Back in the day, Red Faction and Red Faction 2 set the bar for highly destructible environments and could have changed the way FPS played. It was possible with the original Geo Mod to dig a sizeable tunnel into the wall of a level, or the floor, destroy most of the structures and bring things crashing down. Now of course this presented the developers (Volition) with a unique set of problems, the greatest of these being that players couldn't really distinguish between things that could be destroyed and things that should be destroyed but couldn't, to preserve level design and structural integrity - after all, basically, you should be able to destroy anything and everything leaving only the ruin of a floor in the level.
It might sound fun on paper but in practise it's not actually all that fun, since the challenge vanishes very quickly.
So, enter Geo Mod 2.0 for the latest Red Faction game, Guerrilla. Pulling the camera back to 3rd person allows the developers to give the player a cover based game system and lets the player also witness the incredible destructive effects as they run away from a building which exploded dramatically behind them. I was lucky enough to get my hands on the demo from THQ and I can report my findings right here.
The demo which is coming soon to PSN and Xbox Live runs for just under 10 minutes and is a small section from the main game's many missions, in the mission you're tasked with breaking into an EDF compound and stealing a Walker, one of the many confiscated heavy vehicles that the miners have been using to help work in the terraformed atmosphere upon Mars. The Red Faction rebels want this Walker and you have to get it.
Right from the get go you're armed with a rifle, some remote explosives, and the hammer. A special device designed to deliver a whopping blow to break rocks, walls, buildings and send men flying with a single strike. The mission can be accomplished in a variety of ways, the quickest route to the objective involves very little in the way of planning and I'll let you discover how to do it for yourself.
The controls are well implemented and you can drop into cover as long as you're holding a firearm. Using the left stick to lean out and shoot, there seems to be no blind-fire option in the game and that's fine because RFG isn't a tactical shooter, it's a game about sticking it to the EDF (Earth Defence Force) in a hit and run style and blowing stuff up, blowing stuff up and some more blowing stuff up.
There are vehicles (in the demo too) that you can use to get around quickly; the main mission area is packed with buildings, EDF troops and miners. If you kill the EDF and destroy their property you can raise the morale of the sector you're in. If you kill miners and so on, you'll demoralize the population of that sector, this has a knock-on effect and you won't get as much in the way of supplies from the weapons crates scattered around the level.
The graphics and animations in RFG are, even in the demo, very nice. The atmosphere of Mars reminds me in many ways of Total Recall and the effects are truly stunning. The biggest praise I can heap upon the game goes to the much-touted Geo Mod 2.0 however.
So lets talk about destruction and how Red Faction Guerrilla manages to keep that fresh and fun.
Geo Mod 2.0 builds upon the Geo Mod system used in the original Red Faction, completely coded from the ground up for this generation of systems. It has real world structural physics calculations that give a weight and a mass to objects, vehicles, buildings and so on. Wood acts like wood, metal acts like metal and stone behaves like stone. Glass spiders when shot with a bullet before it shatters after another impact. This means that when the level designers at Volition sat down and built their first building, it came crashing down under its own weight, the game then became an exercise in real world physics/architectural design skill.
Every building, construction and destroyable object in RFG has been built from these materials; stone has to be reinforced with a metal girder superstructure and so on because of RFG's structural simulation technology in the Geo Mod 2.0 engine. The ground and the surrounding countryside are immune to the effects of explosives and so forth, due to game play design decisions - to prevent the player from wasting vital resources and to allow the designers to make areas that can't be reduced to a wasted flatland.
The buildings though, that's the impressive thing. I spent the first numerous plays of this game just setting explosives. I tested this Geo Mod 2.0 to destruction, no pun intended. I weakened several large buildings using various methods whilst engaging in firefights with the EDF and loved it. I was able to destabilise the structure enough so that adding an extra remote charge in the wrong place caused the whole thing to come crashing down on one occasion. In another play through the building was so weakened it fell down slowly over the course of a few minutes.
No play session is ever the same as the last one thanks to Geo Mod 2.0. Every bit of debris becomes a potential weapon and can damage buildings, enemies and vehicles around it. Even you aren't immune from the crushing force of a building that decides to collapse when you accidentally knock a support out of the way and bring the whole thing smashing down on your head.
The effects are gorgeous and there's something satisfying about learning how to bring down a building with only a few explosives, key points are weaker than the others and once you learn those you can create some impressive destruction as you use the demolition knowledge you're acquired to cause trouble for the EDF.
It's not just explosives that cause problems for the EDF and their structures as well, all the vehicles have a mass and weight and when they strike a solid object at speed, a weaker wall will give way to a much greater force. Armed with these tools you can basically wreck things quickly and efficiently.
RFG promises to be one of those games that redefines the 3rd person action genre, adds a little bit of GTA-style open world Gameplay and most of all lets you blow things up really well. We were promised a lot by LucasArts when they revealed Digital Molecular Matter and whilst Force Unleashed wasn't a bad game it certainly didn't deliver the awesome destructive effects we were promised and the Force wasn't so much unleashed as rushed out.
Geo Mod 2.0, even in the demo delivers a crushing amount of incredible destruction that you can't get tired of, every new demo charge creates an exciting opportunity to cause major mayhem. Plus, you can tag enemy guards with those remote charges too and watch them run around screaming; trying to get the charge off before you press the B button and send them to oblivion. If you time it just right you can wait until they're next to a volatile barrel or a box of explosives and double your fun.
THQ are offering a limited access to this demo soon over PSN and Xbox Live. To ensure that you're one of the first to get your hands on it, you can head on over to their site and sign up for a MyTHQ account. THQ have promised that they'll give away keys to their MyTHQ members and we are to bear in mind that the keys are limited, so it's wise to follow them on Facebook, Twitter or keep an eye out.
So what are you waiting for?http://www.thq-games.com/
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Check back for our full review of this explosive title closer to release.