Red Faction Guerrilla is all about control, and more importantly how you gain control. It's one thing to liberate a sector on Mars using your machine gun and a few remote charges, but it's a completely different kettle of fish when you're inside a massive building-destroying robot that can tear through anything that stands in its way. When you're experiencing the best Volition's game has to offer, Guerrilla is tremendous fun and a great example of next-gen power, but some irritations and a weak story prevent it from being an explosive masterpiece - but then multiplayer rears its destructive head.
Guerrilla's selling point is without question the way you can decimate all structures in the game world. You've been able to do this in other games to a degree, but here they are blown apart in a way you'll have never seen before. It's a sight to behold and the wow factor is unlikely to wear off until well after you've worked your way through the campaign and played hours of multiplayer. Whether you're trying to take down massive buildings by strategically targeting support beams with your sledgehammer or going for a more brutish approach with rockets, this one gameplay mechanic will be enough to tempt many gamers.
Before we get onto the really good stuff in more detail, a quick word on the story and why you're blowing up buildings in the first place. You play as Alec Mason, a man who joins rebel group Red Faction after his brother is murdered by the Earth Defense Force (EDF). This shady organisation has been kidnapping civilians and setting them to work in camps, so Mason sets out to liberate the people and recruit new Red Faction soldiers along the way. It's a decent enough setup for the action that follows, but attempts to tell the story are infrequent and unconvincing. Cutscenes will play at key moments (which isn't that often) and there are frequent radio messages, but compared to Volition's other open world series, Saints Row, there's little in the way of narrative or character development to latch onto.
This is a big disappointment and means that it's hard to get into the mindset that you're a man who is effectively liberating a planet, but it's not the end of the world. The core game Volition has created is so action-packed and full of glorious unscripted set-pieces that you'll often be too busy fighting for your life to worry about who the various characters are. Liberating sectors isn't easy, so you'll need to build up support from the civilians while slowly reducing the EDF presence. Thankfully this is all handled by a fairly traditional story and side-mission structure, in which you'll partake in a variety of activities - some being far more entertaining than others.
Story missions have a little back-story to them and tend to be grander in scale to the rest, but there are only a couple of these in each sector, with one final mission unlocked once you've completely depleted the EDF force. There are far more Guerrilla missions, which are effectively optional but are required if you're going to build up the sector's morale and earn salvage. Salvage is the currency in Red Faction, used to buy new weapons and upgrade them, and to get hold of the more advanced tools. The higher the morale in a sector, the more support you'll get from Red Faction soldiers while on missions and the more salvage you'll earn - so unless you want a hard time of it you'll want to complete as many of these tasks as possible.
When they're good they're really very good, but a few too many are tedious. Missions that see you blowing stuff up are generally great fun, especially if you happen to be inside a devastating tank or missile-wielding mech - think the yellow walker from the end of Aliens only even more bad-ass. The tedium sets in when you're asked to drive a vehicle across the map to one of your safe houses within a time limit or to rescue civilians in House Arrest missions. The driving missions do away with practically everything that makes the game fun and the rescue missions often end in frustration as you lose track of where your comrades are and accidentally crush them beneath some rubble.
Far better are the timed destruction challenges, which sadly are few and far between. These puzzle-like missions give you a set amount of ammo for a limited weapon load out and ask you to completely total a building within a time limit. Getting the salvage for finishing in time is usually fairly simple, but going for the Pro times will keep you playing for far longer. We'd have loved there to be more of these, and we expect THQ will fulfil our wish with DLC. Again, though, these superb missions are countered by on-rails shooting challenges, in which aiming is tricky and the destruction targets (in terms of cost of damage) seem punishingly high.