Red Faction: Guerrilla Review

By Jason D'Aprile - Posted Jun 09, 2009

The original 'Red Faction' was one of the most under-rated games on the PS2 (and PC) when it arrived. Offering an engaging story amidst a huge and destructible alien landscape, it further cemented Volition as an AAA shooter developer. The sequel, sadly, took the series off Mars and back to Earth, and proved amazingly lackluster. For the third in the series, 'Red Faction: Guerrilla', Volition has thankfully brought the action back to Mars, yet they've changed almost everything else.

The Pros
  • Huge Martian landscape to explore
  • Lots of missions
  • Excellent destruction-based gameplay
  • Great sci-fi atmosphere
The Cons
  • Goofy driving and destruction physics
  • Often incredibly frustrating
  • Much more linear that other sandbox games

Red Faction: Guerrilla Review--

The original Red Faction was one of the most under-rated games on the PS2 (and PC) when it arrived. Offering an engaging story amidst a huge and destructible alien landscape, it further cemented Volition as an AAA shooter developer. The sequel, sadly, took the series off Mars and back to Earth, and proved amazingly lackluster. For the third in the series, Red Faction: Guerrilla, Volition has thankfully brought the action back to Mars, yet they’ve changed almost everything else.

Get Your Ass to Mars


Red Faction: GuerrillaApparently, still in the open-world bliss after Saint’s Row 2, Volition felt the world needed yet another game for the now-flooded genre. Red Faction is an open world, third -person action game with plenty of missions and amazing opportunities for rampant destructive tendencies. Yet, beyond that, there are several key differences between it and the average GTA clone.

The biggest difference is the story and nature of your character. Just as with the original game, you play an average guy named Alec Mason who has come to Mars in search of opportunities. His brother is there, but it's instantly clear that things are bad on the red planet. The Earth Defense Force (EDF) has an iron grip on the place, and are rounding up and executing rebels where ever they can find them. The action has barely even begun when Alec's brother is killed by EDF troopers, and suddenly Alec finds himself a rebel in a war he never knew about.

A Man, A Plan, A Sledgehammer

Red Faction: GuerrillaThe set-up is pretty basic, but the gameplay is amusingly bent on destroying things for scrap. Scrap is the currency on Mars, and you get it by demolishing buildings, vehicles, and any other structure you find. Explosives are a great way to make a building collapse, but your trusty base weapon, the sledgehammer, is the real workhorse. It's a silly premise for gameplay and nowhere within the realm of reality, yet there's a palatable joy in hitting something until it falls over.

Aside from hitting things with a big hammer, there are plenty of missions across the huge Martian landscape. Mars is divided into five huge zones and the object is to remove the EDF's hold over each zone before the Red Faction rebels can safely move on to the next. In reality, you can drive around all you want through the enormous world, although until a zone is opened, you can't get any missions there. Missions include a lot of destroying EDF property-type goals, but you'll rescue hostages, race against time to stop informers, protect civilians, and discover the secrets of the pirate marauders who haunt the outskirts of the planet.

As you destroy EDF property and complete missions, the morale of the oppressed population will improve, and--provided you don't go around killing them--civilians will take up arms against the EDF. While the AI of both friend and foe is certainly not outstanding, it adds a nice layer of depth to see random inhabitants suddenly fighting by your side.

Straight and Narrow

Red Faction: GuerrillaAlthough each zone has a sizeable number of missions, including random missions that pop up on the fly, where Guerrilla really deviates from GTA, InFamous, and Saint's Row is that there's really not much in the way of moral choices here. Alec is a freedom fighter simply trying to help people while getting revenge for his brother's death. You can kill civilians, but aside from that, you can't really be a bad guy. And while there are plenty of routes to success and a ton of missions to pick from, your ultimate path is dictated by the overarching plot.

Another issue is the cartoonish nature of the action. The driving in the game is pure arcade, with bouncy, exaggerated physics. There's a wide range of vehicles, but most of them control like crazy dune buggies. Knocking a building down around you would seem to be a tactical error, but Alec seems mostly immune to wreckage, though he'll bounce around like a pinball when hit by a car. Finally, the missions can often overwhelm you with attackers and when combined with the wonky physics, lead to a lot of frustrating reloads.

Rounding the package out is the great multiplayer. The third-person action, fun weapons, and building deconstruction translate perfectly to a deathmatch or team game. Sneaky snipers now have to worry about the very floor beneath their feet. Campers beware. Players can also strap into a number of backpacks that allow for more destruction or protection. The Rhino, for example, allows you to barrel though walls, supporting structures, and fleshy opponents. A number of multiplayer modes also support constructing as a way to take over areas. It’s a crazy mash-up of tearing down and building up just to win the game.   

VIva La Revolution!

Overall, Red Faction: Guerrilla manages to distinguish itself enough from the competition to be a fun change of pace. The sci-fi atmosphere and destructive landscape are great, and there's plenty to do. While the story itself is fairly linear, the ways to accomplish your objectives are anything but ordinary. Grab a hammer and get out there. There are a lot of walls and even more heads to crack if you’re hoping to liberate this little red planet. 

By Jason D'Aprile