THQ has recently released a single player demo of their upcoming Red Faction: Guerrilla, either through a free copy of Qore on the PS3, or receiving a code by pre-ordering the game at your local Gamestop. I say go ahead and lay your $5 down, even if it makes the wait worse for the full game to ship in early June.
The story, conveyed in movie trailer fashion, is of a man coming to Mars in search of opportunity, and only finds people oppressed under the tyranny of the EDF. An underground group known as the Red Faction are seeking to bring an end to this injustice, and naturally the main character gets caught up in their fight for freedom. Accomplishing this mainly by blowing up everything in sight.
From first contact, Red Faction is a well polished third person shooter with all the goods you've come to expect, such as sprinting, regenerating health, precision aiming, and wall sticking. Sucks to be the average guard though. You hide behind some nice sturdy concrete to avoid incoming fire, only for some maniac to rush at you with an axe, taking out you and the wall in one powerful blow. Or planting explosives all over the nearby guard tower to bring it crashing down to Earth... or rather Mars. Or driving a truck straight through your break area, and smashing the fridge. You can't even store fuel properly without this guy taking shots at it, and blowing up the whole depot.
As the player, you become that maniac.
If I had one serious problem with the multiplayer beta months back, it was the Gears of War style blacking out the screen when you're low on health. So you couldn't see a thing at near death, removing any possibility of a fighting chance. 'Just give me a life bar!' I shouted on their message board, never ever believing anything would be changed. Well, Volition took care of it. They greatly reduced the screen shading while providing a discreet life bar that makes it clear just how badly you need to book to cover. I also had a minor problem with the vehicle handling when I played at last year's E3 that I didn't really mention to anyone. They fixed that too. Now driving a van straight through a structure as it collapses all around you is nothing but pure joy. The vehicles have a serious range, from these weakass carts that can't even ding concrete to monster walkers that can stride straight through a two story structure, and suffer no more than scratches on the paint job.
The big gimmick of RFG is that every man-made piece of scenery, from signs to silos, can be taken down in a realistic manner, peeling away walls to reveal support beams and other load bearing structures. Bring those down, and watch the whole thing creak before it comes tumbling down. No other game comes close to this level of destruction, and all the ways you can pull it off. Looks amazing in the process too. Rich texture work, strong light and shadow models, dust and other particle effects, object blur... pure onscreen chaos with no sign of tearing or slowdown. All of this taking place in a truly massive world that the demo shows only the tiniest fragment of.
Personally, I can't wait to see more... and blow it sky high.
Last Update: 8/07/08
I was lucky enough to get into Red Faction: Guerrilla's public beta, and it's clear the devs have been taking notes on what's worked and what hasn't in the online arena. Your journey to Mars begins in a party system similar to the one in the Halo series, where you can join up with friends or throw your name into the match-up system. There are a number of playlists to choose from, and the game will first seek the bare number of players for that list and drop in any more than come along within the time limit. There doesn't seem to be drop-in and drop-out play, which is a little disappointing. The system also can't seem to migrate the host when a user drops. When a game does get going, though, there's little-to-no sign of lag, even when the surroundings are blowing sky high.
It's a third-person shooter that moves a bit like Lost Planet with fixed aiming. You've got your main weapon, your repair tool, your trusty sledge, and explosive charges. Any of these initial slots can be swapped for whatever you find lying around, and it's a snap to switch between any of them. Jump, crouch, melee ... pretty standard stuff there. Weapons range from assault rifles and shotguns to gleaming saw blades of death. It's pretty bloodless, though. The destruction is everything they've promised, and the maps have plenty of walls, buildings, and other obstructions to smash up, but what really sells it are the backpacks. There's the jet pack to reach high places, the run boost, the concussion wave to send people flying, firepower to power up your weaponry, and rhino to smash through walls, Juggernaut style. All the packs are useful in accomplishing the game's objectives and just plain fun to play around with.
Team Anarchy (just another name for Team Deathmatch), and Damage Control are the two modes I've spent a good chunk of time in. No matter which you play, your allies are always clearly marked by a blue circle over their heads that will pulse when they're under attack. If you get a clear view of an enemy, they'll be labeled in red, but it's a pretty good idea to shoot anyone not blue and ask questions later. Anarchy is self-explanatory, where the best way to improve your kill score is to stick with the shadows and surprise your prey by running straight through a wall. In Damage Control, there are several towers scattered over the map that have to be destroyed and rebuilt to start accumulating points for your team. Little tip: the repair tool is RB+Y. If you keep wrecking the tower your team is building by pressing the wrong button, they aren't going to be too happy with you. The only thing I'm seriously unhappy with in this beta is the use of "damage blur," popularized by Gears of War, instead of a clear life bar. Two hits here and you can't see anything here, so survival becomes a matter of pure luck rather than skill. They should really just give we players a life bar instead.
Win or lose, your get experience points for whatever you did on the field, from helping to accomplish objectives to assisting in a kill. This adds up to increased levels and unlocks. All that I've been unlocking so far are other playlists, but considering this is a beta it's hard to judge how this will go in the final game. There are only a few maps so far, ranging from small to medium, and all filled with buildings and other clutter. I'm hoping the final game will also feature much larger maps that make use of the vehicles shown in the single-player game. In any case, I think with just a few minor tweaks Red Faction could be the multiplayer game to play this fall.
Last Update: 7/21/08
The original Red Faction was an FPS with a unique twist, allowing players to smash walls and deform terrain to their advantage, though there were always restrictions where and how much they could bash their surroundings.
Not anymore. In Red Faction: Guerrilla, every building, bridge, and tower you see on the dust-strewn surface of Mars can be smashed and demolished, and not only for fun. Dropping a load of concrete on the heads of unsuspecting enemies has its own rewards, but the AI here isn't deaf to the sounds of creaking supports. They'll flee a building on the brink of collapse, and might even bring your own hiding place down upon you. These structures are composed of real world materials, so chipping away at the concrete of a bridge might just make a small pile of rubble, but attach a few explosives to its metal frame, and watch the whole thing give way as it would in real life. You need to be careful of what you destroy, though. Taking out an EDF base will shift the territory in your favor, but blowing up the homes of peaceful citizens will only strengthen its hold.
Yep, the Earth Defense Force are the villains this time around. It turns out that after fifty years absolute power does drive leaders to form forced labor camps and seize the property of the suffering populace. The main character is just a miner minding his own business when his rebel brother is killed and the property of both men is taken away, forcing this young man to raise his mighty hammer in revolt. As part of the Red Faction, he's modified his miner gear into weaponry, from explosive charges to jacking up his grinder, launching deadly disks at unsuspecting enemies. You can also claim dropped EDF weapons, but scarce ammo makes them limited and powerful. If you're out of bullets, you can always ram foes with one of the game's vehicles, such as two-seater motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, and of course tanks.
Red Faction: Guerrilla is eleven square kilometers of harsh Martian terrain with no artificial restrictions place on where you can go, but I wouldn't recommend that jaunt deep into EDF territory if you don't enjoy being blown to sub-atomic particles. There are twenty-two story missions fashioned to ease the player into the next threat on the horizon, but if players want to skip ahead, it's their choice. They can also clear the path with a number of mini missions, such as destroying key EDF installations and assassinating top level VIPs. This shifts the control of the region to the Red Faction, and makes it easier to invade the next with the local citizenry offering information or their own arms in battle. Through all of this, the destruction is persistent. So it might be fun to blow up every bridge in sight, but don't forget when you're racing away from an EDF patrol, or you might end up at the bottom of a canyon with that patrol on your head.
The sixteen-player multiplayer will offer all the classic modes of team anarchy, bagman, and capture the flag, but there are two new modes to take advantage of this destruction. One leaves the Red Faction breaching multiple barriers in order to seize control of an EDF facility, while the EDF busily repair those sagging defenses. The developers mentioned one match where the EDF laid low, allowing the Red Faction to delve into their territory, only to sneak around and seal them in from behind, resulting in shooting fish in a concrete barrel. Another mode has players destroying and repairing communication towers, where holding out for the longest nets you the most points - though the destruction alone changes up how these multiplayer games play out. Is there anyone who hasn't been annoyed by a sniper up on high, unreachable ground and raining death down on your teammates? In Red Faction: Guerrilla, a few well placed charges make his perfect sniping spot a memory. There are also special power-ups called backpacks, giving players a brief burst of power, like allowing them to demolish a building Hulk style. There are also a few party games added in to take advantage of the engine, including a Jenga-with-explosives where hitting the sweet spot might net you the big points, but it might also expose an even better spot for your rival to destroy.
It's fun to wreck things. I knew it even before the controller was turned over to me. Controls both on foot and at the wheel were very responsive, while placing charges just to see how a particular tower would tumble never lost its charm. The scale of the world lets you take down enemies pretty much as you choose, and the multiplayer offers something truly unique in an online landscape choked with team-based shooters, resulting in a truly current-gen title that's also a blast to play.