Monday, April 27, 2009

Getting My Ass To Mars - Red Faction:Guerrilla Impressions

So I played the Red Faction: Guerrilla demo.

I remember reading some time ago that one of the members of Volition hated the decision to change the gameplay from a first-person perspective to third person. I'll admit right off the bat that I wasn't particularly interested in the title to begin with -- I'm sorry guys, but the prospect of mindlessly blowing things up doesn't appeal to me nearly as much as it used to.

I played the first Red Faction on my PS2 a very long time ago, and had a great deal of fun with it. The action was fun and frantic, and the "Geo-Mod" technology--which allowed the player to blow a large hole in everything within reason--was wildly innovative compared to the indestructible corridors and environments of yesteryear. Unfortunately, yesteryear is indeed yesteryear, and what was once a maddeningly hilarious timesink is now a bit stale (I was famous for taking a rocket launcher and making fun tunnels during multiplayer matches). While the Geo-Mod tech powering RF: Guerilla does make for some fantastic explosions and environmental destruction cornucopias of glass, metal, stone, and wood splintering and flying everywhere, the actual gameplay is a bit unspectacular, and left a bit of a dry taste in my mouth.

These days, blowing shit up is as fun as punching people walking around the streets of Vice City. Really, I mean it. If you need some instant humor for your game just set up explosives in the most conveniently unfortunate places for the enemy and watch the debris fly.

As I booted up the demo, I was in pursuit of just that. I started off with a sledgehammer, and of course, the first thing I did was see just HOW far my influence went. Stone walls, rocks, buildings, 95% of what I touched with that huge blunt object rumbled and cracked, and it was awesome to watch it all go down. I didn't care about my objective to sieze some kind of walker and make tracks, I was too busy being Bam Bam. But the demo had to be played, and eventually I ran out of things to smash. Playing the game itself was inevitable, and suddenly my enjoyment diminished. Things were blowing up fine, ragdoll was humorous, and the ending explosive truck chase did a great deal in making sure I was glued to my seat, but at the end of the day, it all felt a bit dry.

(You get to drive this thing before the close, and it's as awesome as it looks)

The core shooting and movement controls felt loose and sloppy, the weapons aside from the sledgehammer and grenades lacked any sort of punch, and their small clips of ammo did much to make matters worse when I realized there were an infinite number of APCs shuttling grunts into every firefight. Eventually I started grabbing the random trucks littered around the area and went running people over GTA style.


When the demo ended, I was shown the birdseye view of a massive map, and it only reinforced what I felt before. There was a period after Grand Theft Auto 3 came out when every game needed to have some sort of open world format in order to make it out there. Racing games, FPS games, if there was a genre, companies were scrambling to get it in their games, lest the trend die out without them having capitalized on what was the newest craze. I've personally always seen it as a crutch, a copout for when you're too lazy to pace and plot your game the right way. Why bother with level design when you can make an entire field? Why program setpieces and orchestrate tight gameplay moments when it can all be random? Why focus on evolving mechanics when you can create a sandbox full of the same directives, just with increasing difficulty? It became an excuse for lazy game design, and many games became the victim of developer fad chasing.

This game unfortunately reminded me of that era. Red Faction, in my opinion, never needed an open world to be valid, much like Burnout never did in order to remain relevant. In fact, the story, which tries so hard to be compelling and epic involving a story about an oppressive leader and rebel miners of some Mars colony, gets lost in the shuffle of "WOW BOOM" the game displays. I didn't care about my mission, I didn't even care about the objective, I simply plowed in and out in the most ridiculous fashion, and the demo ended telling me there was a LOT more where that came from. The game does a bunch of things moderately well, but nothing stands out on it's own, and what you're left with is a dusty version of Mercenaries with more destructible buildings.

I don't think there's anything wrong with putting your brain away for a while and indulging in some contracted demolition in the name of a good time, I just know there are better games to do it in.

That don't feel like a derivative mess. There's carjacking, there's guns, there's explosions, there's free roaming, and none of it really mattered to me because it felt so disconnected.

Call me an elitist if you'd like.. I was more impressed when the house was annihilated by a strider in Half Life: Episode 2

But that's just me.

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