When Red Faction: Guerrilla landed in my mailbox two days ago I wasn't expecting much. The first RF was a competent title built entirely on the selling point that players could blow up everything. The ground, the buildings, stray dogs, everything.
Red Faction 2 attempted to recreate that same idea, only with more advanced technology a few years later. The yawns were palpable in that special way that only abstract concepts can be.
So what does developer Volition, Inc. do? They scrap the first-person shooter viewpoint, craft some heavy-handed plot that conveniently mirrors our current geopolitical quagmire (vis a vis a martian mining colony) and re-release the same damn gimmick a third time circa now.
The really weird bit though, is that RF:G is so stupidly fun that I can't stop playing it.
Let's clarify for a moment, because I don't want anyone getting the idea that this is "Game of the Year 2009" material. It isn't.
With one major exception — that I'll get to in a sec — the game screams "I'm generic, but you're too desensitized to care so buy me anyway!" from its perch on the shelves of your local big box retailer. The Mars setting could have been cribbed from DOOM, Total Recall, or Edgar Rice Burroughs for all I know, and the run/shoot/explode things gameplay won't break down any barriers in the fight to have games recognized as art.
Even the "steal cars and use them against their previous owners" concept is as dated as the idea that Grand Theft Auto forces kids to jack off to snuff films while planning school shootings.
Then, like John Henry before you, you discover that there is real magic in swinging a hammer. Buildings can be torn down, cars can be exploded and anyone who wanders in range of your home run swing is instantly turned into a less than ambulatory bag of meat, bone dust and mustache fibers.
Maybe it's a side effect of being equipped with male parts, but there is something so damn entertaining about walking through a nice martian home, inspecting the gorgeous decorations, then cracking the support beams in half with a single swing and watching the whole fucking place fall apart like some kind of hyper literal, virtual meditation on the current state of the U.S. economy.
I almost feel like I should hire Billy Mays to pop up right about now and fill you kids in on all the rest of the stuff the game offers, but that man probably isn't cheap and in the end it all boils down to this: Everything you can do with a hammer, you can do even better with shaped detonation charges.
Fuck the plot. Fuck the characters. Fuck the gun that shoot razor blades and the vaguely interesting jetpack. Red Faction: Guerrilla is simply about scratching that primal human urge to destroy.
If the feminine hemisphere of mankind's collective personality revels in creation and hope, the masculine hemisphere gets a wicked chubby from blowing shit into tiny pieces. If RF:G wasn't so damn dumb otherwise, it would be clever for exploiting that personality quirk so explicitly.
(PS: The game also wins points for including a dead ostrich as an unlockable weapon. Not enough that it's worth more than a drunk weekend rental, though.)