E3 2008: Hands On With Red Faction: Guerrilla
The first thing the art director for THQ’s Red Faction: Guerrilla told us when we entered the demo room was to just completely forget about Red Faction 2, which was perfectly fine with us. He then proceeded to show us a surprisingly polished demo that presented us with an open-world Mars to explore and, more importantly, destroy piece by piece. It may be because this is one of the first games at E3 I really got to spend some quality time with, but Red Faction: Guerrilla is already looking amazing. The demo we were shown (and later played) looked like a finished game already, but the art director assured us that they still had until at early 2009 to get the whole thing cleaned up. Our esteemed PR guy, Daniel, practically had to rip the controller out of my hand and remind me we had other appointments to get to; otherwise, I’d probably still be there now.
The game uses destructible environments in ways that have been touched on in past games, but never fully realized it seems. We were shown some examples of this as the main character used a sledgehammer and explosive charges to bring down a small storage shed (accidentally dropping the roof on himself in the process). Every chunk of metal and rubble looks very smooth as they tumbled in on each other, reducing some chunks of concrete to dust. The developers also demonstrated how each object has a specific weight that may even wear down a structure’s feeble supports over time. At one building located at the edge of a hill, he used some charges on the front line of support beams and then waited about ten seconds before the other supports started to topple and bring everything else down. Naturally, this can be used in missions to take out enemies — chunks of rubble that go flying will knock them down — or bring down specific structures in a more strategic way. Also impressive is the fact that these buildings will stay destroyed even if you come back to them far later in the game (excluding certain mission-specific structures of course).
Luckily, the wanton destruction is not without a purpose (other than looking really sweet of course). The story takes place 50 years after the events of the first Red Faction game. In that title, the EDF was the rebellious force you joined to fight against the oppressive mining corporations. Now the conflict has come full circle, as the EDF has grown into an oppressive corporation, and you’re now part of a guerrilla force trying to usurp their power. As the title suggests, your missions will have you weakening the EDF’s power and influence by making small, strategic strikes against them. This will have you destroying factories, stopping the spread of propaganda, stealing their vehicles, etc.
The whole game takes place in an open world that you’re free to explore at your leisure with no loading screens and plenty of space to move around in. This game moves the series into the third-person, which the art director explained was so players could have a better sense of space and avoid dropping buildings on themselves. Any vehicle you find can be stolen, and you’ll have a variety of miner and EDF weapons at your disposal. There will of course be missions to move the story along, but there will also be side missions, which you’ll receive randomly from other miners, asking for help in a raid and such. Completing these will build up morale points for the miners, and the more morale you have, the more miners you’ll get showing up to help you with your missions.
The highlight of the demo for me though was when they handed the controller over to me after they commandeered a special robotic mining suit (i.e. a big, freakin’ mech). The mech allows you to smash structures, flip rubble and vehicles into the air, or sweep out soldiers around your feet using the massive robotic arms. I knew my mission objectives for this part, but I kind of just ignored them. Instead I ended up just searching for buildings to destroy with glee. I could crush houses, sweep their supports out to topple them over, sweep out bridges from underneath them, or simply just walk straight through a structure, leaving a giant hole in your wake. All this also had enemy soldiers trying to fire upon me and scattering to avoid rubble. There are still a few AI kinks in the system — like soldiers that stand around like bowling pins waiting to be knocked over — but even this demo build had some better AI reactions than most full games. I also tried walking over a bridge, but the weight of the mech just caused me to fall through to the ground (the developers said they plan to implement an achievement into the game that has players walking straight across fast enough to not fall through). My favorite moment though had to be when I flipped an APV onto a group of soldiers that had just exited from it.
All in all, I’m convinced Red Faction: Guerrilla will be an extremely fun game, and I wasn’t expecting that. Just in the mech suit, I played for about 20 minutes and only left when Daniel reminded us we had to be somewhere else. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for this one next year.