Delayed Responsibility

I Shouldn't Be Gaming Right Now… But I Am!

2009 in Review: Red Faction: Guerilla

Posted by deckard47 on January 19, 2010

Lots of games purport to deliver an amazing, open-ended experience where you can go anywhere and do anything. They all do their best, it their little (and sometimes bug) ways do deliver on this concept. Red Faction: Guerrilla delivers on its promises of wide-ranging, highly destructible combat with style and skill. Of course, unlike other open-world games, RFG fails to provide any kind of compelling narrative, its world, while beautiful and convincing in its austere, Martian way, is often drab and unexciting. The people and ideas that populate this game are old and dying, close to the point of carrying on as some kind of unhealthy undead fiction. Of course, absolutely none of that matters after the first hour (or after the sixth or seventh hour, for that matter).

Playing this game, I wonder: how can games get away with the ancient non-destructible (or in many case, scripted destruction) environments. Watching something built by designers topple thanks to my hard work is unique feeling. Watching it topple again in a completely different way, just because I wanted to do it better, is something else entirely. Games like GTA IV, Just Cause 2, and Crackdown 2 (along with shooters like Modern Warfare 2) all feature outrageously overpowered ordinances and explosion-ready targets. It’s actually quite surprising that more games don’t license the technology used in Red Faction: Guerilla and the Bad Company series (the only other mainstream action game to use such effects), now that those games have attained such success. It isn’t a gimmick. When everything (but, sadly, the ground) can be destroyed, a player is encouraged, allowed, and thrilled to approach missions and map-traversal in new, exciting ways.

Thankfully, the rest of the gameplay isn’t bad at all. Cars drive with an appreciable Martian lack of heft, enemies are dangerous, ever-present harriers, most of the weapons are fun and punchy (or even better, explosive), and multiplayer perfectly translates the single player gameplay into fast, frantic bouts of wall-breaking, jet packing deathmatch (in fact, the game earns a lot of points just for the inclusion of an amazing jet pack). Really though, what makes this game impressive is the way that the player is constantly encouraged (by what she has seen, what the game has taught her, and the options available to the her) to solve tactical situations using less-than-average techniques. In fact, in light of this recent blog post over on BLDGBLOG, I’d like to recognize these wonderful parts of Guerrilla for what they are: liberating, exciting explorations of unorthodox, randomized destruction and traversal of ever-changing architecture. I’ve played all of the open-world, sandbox games (of this and the past generation) out there, and this is the one that actually feels fun and dew when I start it up after a long break. I never have to watch warehouses blow up in canned animations, and I never have to work with anything less than what I want. It’s an impressively liberating experience, and it is fun.

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5 Responses to “2009 in Review: Red Faction: Guerilla”

  1. Sparky Clarkson said

    Red Faction was one of my favorite games of the year, although I didn’t think its story and its vision of Mars were particularly compelling or well-conceived. However, what Red Faction gets right is that knocking buildings down is amazingly fun. My brother and I used to spend hours making elaborate buildings out of Jenga blocks and knocking them down with Hot Wheels, and this definitely keyed into the same pleasure centers. As I play the Saboteur, a game that is about blowing things up, I’m constantly annoyed by my inability to do real structural damage. Only certain things can be blown up, and they never damage the stuff they fall onto. Games have come a long way in terms of creating compelling environments. The next frontier is to make those environments truly interactive: malleable, changeable, and yes, destructible.

    • deckard47 said

      That is almost exactly the same thing my brothers and I used to do. We had duplos, and we used to destroy key structural supports (from a carefully built structure), trying to keep the structure up as long as possible, despite our destructive efforts. I haven’t played Saboteur, but any other game (like the awesome-looking Just Cause 2, and Infamous) just feels lifeless by comparison. I’ve always wanted to play Bad Company 2, just to see what it was like… Still, I bet BC 2 will be even more destruction-focused, so I’ll wait for that. What I forgot to mention in this post was Company of Heroes and Dawn of War 2. Those two games, even with their somewhat simplistic destructible environments, really draw me in. Playing other RTS’s (new or old) after those two games is boring. There’s not nearly as much tactical trickery to be had from the environment. I don’t know if I can go back to the old ways (although I guess we’ll see when the next batch of RTS’s hits.

  2. […] to open new avenues of attack onto sniper units for the first time, I couldn’t believe (and still can’t believe) that games can get away without including this kind of fluctuating, controllable terrain (this is […]

  3. Vegas said

    Red Faction: Guerilla was good because it had a game mechanic that sold the entire thing. Forget that it had a story, or even that it took place on mars, and it would still be a good game.

    I like to consider a game like RF:G a video game in its purest form. You play it because the mechanic is fun, and that’s all. The studio was smart to put in the kinds of weapons they did too, because that just multiplied the amount of fun you could have.

    I actually wrote about this game mechanic in a recent post I did on my own blog, if you’re interested: http://easymoneywill.blogspot.com/2010/02/what-makes-video-game-video-game-second.html

    I like what you’re doing here! Keep it up.

    • deckard47 said

      It was good at letting you play “just a game” for a long time… Still, I think part of its success was due in part to the way it took its flimsy plot (and your character’s terrorist leanings) and made it serve the gameplay, after a fashion. I should have a GSW article up about that, actually, quite soon. Thanks for stopping by, also, awesome to know you’re reading. See you around!

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