PAX 2008 Red Faction: Guerilla Impressions

5 Sep

Many people remember Red Faction as ‘That game where you can dig tunnels with gunfire’, and I would agree that that’s what made the Red Faction games unique.  Red Faction: Guerilla is a revolutionary game, in the sense that it isn’t evolutionary or iterative — it’s not a numbered sequel for a reason.  

In the place of digging ridiculous wormholes into walls is jetpack gameplay, destructible buildings, and well-tuned third-person shooting.  The destructible environments were a bit of a moot point in the multiplayer demo I played, and didn’t factor into the gameplay one bit.  There is something to be said about being able to take a sledgehammer to building supports and knock it down, but it just doesn’t make sense to do in combat.  Instead, it plays a lot like Tribes and Gears of War mashed together — the over the shoulder shooting of Gears combined with the jetpack tomfoolery of a Tribes game.

The game smartly knows when to eschew the jetpack for other pickups such as a charge and a concussive blast — if anything these other items make the default jetpack seem more unique.  All the packs are constrained by a graphical energy meter (on the jetpack it’s literally a bar on the jetpack itself, along with other visual and audio cues).

The default melee weapon is a sledgehammer, which stops your movement when swung, and on the show floor people were already experts at clubbing me to death.  I can see the hammer becoming a somewhat iconic melee weapon if the game takes off.

As for gunplay, it was much better than I expected.  The constant choice to take to the air and fire inaccurately or take your chances behind cover on the ground is surprisingly complex and fulfilling.

Passing judegment in a preview isn’t very accurate — but if nothing else, I really hope this game turns out to be a gem.  It’s unfortunate this kind of Tribes gameplay will probably disappear when console players get a new wave of games, and the servers will empty out, but it should be fun while it lasts.

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