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Home » Featured, Previews

Hammer Time! Red Faction: Guerrilla – demo preview

Submitted by on Friday, 17 April 20094 Comments

Red FactionWhen mankind does finally get to set foot on Mars, you can bet your bottom dollar that the intrepid explorer’s trembling space-suit supported foot will not belong to a European.

Not that we’re knocking the ESA; we’re just fairly confident that the aforementioned foot will belong to a man (or woman) called Bud, Travis or maybe even a Yang Liwei. Though if she’s called Bud, we probably don’t want to meet her.

Showing signs of supreme prescience, THQ have stepped forward and, wishing to compensate us Old Worlders and our fledgling space program with a gift, they’ve granted some Europeans with early access to the Red Faction: Guerrilla demo through the use of a “space lottery“. (Note: not a lottery, go get your demo code now!)

At 773 MB in size, the download is chunky enough to provide enough meat for those still on the fence about whether or not Red Faction’s impending sequel is worthy of a punt but also not too excessive that all of the surprises are let out of the bag. For instance, we’re still itching to get our hands on those jet-packs.

But is it worth your time and, in a couple of months, your hard-earned money? Let’s find out.

Mars – Desolate. Factional. Red. We’re all eager to get there and check out the dusty planet for ourselves but, thanks to THQ’s terraformed virtual version, we don’t have to wait and can experience life (and death, over and over again) on the red planet now.

We should mention that we’re basing this preview solely on the most perfunctory of time with the demo. This is very much an early impression based on one man’s brief foray into Martian conflict after a long day of writing up reviews and the usual demands of helping the good ship PS3 Attitude along its merry course. Sometimes first impressions are what count of course, so treat this as a “what will I think after playing the demo for thirty minutes” type affair.

The modus operandi of any demo, and we’ve said this before, is to entice potential purchasers over the line and into the “will buy” category. And, after some brief moments on Mars spent hitting things with our hammer, driving over bad guys and generally causing as much havoc as humanly possible, the jury is back with the all-important answer to whether or not Red Faction: Guerrilla is worth both your time and money: and it’s a resounding “yes”.

Writing this preview, we can address two separate and slightly different camps: those who played the original Red Faction games on the PS2 and those who haven’t but are still interested in the concept of open-world sandbox game-play and generally blowing stuff up.

Robo-guy frequently lost when playing Jenga

Robo-guy frequently lost when playing Jenga

For the former group, Red Faction: Guerrilla will sometimes feel familiar yet oddly alien. After all, gone is the previous games’ first person mode, replaced now with the less immersive (though just as effective) third person perspective with some perhaps lamenting the loss of the old viewpoint.

The familiarity comes from the game’s main selling point – fully destroyable environments. Of course, in the previous games, the presence of some “voodoo rock” meant you couldn’t put everything under the hammer. Thanks to the increased processing power of the PS3 however, this “geo-mod” technology has been greatly advanced to the extent that a vast range of Martian infrastructure is now capable of being smacked about a bit before ultimately crumbling to the ground.

As the video below shows, this system allows for navigational short-cuts (jumping through walls), offensive tactics (knocking out the support structures of buildings housing enemies above) and general mass destruction; all of which the demo offers in abundance.

Those worried that the environmental destruction trait is a one-dimensional trick pony needn’t worry however, as the game-play also contains a fluid and intuitive control mechanism, some welcomed driving elements that vary things up a little and a combat system that is both easy to pick up yet challenging enough to master.

For the newcomers, you’re almost better placed. You have no pre-determined prejudice against the series’ changes and have probably no interest in playing games that, though quite well received eight years ago, were hamstrung by the technology of the time and didn’t live up to the aspirations of the designers. Fans of games such as Warhawk and Mercenaries should also definitely pay close attention to Red Faction: Guerrilla as this is a noble entry in the genre of frenetic open-world shenanigans.

The demo presents a taste of the bedlam possible with protagonist Alec Mason charged with blowing up a chemical plant and “recovering” a mining walker. Simple stuff really but enough to allow players get their feet wet in the hectic Martian environment. You’ll quickly come to terms with the controls, from slapping people with your giant wrench to lobbing sticky grenades at opponents and watching them cartwheel across the landscape along with whatever the grenade was previously attached to upon detonation.

Of course, the demo is succinct and without much of the required context associated with a game of this type. This recurring problem is found with many demos as we don’t have the luxury of absorbing all the nuances of the back story resulting in us knowing very little about the conflict we’re embroiled in or even the juntos who are jostling for power on Mars. Not that this matters much of course, and this minor point is simply made to suggest an even better immersion and enjoyment for all when we actually know what’s going on and who we are routing for / intent on taking down.

Guys will appear out of nowhere begging for a bang of your hammer

Guys will appear out of nowhere begging for a bang of your hammer

Graphically, the game’s free-spirited inclinations limit it to some degree when it comes to pushing polys so don’t expect a detailed and sweeping Helghan-esque environment ready for your hammer of justice to break into little pieces – it’s just not that type of game. As viewed from the footage that accompanies this preview, the visuals are more than adequate and we also have the sneaky suspicion that the demo is an early build and doesn’t contain all the polish and particle effects presented below.

All is not glittering in the Martian sunlight however as there are some quirks in the game we hope are merely atavistic shortcomings already ironed out in the final product due in two months. The animations of the adversaries for example are borderline rudimentary; the old gimmick of a bad-guy not moving an inch while getting shot in the face over and over until he finally succumbs to lead poisoning and then spiraling to the ground is something we noticed as flagrantly evident.

That said, it doesn’t take away from the pure enjoyment of running around and breaking the place up. It’s something inherently boyish but, give a man a hammer and a mission and there’s not many things on the planet (Earth of Mars) he’d be happier doing than charging about the place unleashing havoc on everything in sight. And he doesn’t even have to clean up afterwards.

We’re going back to the demo tonight to go deeper and try out some more things. If we suddenly realise it’s complete pants – you’ll never know, we’ll just delete this preview and pretend it never happened.