Red Faction: Guerrilla 5 Years-Later Review
Reviewed by: Guest_Jim_*
Reviewed on: May 13, 2014
Finally back to games released less than ten years ago! Like the games before it, Red Faction: Guerrilla, originally released in 2009, will be included in the franchise collection Nordic Games will be releasing in the near future. If the collection sells well enough, the former-THQ franchise may be revitalized with a new game from its new owners.
Red Faction: Guerrilla significantly changed the Red Faction series when it was released, as it pulled the first-person camera out to third-person, traded the linear experience for an open-world sandbox, and upgraded the engine for even more destruction. The first two games were built in Geo-Mod engine, which allowed for the arbitrary destruction of objects and the environment. This game sports Geo-Mod 2.0, and it increased destructive capacity, as buildings, walls, and fuel tanks can all be leveled. The ability to reshape the environment, however, has been lost.
In Red Faction: Guerrilla you play as Alec Mason, a man who just wanted a normal life on Mars, but is pulled into the fight between the Earth Defense Force, or EDF, and the Red Faction. After the events of the first game, which brought the EDF to Mars, it declared martial law and makes it just as cruel of a master as the Ultor Corporation it helped remove. Now you must fight to free Mars again, and finally end the suffering of its people.
Red Faction: Guerrilla has an M rating for blood, violence, and strong language. If this content is not appropriate for you, then this review likely is as well. None of the content within this review has been censored.
Should we fight to free Mars again, or let the fate of the red planet continue on its course? Read on to find out.
When a new game is released, it is not uncommon to find major graphical issues in it. As patches and new drivers come out, typically these issues will be fixed for newer games. For older games though, if an issue appears long enough after release, as the result of new drivers, for example, the likelihood of it being fixed drops significantly. That has happened to Red Faction: Guerrilla, and that forced me to make an awkward decision.
For the purpose of writing a review, I will always try to play a game at best settings, so screenshots, videos, and my own impressions of the graphics are of the game at its finest. At those settings however, Red Faction: Guerrilla has issues with buildings, cars, and characters (including yourself) blinking in and out of existence. Also light sources, including the Sun, will shine through objects, blinding you at potentially inopportune moments.
From what I have found prior to playing the game, there is a fix we users can employ, and it is to run the game in DirectX 9 mode instead of using DirectX 10. Unfortunately certain graphical options are only available under DX10. This forced me to decide between playing the game so that I can see everything, or playing the game so it looks its best. I decided upon the latter, so the included screenshots and videos are showing Red Faction: Guerrilla at its finest, though they may also show off the issue. My reasoning behind this decision is that not everyone who plays the game may experience this issue and that it would not be fair to the game to compromise its appearance in the media.
(DX9 screenshot on the left. DX10 Screenshot on the right.)
Of course when I continued researching the problem after the review playthrough (and after I wrote the previous paragraph) I found another solution that does not require playing without DirectX 10. By uninstalling Windows Update KB2670838, the flickering and lighting issues I described can be fixed. This update is apparently linked to installing Internet Explorer 10 and 11, so if you use a different browser, it should be safe for you to uninstall. I tested it, and it does appear to fix the problems. (Why can I not find this stuff before I start a review playthrough?)
With all of that covered, we can get to how the graphics actually look. Even for a five-year-old game, the graphics look okay. Running around Mars, there are really only two things that will jump out as not looking very good, and they are the ground textures at short distances and vegetation.
If you try running up a mountain, or for some other reason have the camera near the ground, you will see how low resolution those textures are. To be fair, the scale of the world should impose a limit on our expectations, but that does not prevent us from seeing it. The vegetation is similar as really, there is no vegetation. Driving or walking around the map will reveal a very barren environment, almost devoid of vegetation and other objects. Outside of cities and settlements, it is not common to see much of anything. Granted, this is set on a recently terraformed Mars, but there really is not that much out there but the occasional boulder and skeleton of a destroyed vehicle. This probably will not jump out to you much, but it is the case. This can probably be chalked up to the size of the world and what was technologically possible at the time.
One thing you will see in a number of places is dust. Depending on the area you are in, you can look up and see dust being blown by the wind everywhere. It gives a good explanation for why there are no convertibles in the game.
The destructible structures fortunately do look quite nice, save for the resolution issue I just mentioned on the broken edges of the debris. Ram something with a vehicle, explode it with a charge or rocket, or just hit it with your sledgehammer and it will crack and crumble in a most satisfying way. Of course it does leave you wondering about the building code on Mars, but this game is not about regulations. There is one thing about destroying structures that is kind of weird, though. Mass can be lost between the original building and the rubble left behind. This is most evident when you cause something to collapse, as much of it can just vanish into the ground.
Considering how many explosions you can cause in Red Faction: Guerrilla, it is a good thing that they actually look quite nice. Sparks are thrown far and wide, with plumes of fire behind them. Explosions do differ, based on what is blowing up. Sometimes burning debris is launched far into the air for a cinematic appearance. Eventually you can also unlock a special rocket that creates a massive ball of fire, obscuring the destruction it causes, until the debris comes crashing down.
At one point you will unlock a nano-rifle, which fires shots that dissolve just about everything, including walls and people. Vehicles generally take a few shots from this, but will eventually disappear into nothing. The dissolving effect is entertaining to watch, as it really does look like numerous, glowing nano-machines are eating away at something.
There is really only one fluid to speak of in Red Faction: Guerrilla and that is fire. Typically when you find it, it is a piece of debris being consumed, and not a larger conflagration. Though it may be small, the fire is pretty good, with the flame burning bright at its base, and dispersing out in wisps. Around the base there is also some optical distortion, which adds to its liveliness.
Time to get to the performance, so here are my computer specs:
- Processor: AMD A10-5800K @ 4.40 GHz (44.0x100)
- Cooling: Corsair H110
- Motherboard: ASUS F2A85-M PRO
- GPU: EVGA GTX 770 2 GB
- PhysX: EVGA GTX 570 1280 MB
- Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 4x8 GB (32 GB total) at 1866 MHz 10-10-10-27
- PSU: OCZ Fata1ty 750 W
- OS: Windows 7- Professional 64-bit
I was able to run the game at its max settings under DirectX 10, except for motion blur, which I turn off as a personal choice, and never saw it stutter or drop below 60 frames per second. Even with large amounts of debris everywhere, it still ran without a hitch.
Aside from the issues I mentioned at the beginning of this section, there were no bugs to speak off, so we can get straight to the section conclusion.
At five years old, Red Faction: Guerrilla is showing its age, largely with the low resolution of the ground textures and a general lack of population throughout the world. The former can be pretty easy to notice, but the latter may go unnoticed by many players. Both of these can be easily forgiven as you will want to spend most of your time in the well-populated areas, as that is where you have things to explode and destroy. No matter how you demolish something, it will be quite satisfying and have you hunting for the next target.
(Taken from a video, which is why it may look blurrier than the others.)
Red Faction: Guerrilla takes place fifty years after the original game, and throughout it you will find references to the earlier title. Sectors are named after heroes of the older titles, and the enemy of that game is also brought up multiple times. The largest reference to the game that started the franchise is the Earth Defense Force, or EDF.
At the end of the original game, the Red Faction called in the EDF to help them defeat the Ultor corporation. In the years following, the EDF built terraformers on Mars, making the surface habitable, but also became oppressors, like those they had helped kick out. Anyone suspected of being part of the Red Faction is hunted down and executed, along with those around them. Tools necessary for work that can be considered weapons are confiscated and used as evidence that someone seeks to harm the EDF.
The game starts with Alec Mason coming to Mars, hoping to start a new life as just an average person, doing a job, living their life. However, his brother, Dan, has become involved with the Red Faction. Soon after Alec gets some practice with his explosives and hammer, Dan is stopped by the EDF and killed. Alec soon finds the EDF searching his and his brother's home, where they find his explosive charges. He points out that as a mining engineer, he needs those charges for work and has permits. The EDF does not particularly care though, and things quickly escalate to the point of a gun being placed in Alec's face. That is when the Red Faction arrives and rescues him, so whether he likes it or not, Alec is now a member.
From this point on, Alec does just about whatever he is asked to do. This could be rescuing people, taking out an EDF base, or whatever else will weaken the EDF's control and enable the Red Faction to liberate the sector. As the Red Faction gains strength, the EDF grows more desperate and sends its great battleship, the Hydra, to Mars.
At first the ship's mission would seem to be to squash the Red Faction by intimidation or obliterating them from orbit, but really it has a different purpose. The nanoforge is an advanced piece of technology the marauders of Mars had been protecting, until you take it. The EDF want it and its great power, and if exterminating all life on Mars will get it for them, that is what they will do.
While the story of a rebellion standing up against a great enemy to end obsession is not exactly a new story by any means, Red Faction: Guerrilla does a good job telling it. It does its job of grabbing your interest pretty well, making you want to complete one campaign mission to get to the next.
Outside of the campaign missions, the story is not necessarily told much. Rescuing prisoners and defending safe houses fit into the story well, but do not necessarily add to it. The Jenkins missions, however, definitely do tell a story… a story of Jenkins' insanity.
These missions consist of riding around on the back of his heavily armed vehicle, firing rockets and trying to cause as much destruction as possible. Along the way Jenkins will compliment your handiwork and share his thoughts on everything. I do not want to spoil it for you, but rest assured that he is probably the weirdest character in the game.
Altogether the story is pretty good and does its job. It will hold your interest and motivate you to move forward, and probably give you a laugh or two every now and then. At the end of the day though, this is the story of a game focused more on its gameplay than anything. To put it another way, I sincerely doubt one would replay the game to re-experience the story because once you know it, you can move on to blowing things up again.
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.
Additional Game Play Images:
(The right image demonstrates the issue I covered in the Graphics section.)
Is Red Faction: Guerrilla a game worth playing five years after release? In my opinion it is. It definitely has its issues, but nothing too horrible, and what it allows and empowers you to do is still a lot of fun. Want to drive a truck through a building? Go ahead. Topple a building with just a sledgehammer? Get swinging. Be driven around as you launch rockets at anything and everything? Warm up your fingers.
Red Faction: Guerrilla is one of the best sandbox games I know of, with all it allows you to do. It is not perfect, as missions can have limited avenues to victory, but the destructible nature of just about everything is a feature that makes it unique. If you are looking for such an experience, definitely play this game do some damage.