Review: Red Faction: Guerilla lets you blow up sci-fi stuff real good

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

This is not Ray Bradbury's Mars. If you're very broad-minded, you might see a little Kim Stanley Robinson in Red Faction: Guerilla's (THQ, $60.00) plot of an underdog struggle against a heartless corporation, but none of Robinson's rich gray palette of motivations and actions for the characters are here.

If this game has any science fiction ancestor, it is probably Edgar Rice Burroughs, who would have appreciated how the game keeps the action moving and how the very high body count the hero racks up in the name of liberty. Although given the number of cultures, races and ecosystems he crammed onto the planet, Burroughs would be disappointed at how little variation there is in RF:G's scenery.

This is also not "Grand Theft Mars" or even "Saint's Row Mars," despite liberal use of "open world" in the advertising and the fact that RF:G is from the same design house as the Saint's Row games. This is not a game about gritty cutscenes or jumping naked from a helicopter. There's a wide variety of vehicles to steal and drive and crash through buildings and run over soldiers with, but, despite the game's "mature" rating, there are no strip clubs to park them in front of.

Instead of compelling story and digital naughtiness, RF:G provides the most fun shooting virtual missiles into science-fiction-themed buildings a video game has ever managed. Yes, you can bash the buildings down with your hammer, or smash through them with a truck or a mech, but that puts the over-the-shoulder camera too much in the midst of the destruction for the player to really appreciate it. To see the true skill of the programming and modeling, you have to be standing back from the target, missile launcher tucked under your arm, watching as the structure sways, buckles and topples to the ground, where it shatters into chunks.

It is this beautiful ballet that keeps you playing the game.