Civil war on Mars. An oppressed population mining a barely terraformed planet is beaten and broken by a militant defence force gone rogue. In THQ's latest series release, Red Faction – Guerrilla, fresh Earth migrant Alec Mason witnesses the death of his brother and is thrust violently into the planet's second civil uprising.
The game pulls off a brilliant fusion of war on the Red Planet with industrial machinery and space-aged weaponry. Terraforming efforts have made the atmosphere breathable, while streams of heavy mining vehicles travel between six urban habitations over a network of rough dirt highways.
Life is cheap after the Earth Defence Force (EDF), sent to ensure peace in the burgeoning communities, turned lawless and began arresting, enslaving and murdering at whim. Your job as the Red Faction's latest recruit is to weaken the force's hold on the planet and gain the support of the population by liberating arrested civilians.
The odds are stacked against the faction, and as Alec, you must fight down and dirty through sabotage and guerilla attacks to take the enemy down. The method is simple; faction engineers will improve your weaponry with salvaged supplies, and a liberated population will fight by your side. But a overwhelming enemy means outright battle is almost impossible.
Instead, you must raise civilian morale and weaken enemy control through a series of main Red Faction missions ranging from exploration to theft to sabotage, and hundreds of side missions including huge decoy battles, gaol-breaks and resisting EDF counter-attacks.
The gameplay is addictive. If it stands, it can be smashed with your upgradable sledgehammer, which is one of three interchangeable weapons in Alec's arsenal. Ammo is limited, and damage (on the hard setting) is quick, but some clever use of explosives or the hammer and you can bust a hole through anything, topple a tower over an enemy battalion, or blow a bridge out from a convoy.
Morale is key to victory; lose it by dying or killing civilians, and you'll receive less salvage for completing faction missions and be forced to scavenge the wastes for resources.
The landscape and cinematics are beautifully rendered, and the playable map is huge. The game focuses on systematically liberating sectors, but players can chase convoys and couriers across all areas of the map, including the devilish free fire zone which speaks for itself.
The game presents anarchy at its finest, and while it bears a striking resemblance to Kim Stanley Robinson's epic Red Mars, you won't want to put it down. Its homage to careful, considered fighting plays best on the hardest setting, and players suffering an initial spate of deaths and morale penalties can persist by getting out of battle while the gettin's good.
It features a 16-player online multiplayer mode, and local multiplayer in Wrecking Mode where players are awarded points for mass destruction.
Gamers partial to the open-world genre will be impressed.