Red Faction: How Sandbox Games Should Be Done

After the disappointment of inFamous last week hopes were high that THQ’s Red Faction Guerrilla would deliver the third person goods. After our hands on playtest a few weeks back down at THQ headquarters we were well versed on the multiplayer, but a good open world sandbox game should also carry a great single player mode too. Thankfully, just a few hours in, this is already proving to be the case: Red Faction Guerrilla is a really good, solid game.

This isn’t a review, I’m not personally reviewing this title and the disk will be on its way to Liam tomorrow to tie everything together, but if you’re the sort of person that likes to read hands on impressions of games a few days before they hit the shelves then you can safely dial in that pre-order, because THQ have worked wonders with the license this time around, and despite a move to third person Guerrilla carries all the hallmarks of the previous games.

For starters, the graphics are splendid.  Yes, it’s running at 30fps and can slow down from that considerably at times, but the image quality is rock solid and the sheer amount of information, not to mention some incredibly high resolution textures, makes the framerate seem perfectly adequate.  There’s motion blur but it’s a little too subtle unless you’re sprinting, but the sheer draw distance, decent animation and rich colours is a nice surprise for a multiplatform game.

What is staggering, though, is the destruction.  Apart from the ground and the rocks that make up the geological barriers, everything can be destroyed.  This isn’t like the first Red Faction where only pre-determined key sections could be damaged, or Bad Company where it’s just from explosives, every weapon, from the Sledgehammer to the Rocket Launcher, causes seriously impressive real time physics-based modification.

When there’s lots going on, and buildings are falling down around you due to your own style of demolition, things can slow a little, especially when there’s dust and smoke, but it doesn’t really affect the gameplay and it’s a joy to behold.  At first you’re afraid to try in case the developers haven’t thought of something you have, but after an hour or so in you’re careering through buildings in tanks, setting up remote mines around enemy bases and shooting down hydrogen tanks with wanton glee.

Of course, Guerrilla isn’t a one trick pony – right from the off the amount of things you can do is immense, with sub-plots, mini-games and side missions springing up with regular abandon.  Success in these awards salvage credits, used to buy extra weaponry and power-ups at your base.  Your character starts in a small portion of the map and must liberate the town within, but once you’ve done that new areas of the map open up regularly and each section is visually distinct, even if the transition between them is a little like that in Outrun.

Vehicles handle well, the weapons are suitably punchy and the enemy AI, whilst not likely to trouble Bungie, is good enough to cause trouble if you get involved in a decent scale battle.  Helping out the locals increases their trust, and once they’re happy enough with your agenda they’ll fight alongside you.  NPC interaction is quite fluid in general and the constant ant-like schedules of the miners is reasonably convincing too.

So, that’s enough of the single player.  I sampled the Wrecking Crew mode, which is like a single screen multiplayer party mode, this morning and that feels like it would have some serious legs, but the main multiplayer pull are the online and LAN modes, which we’ll need to save until the full review (there wasn’t enough people online to test it out at the time of writing).  Rest assured that for fans of the genre this is, at least up to this point, a real surprise, and certainly a better game than inFamous turned out to be.

We’ll have the full review by Friday.