Launched in 2001, the original Red Faction was heralded by critics and players alike for its innovative use of destructible environments. Dubbed "Geo-Mod" by the developers, the physics engine gave players an incredibly large amount of freedom to manipulate the world around them. While there were some artificial limitations for gameplay reasons, the vast majority of the world could be destroyed if a player chose.
Random wall in the way? Blast it. Want to sneak into a base? Tunnel underground. It wasn't perfect, but it was this inherent flexibility that drove Red Faction's success. The immediate sequel dropped the focus on environment interaction and instead featured a standard FPS style of play. Red Faction II was also mysteriously lacking in online multiplayer, offering only a limited selection of modes against computer-controlled bots.
Set 50 years after the original, Red Faction: Guerrilla picks up the story by exploring what happened after the liberation of the working class by the Earth Defense Force. At first, all was well, but eventually the miners realized that they hadn't gotten rid of their masters by eliminating Ultor, they'd simply traded one oppressor for another. Now, with the EDF attempting to remain in control of Mars mining operations, Red Faction has regrouped in order to drive out the occupying forces by any means necessary.
One of the key features in Red Faction: Guerrilla is an updated Geo-Mod implementation that the developers promise will entail more destruction than ever before. According to Clint Chapman, a global brand manager with THQ, Volition spent four years working on the destruction engine for Red Faction: Guerrilla. Every item in the game has mass, and all interaction is based purely on physics — there are no automated scripts driving the process. "If you can see it, you can destroy it," said Chapman.
This can make for some pretty neat effects, but it also means that players do have to be careful when leveling buildings. After all, falling debris can kill you just as easily as it can squash an opponent.
While you have maximum flexibility in devastation, simply blowing up everything won't win the war. For one, there is a lot of ground to cover. For another, the enemy AI is intelligent. If you flatten a base, the EDF troops will rebuild any necessary structures while you are occupied elsewhere. You can always come back and level the same base again, but repeated destruction results in less of a reward.
Progression throughout Red Faction: Guerrilla relies on the game's morale system. As you successfully complete missions, your reputation among the rebel miners will increase, and the morale of the occupying EDF forces will go down. A number of factors can influence the morale scores, so expect them to fluctuate over the course of a game. If you've got a high morale score, you're more likely to get assistance, while low morale means more dedicated EDF fighters opposing you.
Because the entire world is streamed on the fly, we were told that there will be no loading at anytime. You are free to explore the world at will and move from mission to mission at your leisure. In keeping with the open world aspect, both primary and side missions are given on the fly. Unfortunately, the developers wouldn't let us play any of the story missions, but we did see two side missions. One involved freeing some Red Faction prisoners from an EDF base, while the other required ambushing an EDF convoy.
What stuck out about the missions was the fact that they weren't presented in the typical "here's a set of objectives, go do it" style that you see in most games. Instead, the calls for help came over the radio, and the targets appeared on the minimap. Accepting a mission required nothing more than moving to the targeted area and completing it. If you choose not to do a mission, just ignore it. For the purposes of the demo, this organic approach seemed like a nice change of pace, but we are concerned that it is almost too organic and might result in players missing key information because a radio call came in at the wrong moment.
Combat has changed slightly from Red Faction and Red Faction II, as you're now fighting from a third-person perspective rather than first-person. Targeting feels natural, and the third-person view makes it easier to mount and unmount vehicles. It's also a necessity when you're surrounded by collapsing buildings and doing your best to avoid falling debris, and it's an asset while you're ducking for cover in a firefight.
Vehicle movement felt a bit squirrely, but given that the game is still a year out, there is plenty of time for Volition to tighten up the controls here. You have full freedom of movement with the vehicles, including the ability to hop in and out of any land-based vehicle, which includes everything from trucks, to armored cars to mining walkers. Sadly, the flyers are simply for looking at in awe, as none of them are player-accessible.
Aside from the main game, Chapman promised a full multiplayer mode but wouldn't go into any details. He also wouldn't talk about the mysterious Wrecking Crew option we saw on the main menu, aside from confirming that it is a destruction-based game mode.
For a game that still has plenty of time to get polished, Red Faction: Guerrilla is already looking promising. The big unknown at this point is really the story and how the primary missions play out. While roaming around and blowing up things in a few side missions was fun, there needs to be more than a cool engine to sustain player interest. We'll be watching this one with a careful eye to see how it progresses over the next year.
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