Impressions | Red Faction: Guerrilla

It’s just now starting to get talked up, but apparently in the midst of the puerile flame war that erupted over various publications reviews of inFamous and Prototype, a third contender in the “best open world game of the year” competition quietly slipped through the cracks. While fanboys and bored Internet trolls were busy tearing their favorite publications to shreds over 1 point differences in scores, Red Faction: Guerrilla was quietly receiving better scores than both from most of the major publications.

In light of this startling development, I decided I’d give the demo a spin.

The demo can be completed so quickly that it evoked memories of a certain other demo. Still, short as it is, this is one of the most effective demos I’ve ever played. I know exactly what this game is about, I know how it plays, and I like it. I like it a lot. So much so that I played the demo 5 more times.

The most important achievement the gameplay interface accomplishes is that it gets out of your way quickly. You’ve got your shoot button, your cover button, and the ability to switch weapons, and all these functions are taught and learned quickly. The HUD is simple, obvious, and direct. The objectives are clear, and there are plenty of ways to achieve them. Everything I saw in this super-short demo suggested that the game was all about enabling you, not obstructing you. The obstructions are the enemy soldiers and the buildings in the way, and you have a big-ass hammer, not the interactive systems. It’s amazing how often the latter becomes your true enemy in a game.

Plenty of games have boasted fully destructible environments, but RF: G appears to have actually hit the mark. I couldn’t find a single edifice that couldn’t be leveled with a little effort. It wasn’t until the fifth or sixth building that I noticed that the walls I was tearing down had actual structural depth. Some walls, for example, are supported byrebar, and require some extra effort to dismantle, large chunks of concrete breaking off with each swing before the rebar finally crumples. There’s an attention to detail here that’s unobtrusive but effective.

There’s a quiet precision to the game, an excellence that you only notice in hindsight. The controls are at that pinnacle of excellence where you quickly forget about them. All the mechanics are quiet, allowing you to focus on the importance of leveling every structure on the planet with your hammer. Or truck. Or bombs. Whatever. Even the fact that it’s a sandbox game is understated. At no point do they expressly state that the game has an open world, but at the end they show you an in-close satellite “YOU ARE HERE” photo, and then pull way out to show you the entire game world. I’m not a big fan of the open world scheme, because it tends to be directionless, but suddenly I wanted to explore every cranny of this map, uncovering secrets and smashing crap.

Your mission in the demo is to a) find a giant fighting robot, b) steal said giant fighting robot, c) smash things with said giant fighting robot, and d) drive away with said giant fighting robot. I played through the demo 6 times using different routes and different tactics. Frontal assault. Stealth mission. Demolition derby. Murder spree. Sight-seeing. Everything I thought to do, the game provided. The only thing I couldn’t do was ride in on a pink unicorn, but really, that’s asking a bit much.

5 minutes of gameplay got replayed for 30 minutes, and I had a ton of fun. I’m looking forward to playing it for review (if GameFly can be coaxed into sending it to me).

Worst thing about the demo? The main character’s name is Alec Mason (he’s got a big hammer, and knocks down buildings). It’s not Edge Maverick or Isaac Clarke kind of bad, but it’s still pretty bad. What is this, Dragonlance?

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~ by Matt Altieri on July 2, 2009.

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