faction members will also occasionally call you with optional missions like attacking and EDF (the bad guys) convoy or protecting a red faction camp from an EDF assault. My favorite part about all the missions (main and side) is that they are very open-ended about how you do them, which is my favorite thing in a sandbox game. You'll often be tasked with taking out or protecting a target but exactly how you do it is up to you. I also appreciate the "guerrilla-ness" of the game, which I wasn't really expecting. When you start taking up arms against the EDF and start blowing up their stuff they take notice and quick. Enemy reinforcements are fast and numerous which really encourages well-planned, hit-and-run tactics (or at least fast improvisation). Kudos to the team for making me feel (and play) like a real freedom fighter. Very cool.

My favorite example of this is a mission where I had to save a group or miners under EDF house arrest. To start, I broke into the building (through the front door in this case), shot the guards, and untied the hostages. Looking out the front window I could see EDF troops making their way through the front door and more reinforcements on the way, so I threw a det charge on the back wall and blew it open and we all jumped down from there (the second floor) and ran out to my vehicle which was parked a little bit away near the road. We were able to mostly avoid the EDF troops that had surrounded the building, and the whole thing felt very clever, cool, and organic.

I only have a couple complaints right now. The first is that the story doesn't seem particularly long. I can't say for certain how long the game is, but there don't seem to be that many storyline missions, and liberating a whole sector doesn't seem to be the ordeal I would expect it to be. I've only liberated one thus far (which I think was mostly like a prolonged tutorial), so I may be jumping the gun, but I hope the rest of the sectors are far more difficult to liberate, otherwise I think it kind of kills some of the immersion.

The other minor, though frustrating point is that random guerrillas can't get in my vehicle. Once you rally enough support, if you engage the EDF you will gather random colonists who will fight with you. I want to be able to gather them and take them on a sort of improvised raid on the larger destruction targets the game has to offer. Unfortunately, they just won't get in whatever I am driving, so I have to start the raid by myself and just hope some of my friends decide to show up. It's a minor thing, but I would have much preferred to see something similar to the "homie" system from Saint's Row 2, where my loyal allies will stay with me until I release them or they die.

All in all I am really enjoying the game, and it kept me up far later than I should have allowed it. If you haven't checked it out already you should at least download the demo on XBL or the PSN.

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