Red Faction: Guerrilla is a game about one thing and one thing only; knocking things over and smashing them to pieces. Sometimes the game wants you to demolish things with a sledgehammer, sometimes with a car or rocket launcher, often alone but occasionally with a friend or online – but these are all just variations of the central theme. Red Faction: Guerrilla is about destruction and very, very little else.
In most games that singular focus on the somewhat gimmicky destruction feature of the game is something that the developers would try to hide behind other aspects. Like with the Leisure Suit Larry games; the developers may include a story and a smattering of puzzles, but we know that the game is really only about the boobs. Everything else is just a disguise so that you can justify playing it to your girlfriend Mum.
You'll have to run faster than that matey
Red Faction: Guerrilla still does this admittedly, but Volition has at least kept all the extraneous elements to a minimum. The story, clichéd and hack-eyed as it is, is quickly shoved aside and players are shoved into the game world. With a sledgehammer. This is A Good Thing.
The start of the game lays down the require drips of characterisation as it introduces you to the main characters, but it doesn’t overdo it and Volition have mercifully avoided turning the story into anything more pretentious than it needs to be. Yes, the story is about overthrowing an evil regime; but this is still a videogame, not 1984.
Red Faction: Guerrilla casts players as Alec Mason, a miner who comes to Mars to work with his brother (and only surviving relative or friend) as a demolition expert. Mars is owned and controlled by the Earth Defense Force, or EDF. In the initial opening sequence the EDF are immediately cast as The Bad Guys in the most effective and predictable way; depicting them as faceless men in full body armour killing unarmed blonde women, presumably for not having shaven heads like everyone else in the game. All the men in the game especially look the same – like shaved tennis balls stuck on to bobblehead figures.
It wasn't me
On the plus side though, the fact that everyone looks the same is probably why Alec doesn’t grieve too much when his brother is killed less than five minutes into the game. Instead, he picks up his sledgehammer and fully embraces his ability to topple entire smokestacks with a single melee hit.
With a story this simple and predictable it’s easy to get confused over whether the writing is bad or lazy – but the truth is that it’s actually neither. The plotline is exactly what it needs to be and not a single word of dialogue is ever wasted, so even though the story and setting is totally generic on one front, it never actually becomes tedious or boring. The cutscenes and exposition are all brief enough that they never really stop you from blowing up the next EDF base.
That’s not to say that fans of the original games are being neglected either – the story may be told incredibly succinctly, but it’s also littered with Easter Eggs and self-references that reach back to the previous games.
As your progress further into Red Faction: Guerrilla and slowly explore more and more areas of Mars, these nods back to the earlier titles get more and more overt and common too, with the gaps slowly getting filled in and the storyline all converging on one point. You can even revisit areas from the first games, such as the now-destroyed Ultor Labs, though a knowledge of the backstory isn’t at all required.