Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Release Date: Q1 2009
Red Faction: Guerrilla was one of the surprises of E3 for me, as I mentioned in my single-player impressions preview. It was the sequel to a frankly lackluster set of FPSes and didn't seem to be attracting much hype, so it came as a pleasant surprise when it turned out to be a boatload of fun. The only element of the game that I hadn't gotten my hands on was the multiplayer portion. Thankfully, confirming what I heard at E3, the multiplayer segment had already entered the testing phase, and it was just a matter of waiting. Only a few weeks after E3, THQ has begun an open beta for the Red Faction: Guerrilla multiplayer for gamers with an Xbox 360 and a gold account. After spending a few hours playing in the limited demo, I can safely say that Volition knows what they're doing, and Red Faction: Guerrilla isn't a game that is going to collapse under the weight of its own premise.
Guerrilla's multiplayer places you in the role of one of the two factions from the game: the Earth Defense Force (EDF) or the Red Faction. You control a generic member of these squads and duke it out for points, with the winner being whoever has the most points. The basic controls are going to feel pretty familiar to any shooter vet: The thumbsticks move and aim, right trigger shoots, left trigger performs a melee attack with your selected weapon, A jumps, B activates things, and so on. Guerrilla uses a Gears of War health system where your screen becomes more distorted and red as you take damage, and slowly heals as you avoid damage. A nice switch from the Halo two-weapon system is that you can actually hold up to three weapons at once in addition to your sledgehammer. To switch weapons, you hold down the right bumper and a menu pops up, with each of the four weapons bound to your face buttons. Press the button, and you switch weapons. You can even switch to your last-used weapon by simply tapping the right bumper for each rotation between weapons.
The multiplayer beta includes a fairly wide variety of weapons. Included are the usual shooter mainstays — machine guns, mines, the pistol, remote charges, rocket launcher and the shotgun — and they function exactly like you'd expect. A few other more unique weapons are available as well. The first is the Grinder, which I discussed in my single-player impressions and basically launches a deadly whirling chainsaw blade at an enemy. It's a bit slow and awkward to use, but it has amazing range and power if it hits. The Enforcer is a modified machine gun; it's a bit slower and weaker than the usual machine gun, but it features homing bullets, which are many times more accurate than any other weapon, except for the pistol. The last of the weapons you can pick up is the Reconstructor, which isn't exactly a weapon. The Reconstructor has no damage capability beyond smacking someone with it in a melee attack, but the beam it emits reconstructs any damaged structure. You can repair a wall to prevent enemies from firing through it, bring back a damaged sniper tower, or restore a damaged pathway. It is worth noting that this probably does not embody all the weapons that will be in the final game. The single-player demo I saw at E3 included some weapons that did not appear in the beta, and it is likely those will be present in the final build.
While the above weapons are useful, nothing is quite as fun as the sledgehammer, which is the one weapon you'll always have. It seems like a simpler weapon, and it really is: It's a big heavy hammer, and you smack enemies with it for a one-hit kill. As satisfying as it is to come up behind an unaware enemy and cave in his skull, the sledgehammer's primary use is as a tool, not a weapon. As in the single-player game, any man-made object — buildings, walls, water towers, etc. — is destructible by using either explosives or the sledgehammer. You can smash through walls to flank an enemy, knock down a building that an enemy is sniping on, or even drop things onto enemies. One of the best moments I had in the demo involved doing this exact thing. I had a group of three enemies guarding a pathway I needed to get past, and trying to shoot them would have led to my quick demise. Fortunately, the pathway was directly in front of a water tower so I used my sledgehammer to break the tower's support structure and tip it over, crushing all three of them beneath its heavy weight.
The more interesting of the two game modes available in the beta focuses on terrain destruction. This mode, called Damage Control, revolves around three objects scattered throughout the stages. These objects range from buildings to power emitters, and each team's goal is to capture these objects for themselves. It isn't quite as simple as holding a location, though. Each object begins as a bunch of wreckage, and by using a Reconstructor, you can rebuild it by slowly moving the beam over damaged areas to repair them. Once a structure is 75 percent repaired, it belongs to whichever team repaired it and begins generating points. Naturally, as with all man-made structures in Guerrilla, these structures are destructible. If an enemy manages to lower the object's stability to 25 percent or less, the team who controls it loses that object, and the enemy can try to repair it themselves. The goal of your team is to reach 400 points before the opposite side does. It's fun in a way that most "node capture" game types are not, simply due to the destruction aspect. It isn't just defending a point for a certain period of time or having to stand near an object to capture it; you have to individually break down each and every piece of an enemy's object to destroy it, and it is both satisfying and challenging, since not even a rocket launcher can destroy an entire building in one hit. The other game mode is called Team Anarchy, and it's one of those Team Deathmatches that you've seen in every shooter on the market: Two teams fight, and whoever kills the most of the other side wins.
One of the really neat features that I didn't get to see in the single player campaign is the addition of backpacks, which function as special equipment that you can use at will, each of which has a different set of abilities. You press the left bumper, and the backpack activates. For backpacks with lasting effects, you can deactivate the backpack by pressing LB again. Each backpack has its own power source that controls how often you can use it, symbolized by a glowing blue bar on the back of the pack. When you're not using the backpack, it slowly refills. In the beta, we saw a five different types of backpacks: concussion, firepower, fleetfoot, jetpack and rhino. Any non-melee attacks used while the firepower backpack is active had substantial damage increases. Concussion is a single-shot attack backpack in which a giant dome of concussive force bursts around your character, sending nearby enemies flying, stunning them, and making them an easy target for a follow-up hammer to the head. However, concussion can only be used when the backpack is fully charged, so it takes a bit of time to use in succession. Fleetfoot speeds up your movement, but the two backpacks that I foresee being the most popular are jetpack and rhino. With jetpack, you can fly around the stage, climbing on top of roofs or getting to normally inaccessible cliffs. Rhino is a single-use weapon that lets your character burst forward, destroying anything in his path. You can bowl over enemies, burst through walls like the Kool-Aid Man, and generally have an unstoppable feeling of power. It's not always effective, but it is always fun.
As with most FPSes nowadays, Guerrilla includes an experience system that rewards you based on how well you play. You earn experience points for repairing locations, killing foes, when your teammates kill foes, and completing the match. For each level you gain in Guerrilla, you earn a new form of Bonus EXP, which is a special form of EXP given to you for completing certain actions. For example, the first bonus EXP you get at level two is Assist, so that whenever you help another ally kill someone, you'll gain a bonus EXP point for the assist. Later on, you get points for melee kills, headshots, stopping killing streaks, destroy enemies with environmental objects, and so on. While the Guerrilla beta doesn't provide any other bonuses for achieving high levels, one can assume that something is in store for those who reach the maximum level, whether it's bonuses or achievements.
Having finally gotten my hands on Red Faction: Guerrilla's multiplayer just makes me more excited for the final game. While a lot of elements are the same shooter tropes that you'd find in any game on the market, the gimmicks that it brings to the table are an unbelievable amount of fun. Being able to go through walls, destroy sniper nests, or drop a building on an unlucky foe completely changes the usual shooter tactics, and almost entirely for the best. Surprisingly for a beta, the Red Faction: Guerrilla multiplayer beta was fairly solid. I encountered a handful of clipping problems, and there were some noticeable balance issues, but they were fairly minor in the overall scheme of things. Red Faction: Guerrilla doesn't hit until at least the beginning of 2009, which gives Volition plenty of time to fix these minor concerns. Assuming everything goes well, Guerrilla is shaping up to be a really fun title both on and offline, and my only regret after experiencing both is that I have to wait until 2009 to play more.
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