Gaming Today Impressions of the Red Faction Guerrilla Beta (Rampant Destruction is More Fun With Friends)
I’ll be honest: the name “Red Faction” brings up more memories of “meh” gameplay to me than most other series that have survived past one sequel. So nothing could have been a bigger surprise for me than when I was given a chance to play the new Red Faction Guerrilla at E3 and found myself completely blown away by it. Granted, my impression of it was probably helped along by the fact that the developers put me in a giant mech suit to trash the fully destructible environments with, but I was still left wanting more. Thankfully, now I’ve been given that chance with the multiplayer beta that launched on Monday. So does the multiplayer make as much of an impression as the single-player? In a word…er, “sweetjebusyesyesyes.”
Red Faction Guerrilla’s multiplayer has the potential for so many “holy crap, did I just do that?” moments that it’s hard to keep track of them all. In just a few days of play, I’ve done such things as turn on “Fleetfoot” to run up and smack a guy over a building with a sledgehammer, chase after an enemy by plowing through a wall, and — my personal, though rare, favorite — take out another player by bringing a building down on top of him. Much of the gameplay is your standard third-person shooter fare, but the destructible environments add a whole new dimension of strategy and frenzied action. The landscape never looks the same at the end of a match, and you find yourself having to accomadate to it.
Destructible craziness aside, there’s another aspect of the gameplay that sets this apart from other shooters: the backpacks. Each map contains several stations for players to pick up backpacks that give them special abilities. “Fleetfoot” for example, gives you super running speed for a short time, while “Firepower” lets you do more damage for awhile. The ones that are the most fun to use though are the backpacks that give you quick powers, like “Rhino,” which lets you charge through walls, and “Concussion,” which sends nearby enemies flying off their feet. Using these power ups well is really the key to success.
The weapons at your disposal though are the usual shooter fare — shotgun, machine gun, pistol — with a few notable exceptions. Anything that explodes — detonator charges, mines, rocket launcher — is of course way more entertaining than anything else. Really though, these weapons are only the most fun when used along with the backpacks or destructible buildings.
The two gameplay modes included in the beta are “Team Anarchy” (a.k.a. Team Deathmatch) and “Damage Control.” Damage Control mode functions like Battlefield’s traditional conquest mode, but with an added destructive twist. Each player is equipped with a “reconstructor,” which they must use to build structures on specific points of the map. Once you’ve captured a point though, the enemy must use their hammers or explosives to demolish those structures and build their own. Controlling more points gathers more tickets for your team, until one side wins.
The beta also contains three maps, which are virtually indistiguishable from each other, aside from a few landmarks. This is mostly because all of them are set on Martian surfaces, where everything takes on a reddish hue. A developer assured me at E3 that there would be some more colorful environments in the game, but apparently they left those out of this beta.
Sadly, the game in this state is also plagued with many of the same issues found in most betas: few people online to play with and sometimes laggy connections. You can’t even create your own custom matches, instead having to rely on a quick match or party system that don’t let you control what types of matches you’ll enter. For these reasons, even starting a match can take way, WAY too long, even during the peak evening hours. But of course, identifying these issues now is what a beta is for. The development team still has over six months to polish things up.
But all these issues are just more frustrating because the actual gameplay is a dream. This is the game we were promised years ago back when the term “destructible environments” was first uttered in gaming. Some of the basic aspects of the multiplayer, like toppling buildings and smacking people with a hammer, just never seem to get old. I’m happy to get a chance to take the multiplayer for a test drive, even though the remaining time till the game’s release is just going to seem that much longer now.