Stop! Hammer Time!
Nothing good ever happens on Mars. It always seems to be Earth’s whipping boy, so you have to wonder why anyone would willingly go there. It’s covered with sand and rocks, it’s colder than Earth, the entire place has an red-ish orange hue (except of the ice caps, obviously) and–according to Wikipedia–it has the largest dust storms in the solar system. How could Mars possibly be more fun than Earth?
Well, if it’s anything like Red Faction: Guerrilla, you can destroy every vehicle and structure in sight with a hammer, explosives and a good deal of reckless abandon. That’s a pretty compelling reason.
You play the role of…uh…Alec Mason, who moves to Mars to start a new life alongside his brother, Daniel. Daniel rants about the evils of the Earth Defense Force, takes Mason on a tutorial mission, tries to recruit him to the terrorist group called Red Faction and is promptly gunned down by–surprise!–the EDF. And then they raid Mason’s house and try to execute him, only to be foiled by–surprise!–the Red Faction. Now motivated by the requisite amount of tragic occurrences (as approved by the Cookie Cutter Plot Committee), Mason decides to join the terrorists and take back Mars. Which apparently means crushing skulls and toppling skyscrapers with his mining hammer. Not that I’m complaining.
As you may have guessed from my snark and need to visit Wikipedia to remember Mason’s name, you really shouldn’t play RF:G for the story. It’s corny enough to fit right in with all of the Sci-Fi channel’s “original motion pictures.” So I’ll just skip the rest of the plot and get to the meat of the game: destroying everything in sight with Mjolnir. If this is what hammers are going to be like in the future, you’ll have to submit to a background check just to enter a Home Depot. Your hammer of the gods can destroy virtually any vehicle and structure in the world like it’s made of Styrofoam. It looks totally ridiculous, but it’s the good kind of ridiculous. It makes you want to simultaneously laugh and hi-five anyone who happens to be sitting next to you. There are a handful of other weapons, such as the detonation packs, railgun (a nice reference to the previous Red Factions), rocket launcher and nanorifle (which disintegrates anything it hits). All of them are fun to use, but it’s really all about the hammer. And the mechs. Yes, there are mechs.
There are plenty of vehicles to hijack, too. They run the gamut from garbage trucks to luxury cars to tanks. They all handle like you’d think they should and are fun to drive. They also make for nice bullet shields, since even the weakest car can take a lot of punishment before it explodes. RF:G is a large, open-world game, where most story missions and side-quests are a good distance away from each other, so the developers wisely chose to make transportation plentiful and easily obtainable. Just walk in front of a car driving down the highway and they’ll stop for you; then just go up and steal it with the press of a button.
Speaking of side-quests, RF:G has a lot of them. There are a few different varieties, and it’s not necessary to complete any of them, so you can pick and choose which ones you enjoy and safely ignore the rest. In fact, the only thing you have to do (other than the story missions) is destroy EDF property to reduce their influence on the region. High-value targets are marked on your map, so it’s a simple matter of driving to the location and breaking out your hammer and arsenal of explosives. Mason is pretty resilient, his health bar is the regenerating variety and there’s rarely an overwhelming amount of enemies, so you can fight your way out of virtually any situation if you use a modicum of tactics. And even if you do die, it’s not punitive. You’ll simply revive at the nearest Red Faction base and the civilian morale in the region will drop a little bit. Everything you did up to the moment of your death is assumed to have happened. So if you managed to knock that high-value bridge down moments before your demise, congratulations! You don’t have to do it all over again.
There’s also a multiplayer mode that I’ve heard is entertaining, but since I’m a single-player-focused guy I paid no attention to it. Even if it was terrible, the single-player experience is satisfying enough that you don’t need the multiplayer. I encourage anyone who’s interested in open-world games to at least try Red Faction: Guerrilla.