Red Faction was an FPS that let you blow holes in walls. That was its 'thing'. But the destruction was severely limited and, no matter how hard you pummelled the walls with rockets, you were still funnelled down a linear path. But Red Faction: Guerilla is different.
For one, it's no longer an FPS - opting instead for a third-person viewpoint - but, more importantly, it's now set in an open world where absolutely everything you see can be reduced to smoking rubble.
As before, the game's set on Mars and sees you joining the Red Faction - a band of rebels and revolutionaries - to battle the evil Earth Defence Force. But rather than work your way through levels, the game's set in a huge free-roaming chunk of the red planet's surface.
It's almost like a modern take on the Wild West - humans are establishing settlements and frontier towns in an attempt to colonise the planet. Naturally - since the human race can't agree on anything without getting into a fight - war breaks out and you, Alec Mason, the man in the fluorescent builder's jacket, find yourself in the middle of an all-out extra-terrestrial war zone. Which is the perfect excuse to stomp all over the EDF's buildings, vehicles and soldiers in giant robots and smash them with massive hammers.
Yes, hammers. Or rather, one hammer. A giant hammer, Alec's default melee weapon. Most of our hands-on time was spent obliterating buildings with this thing. You can either swipe it or hold it above your head and slam it down, which sends bricks and mortar flying across the screen. We swung it at the base of a building and the bricks gave way, bringing the rest of structure tumbling down with it.
This, apparently, is the game's new 'stress' system - if you compromise a wall's integrity by, well, smashing it with a giant hammer, the weight of the other bricks will behave as they would in real life and topple over dramatically. Not only this, but the destruction is accompanied by realistic smoke, dust and other lush particle effects.
On the rampage
At one point we went on a GTA-style 'rampage' - stomping around in a mech suit, knocking over cars, levelling buildings - and were met with excessive force as the EDF sent in armed backup. This suggests the game's missions will require a stealthier, more tactical approach, which would fit in nicely with the idea of being part of the Red Faction underground resistance. Of course, there will be a fair amount of mindless destruction - one of the weapons in the preview code lobbed flaming 'sticky bombs' that exploded with a massive earth-shattering blast radius.
The game also lets you go all 'GTA' and nick vehicles. Among the rides we commandeered were civilian-type motors (vans, trucks, etc) and armoured military transports. Stealing cars was the same as in GTA, but enemies would put up quite a fight. However, this seems to be more for quick transportation across the vast Martian landscape than a core feature.
The demo we played was limited and we didn't get a real 'feel' for the game. It was really only a tech demo, and in that respect it was impressive - especially the way buildings crumble bit by bit.
If there's a good story to back up the chaotic action and more variation in the environments (it was very, very red and consists of mostly rocks) then this could be worth a look. For now, it's a taste of things to come and rife with promise. Keep an eye on this one.
Forget the old games - this is a complete reinvention of the series with some of the best destruction physics we've ever seen.