If there’s one thing I love Red Faction: Guerilla it’s that it has a relaxed approach to what constitutes a wall, and what constitutes a door. If I want to go somewhere and there’s a wall in the way, one hammer blow later and there’s a door. See? Unlike the real world, in Red Faction: Guerilla all problems can be solved by a hammer. Man trying to arrest you? Give him a swift thump with your hand mace and he will arrest you no more. Man with gun shooting at you, run up to him and then do the same. A pesky civilian driving a car that you want? Again, hammer. Oppressive corporation enslaving the populace? Hammer.
Actually, another thing I love about Red Faction is this: Apart from Mars itself, there’s nothing you can’t break with your hammer. Nothing’s ever really in your way in this game. There are only temporary obstacles, transient barriers to be navigated with extreme force and judicious use of your trusty tool.
I mean, it’s not even a very big hammer, and there’s no real explanation as to why a single blow can level a twelve metre tall smoke stack in a glorious slow, toppling explosion of fire and dust, apart from the fact that it’s the future, and you’re on Mars. There’s presumably a similar explanation for the mining tool that shoots circular saw blades, and the mining tool that shoots bolts of lightning, and for the mining robots with jetpacks that can send an armoured car flying with a single swipe of their great iron limbs.
Of course that’s before you get the nano rifle. It shoots nanites that melt people.
The revolutionaries you fight for, the eponymous Red Faction, have a brilliant strategy that seems to go something like this: If we destroy all of their buildings then they will have nowhere to live and will leave Mars forever! This is exactly the kind of logic I can get behind because it means the entire game is about destroying everything. And what Red Faction: Guerilla does better than any other game is give you the ability to genuinely blow up, smash and otherwise wreck every single structure. Total destructability is something that developers have talked about for ages, and the Red Faction series in particular has tried to pull it off in the weaker earlier iterations of the franchise, but Guerilla is the first time I’ve actually seen the dream properly realised. It’s a technological marvel and it is glorious fun.
The result is that action feels more freeform and dynamic. The game world is literally being changed by your every action. Nothing is scripted but the destruction that unfolds around you is so cataclysmic and unpredictable that it makes the whole experience incredibly dramatic.
I learned early on that vehicles are brilliant weapons. When charged with destroying a key enemy structure I decided to take route 1. I drove a vehicle very fast up a mountainside and launched myself through the air and through the wall of the building. I got out of my wrecked car, finding myself on the second floor with my vehicle upended, sticking out of the shattered ground. The whole building was creaking, ready to go, so amidst a hail of enemy fire I threw down some sticky bombs and detonated them as I leapt out of the hole my car had created. I landed just in time to escape the debris as the whole structure collapsed. I have never felt like such a badass in a game, and even as I made good my cowardly escape on foot, I couldn’t stop gleefully recounting what had just happened in my head thinking over and over again, you know what? That was fucking awesome.
Housemate and fellow Gaming Daily contributor Tom Hatfield and I were constantly swapping stories about missions that had gone wrong, or about that time one of us hammered an object we thought was a support pillar, but which turned out to be a huge fuel canister that promptly exploded, flinging us over the nearest mountain. A burst of laughter from the other room meant that one of us had just blown something up in a new and exciting way, or discovered a new weapon, or found that military mech that shoots infinite rockets. Such is the joy of destruction in a frivolous world with a brilliant physics engine. Two people can play through the game and get completely different stories because the Developers haven’t sat down and nailed out a series of experiences for you, they trust the player to have their own fun. It’s an approach I wholeheartedly endorse and in this case it has worked brilliantly. Put simply, Red Faction: Guerilla is the most fun I’ve had in ages and I’d urge you to give it a go if you have even the slightest urge to make things explode.