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Red Faction: Guerrilla Multiplayer Preview

By Neilie Johnson, 5/18/2009

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The Red Faction first person action/adventure series began with a bang in 2001, telling the story of a lone miner leading a rebellion on Mars against an evil corporation. Red Faction II provided a worthy Earth-based sequel in 2003, detailing the exploits of a group of elite soldiers. Coming June 2nd, the latest installment in the series, Red Faction: Guerrilla returns to its Martian roots by once again telling the tale of a freedom-fighter who leads the miners’ Red Faction against the oppressive Earth Defense Force.

Having tried the single-player demo on Xbox Live, I was stoked to attend the multi-player event held this week in San Francisco. The first thing I noticed upon firing up the game is that Red Faction’s point of view has gone from first to third-person. Previous games only showed the player character in brief action sequences but in Red Faction: Guerrilla, it’s all-third-person, all the time. It’s a good choice, since it helps tie the player to the environment while doing a better job of showcasing how combat affects the player. Eight of us sat down to the PS3 demo, divided up into teams and for the next 90 minutes, tested each other’s mettle in all the available multi-player modes: Team Anarchy, Damage Control, Capture the Flag, Siege and Demolition.

The first thing I noticed when spawning in was the lack of radar or minimap. My team members were marked with blue fist icons for easy identification; if only the enemies had been that easy to mark. In a somewhat strange move on the designers’ parts, enemies have no icons which made it difficult to know which way to go to encounter them. In fact, I spent most of my time meandering aimlessly around the map hoping I’d round a corner and run into one. This wasn’t the only UI problem either. In modes like Demolition and Damage Control, I had no idea where my objective was and heard other players muttering similar comments to one another. This lack of feedback sometimes made it tough to tell whether I was helping my team or not. Demolition (a mode in which one player is designated to destroy structures while his teammates protect him) was particularly confusing since few of us realized that both teams were meant to destroy everything on the map.

Despite these issues, the demo had a lot of fun to offer--that is, once I realized the most effective weapon was the sledgehammer. At first I tried to use the various ranged weapons I found lying around the map but after firing something like thirty rounds into an enemy and still having him run up and one-shot kill me with the sledgehammer, I finally got wise. While the ranged weapons could still use a little balancing, the special backpacks found in multi-player are working great. Backpacks come in ten types: Fleetfoot, Thrust, Tremor, Firepower, Heal, Jetpack, Stealth, Concussion, Rhino and Vision and are scattered all over the maps. They provided extremely useful advantages like the ability to fly, go invisible, charge over enemies and send out damaging shockwaves . My favorite, Vision, worked like an x-ray, allowing me to see enemies through terrain and structures as glowing silhouettes.

The most fun I had during the demo was playing Siege mode in which teams take turns attacking and defending two high rise structures. Other players were using rocket launchers and sniper rifles, taking each other out left and right but to me the most effective strategy was using Vision to mark my enemies, then sneaking around to the back of the buildings to wail away at the walls with my sledgehammer. Smashing through the metal and concrete walls was satisfying and looked good and due to the lack of on-screen enemy icons, I was able to do some serious damage before the defenders found me. Creating that much destruction with nothing but a hammer was definitely fun but Siege mode’s win conditions were a little vague. It took a long time to get the buildings down to roughly 50% no matter which weapons we used and midway through, for no discernible reason, the game switched over and made my team the defenders. We defended until the other team got the buildings down to 50%, whereupon the mode abruptly ended, saying we’d tied. What the…?

Hiccups like these made the multi-player in Red Faction: Guerrilla seem almost, but not quite there. The backpacks add a lot of variety and fun to the game but the exaggerated effectiveness of the sledgehammer seemed to point to the ranged weapons needing to be kicked up a notch. Further, the different modes and map types were interesting but the lack of minimap and/or objective markers caused unnecessary confusion for players. It’s strange that Volition chose to omit these things, since they exist in single-player mode and are extremely useful on large maps.

Even so, Red Faction: Guerrilla is looking to be a compelling successor to Red Factions I and II. In addition to what Volition claims will be the longest single-player campaign ever seen in an open world game, Red Faction: Guerrilla should have amazing replayability with 125 unlockable characters, single-player cheats and additional weapons, not to mention an improved GeoMod destructible system, downloadable content, the “Wrecking Crew” party game and more multi-player support than any Red Faction game to date. You'll get to taste the mayhem yourself when the multi-player demo comes out on Xbox Live and PSN May 21st, then fully satisfy your appetite for destruction when the game hits the stores June 2nd.



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