Red Faction: Guerrilla 5 Years-Later ReviewGuest_Jim_* -
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Red Faction: Guerrilla is an open-world sandbox game, and very much deserves the 'sandbox' descriptor. You are empowered to do just about anything to the world, in terms of destroying structures, large and small, with whatever means you wish. Explosive charges, rockets, vehicles, your sledgehammer, the nano-rifle, or a combination of these can be used to down almost any structure. Some structures and parts of structures are indestructible though, but these are not particularly common. If you need a hole in a wall or want to crash a building onto an enemy, you can do it how you want.
One issue with this destructive potential is that the game has no means of undoing this destruction. If you accidentally destroy part of a building or all of a bridge, you may be out of luck and left with a valley or a partially destroyed building. Maybe it is just me that does not like seeing partially destroyed buildings everywhere, but some means of reconstruction would have been nice.
Fortunately there is a way to rebuild, but the game does not offer it to you within the single player. There is a Reconstructor tool in multiplayer that will rebuild destroyed structures and objects (not vehicles though), and it can be added to single player with a mod. As it has to be modded in though, it cannot be counted as a positive for the game.
There are plenty of buildings you can destroy in the expansive world, but many of them you will want to leave alone. Only the EDF forces are your enemies and harming civilians drops the sector's morale. High morale makes it more likely for citizens to join the Red Faction and join you in a fight, and increases the resources you can find in ammo chests throughout the world. Without these chests, the only way to refill and swap out weapons is to go to a weapon locker at a Red Faction safehouse.
Boosting morale is not too difficult as the many side missions contribute to it. These missions can include rescuing hostages, stopping EDF attacks, stealing cars, putting your demolition skills to the test, and the Jenkins missions that have you do as much damage as you can. There are also some random-event side missions, which have you chase after couriers and hunt down EDF convoys. These all help with morale and can award you salvage, the Martian currency.
Morale is only one value that impacts the world, with the other being EDF control. Some campaign missions are only made available after reducing EDF control to a certain level. One way to accomplish that is to destroy target buildings. These buildings are often very well guarded though, as you would expect of military bases, so do not expect to always have an easy time of it. There are some exceptions, such as taking out windmills. These structures are spread out across an area, as are the guards, making it not too difficult to just drive around and knock them all down.
I am getting very close to what is my biggest criticism of the gameplay, but want to cover one other point first. The campaign missions have a fair amount of variety to them. Sometimes you just have to take and hold certain buildings and other times you have to drive through an artillery field or control artillery to protect allies. This variety makes it somewhat disappointing that once completed, there is no means to replay these missions, without starting a new game.
My greatest criticism of Red Faction: Guerrilla is that it really does not focus on the guerrilla warfare aspect all the time. Missions asking you to take out antennas to blind the EDF to a Red Faction convoy make some sense in terms of guerrilla warfare, especially as this is accomplished by driving through the structures. Stealing a walker confiscated by the EDF also makes some sense. Sabotaging the attack fighters would make sense, except that doing so requires you run into a military base, without support, and plant explosives while exposed for every soldier to shoot you.
Really the number of times you end up going against an army of EDF is ridiculous and hurts the fun of the game. You are not a match for armies, unless you take a vehicle, but then they have vehicles of their own, and powerful weapons capable of flipping vehicles while substantially damaging them. This causes some missions to feel like suicide runs, which may be necessary in an actual revolution, but not in a game. Fortunately there are some missions that can be completed without having to expose yourself. One, for example, requires eliminating certain targets that are all in the same building. Instead of charging into the building, and its security, I stood on top of a nearby hill and sniped at it with the nano-rifle. By taking out the correct support beams, I caused the top of the building to fall, crushing everything below it. This left one target alive, but it was easily eliminated with some more sniping. All of that I did without raising my alert level one notch and is what I want to do as a guerrilla fighter.
As I said, some missions feel like suicide, but they can all be completed with skill, luck, and the right weapon load out. (Rocket launchers are not always your friend, but they will never be your enemies'.) This is perhaps best demonstrated by the playtime, which involves another incidence of me finding something after completing the review playthrough.
When I started up Red Faction: Guerrilla, I looked around to see if it records playtime anywhere. It does have a statistics page, but when I looked at that I could not find it. Turns out that along with the two clearly labelled sections to the statistics page, there are also two pages to the main statistics page (one is statistics and one is achievements). That second page contains the game-recorded playtime. Because I did not see that originally though, I recorded my playtime externally, with a stopwatch. When I discovered the in-game stat, I was annoyed at first, but then I realized what a happy accident it was.
According to the stopwatch, it took me 13 hours and one minute to complete the campaign, and multiple, but not all, side missions. With the remaining side missions and collectibles, I could see that time growing significantly if you are a completionist. The play time reported by the game, which is recorded in the save game, reported just 10 hours and two minutes.
Why the three hour disparity? I did not make any serious mistakes with the stopwatch after all. (There were mistakes where I forgot to start it, but I was able to correct these mistakes because I had looked at a clock before I started that play session. Even if I had not corrected the time, these errors would have dropped the playtime.) Remember what I said about the playtime being recorded in the save game? That means that every time a save is loaded, the playtime of that save is loaded, and Red Faction: Guerrilla resurrects you by reloading the most recent auto-save. Those three hours the stopwatch recorded were not recorded by the game, because I died and lost that time with the reload.
Of course death and respawn/reload is a part of many games, but for it to represent a fifth of the time spent in the game seems a bit much, especially when most death is caused by being overwhelmed by an army of enemies. At least it does tell us that you can expect a ten-hour playthrough, even if you are an amazing player that never dies, plus or minus time spent on side missions.
Sadly, Red Faction: Guerrilla lacks strong replayability. There is some replayability, but it is not as strong as if it had a New Game+ playthrough or the ability to replay any campaign mission (or rebuild any structure to have another go at leveling it). It does have cheats you can enable, which can allow you to go a bit more crazy with explosives, but they disable saving. Of course it is fair to not let someone progress by cheating, but at the same time this makes the cheats little more than an 'oh, that was fun' addition, and not something that really adds to the game.
I should probably also mention that Red Faction: Guerrilla has Games for Windows Live integration. Every time I launched the game I had to wait for GFWL to startup before loading a save game. Though it may not take long to load, it was irritating to have to wait. Beyond that though, it had no impact on my experience. It has been reported that Nordic Games is working to remove it for the collection.
With all of that said, Red Faction: Guerrilla still offers a fun and enjoyable experience around its flaws. One could easily pour many hours into it, beyond the campaign, as they try to master every side mission and find every collectible. Oh, I guess I forgot to mention collectibles. They exist and really that is about all there is to them. The ore deposits will give you salvage and the radio transmissions can unlock some rather lackluster MOABs. Somewhat forgettable, really.