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Red Faction Guerilla: Hands On

Exclusive playtest of the final Red Faction Guerilla code. Full lowdown inside.

Having played the single player demo of Red Faction Guerilla, and already being impressed, the opportunity for us to sample the multiplayer in an extensive play-test was most welcome.  Arriving at the THQ LAN (Local Area Network) event in London last night, minutes away from taking the fight to Mars and sampling the multiplayer mayhem, our spines were already tingling with excitement.

First Instincts

Naturally when playing a Red Faction game your first instinct is to blow stuff up. As soon as the level had loaded, and the screen opens up to a playground of destructive possibilities, everybody opened fire on the nearest structure.  Walls crumbled, barrels exploded, structures were torn apart all over the place, and just like the buildings we picked on – our jaws dropped.

“Fully destructible” is a term many developers are keen to highlight in their games.  Well Red Faction Guerilla has just raised the bar, putting all past games boasting “fully destructible” into the filing cabinet for “semi-destructible”.  There is no plume of smoke hiding the fact that the building you just launched a rocket into, has now been removed and replaced by a building representing the effect of that rocket.  No cheap tricks or clever overlay, here on Mars all damage is real and in no way “just” cosmetic. Should you feel the need to level every building, the debris and rubble will remain visible at the conclusion of all the carnage.

The Visuals

The graphics have been polished since the first demo, and it is looking very nice indeed.  Whilst it isn’t the best looking game to date, it still looks impressive and will hold up against the rest.  When you consider the sheer amount of destruction and physics being calculated on the fly, I think you’ll agree the game does exceptionally well at maintaining this level of polish.

With 16 players on the field, explosions and fire everywhere, multiple objects being tossed in random directions, you would forgive the game for any drop in frame rate.  Surprisingly, there is none.  With 16 players laying waste to each other and everything in sight, the game remained silky smooth.

The Game Modes

As mentioned, the game caters for 16 players, and with a good selection of modes to get those players thinking tactically or just going on a rampage.  Anarchy and Team Anarchy are deathmatch and team deathmatch respectively, give you a straight forward kill or be killed game mode, where you can go at it alone, or form teams and get tactical.

Capture the Flag is the usual grab the flag and take it to the goal game mode.  However, with the ability to make your own path through all the structures, it needs to be played more tactically.  Charges can be placed on a bridge, should the flag carrier choose to take the bridge, he’ll  barely have enough time to realise what happened before hitting the deck many feet below and cursing at his lack of caution.

Siege is your attack and defend equivalent, with teams having to work closely to destroy/defend the objective. Damage control is a capture and hold variant, with teams working together to capture predetermined points on the map and hold them for as long as possible.

And lastly, there is Demolition.  You are to protect the VIP whilst he focuses on laying waste to everything.

Weapons Of Mass Destruction

We spilt blood in Capture the Flag and Anarchy, and a few variants where the rules of the game were customised to cater for our destructive eagerness.  Sampling the different weapons on offer and the back packs was a treat in itself.  There is the usual sniper rifle, flame-thrower, rifles and shotguns.  And also an electric gun that launches a bolt of deadly chain lightning, happily taking down multiple opponents should any of them be unlucky enough to get in range.  And for fans of the first two games, I’m happy to confirm the rail gun is back.

There is also a strong focus on melee attacks, with a sledgehammer giving you the ability to dish out some pretty hefty damage, both to opponents and structures.  Several times I had an opponent run at me guns blazing, determined to tear me apart, only for me to send him packing with a swift thump from my sledgehammer and a smug smile on my face.

Backpacking

Scattered around the levels are pods with various “back packs” for your taking.  Running up to and equipping these packs enables you to employ bonus abilities. The stealth pack granting you the ability to cloak and sneak up on unsuspecting foes. The jet pack, allowing you to take short bursts of flight, and reach a spot on the level that would otherwise be unreachable. The Rhino pack allows you to charge through walls at the enemy letting rip with your weapon in hand, and seems most fun whilst swinging the sledgehammer around at anyone and everyone.

The thrust pack gives you a boost or jump up into the air and is useful for bailing out of an area due to receive a volley of rockets. The concussion pack emits a powerful shockwave blasting everything in a short radius around the user. The firepower pack grants the user extra damage with the players equipped weapon. The heal pack naturally gives the user health points whilst in use.

There is a lot of fun to be had by mixing the different packs with the various weapons.  At one point I was holding a sniper rifle looking for a vantage point.  As I ran over a bridge, dodging rockets and holding my breath, I came across some jet packs.  The smile on my face could only be measured in metres, and I looked up high to pick a spot from where I would drop .50 cal lead on helpless opponents down below.  Hitting the left shoulder button and taking off, still smiling like a kid with a new toy, I reached my chosen spot on top of a tower and got to work on picking off the unsuspecting foes.

After a few shots and still retaining my ear to ear smile, I spot a guy respawn and head my way.  A flash and a trail of smoke, then there was a rocket the size of my arm heading in my direction.  I was quick to engage the jetpack’s thrusters and take off high above the impact point, looking down on the explosion and watching the very tower I was stood on collapse before my eyes.  Still smiling, it is moments like this that make this game so much fun.  The tactical opportunities seem endless; Go on a rampage with a sledgehammer and the Rhino pack.  Drop mines from high above using the jetpack.  Run into a crowd of enemies and launch them into orbit with the concussion pack.  Or stay cloaked and drop opponents from a far with the stealth pack.  Magic.

The XP Levelling System

You’ll be glad to know that there is a levelling system much the same as COD4 and Gears of War.  As you progress and earn XP you will unlock new weapons and be recognised with badges and medals.  In addition to trophies Red Faction Guerrilla gives the gamer hidden challenges within multiplayer such as earning 50XP without dying, always keeping you challenged and looking to obtain bragging rights.

We were excited about Red Faction Guerilla before the event, and it was one to watch.  Having played both the single player demo, and multiplayer on the final build at the LAN event, this game cannot come out fast enough.  For those a fan of the series, or those looking for a fresh, action packed and truly destructive shooter, this is a must buy.

Don’t just take our word for it, we have confirmation on a multiplayer demo to be released soon.  See you on Mars.

Photos: Tod Palin (TSA ID O_Fark)

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