My Red Faction Non Review

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This week I fully intended to present a review of Red Faction Guerrilla, and after about 2 hours of playing I couldn’t bear the thought of starting it up again. Around the same time, I found my copy of Deus Ex and was very excited to play that again for the third time. This leads me to a question of why that is.

Red Faction Guerrilla, to me, is akin to a Hollywood action film. Full of explosions, bombastic violence and wholly uncomplicated. The story is terribly easy to follow and only serves as a reason to keep the movie going forward, rather than create a compelling digesis (big fancy film jargon for story world) for the viewer to get lost in.

Guerrilla has possibly the simplest story possible in a game; main character goes to Mars to work, brother gets killed by hyper-oppressive bad guys, main character gets roped into the rebellion against the hyper-oppressive bad guys, and the day is saved. You are helped by distinctly average AI, dodgy vehicle physics, and the world’s strongest sledgehammer. Also, you get to systematically destroy buildings with Volitions neat-o Geo Mod technology.

Deus Ex, by contrast, follows a different form of game design. It focuses on character development, an amazingly complex plot, and insane levels of immersion. I, and many other gamers got sucked into this world and proceeded to lap up every piece of detail Warren Spector and Ion Storm threw at us. The graphics are dreadful, the voice acting is woeful, and this is my biggest flaw with it – it ends. Deus Ex has nothing special about the way it is graphically presented, which is diametrically opposed to a game like Guerrilla.

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Guerrilla should be buckets of fun. You get given tons upon tons of explosives and various other forms of military grade weaponry to break stuff, and you get rewarded to for it. Sure, the Geo Mod stuff isn’t perfect, but it’s the best example of that level of destruction seen to date. I love destruction just as much as the next testosterone fuelled male, but Guerrilla just doesn’t do it for me.

The only logical conclusion I could come up with is the matter of a suspension of disbelief. That’s a basic principle of film and continuity editing (more big fancy film jargon, referring to how Hollywood films are put together) where you are shown a world through a series of pictures, and you can believe this world to be true. All disbelief is literally suspended, and you can accept the verisimilitude to real life of what you are being shown.

Die Hard, a classic Hollywood action film, succeeds beautifully in suspending the disbelief while appealing to the most primal parts of our brain, and I loved it. Its gaming equivalent, Guerrilla, failed miserably. Deus Ex, an ‘artsy’ game more in line with Seven than Die Hard, suspended my disbelief perfectly. I declared it the best game ever made. Ocarina of Time be damned.

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The only logical answer I can come up with is the matter of immersion. For the sake of consistency, I’ll keep up the film comparison. Games are fundamentally different to films in quite a few ways. Games are interactive, longer, arguably more complex, and aren’t constructed by a series of pictures. Films only need to suspend disbelief for a few hours at the most, while a game needs to do it from 6 to 100 hours. I think games need either an engaging story or intricate digesis for it to succeed. GTA4 had a really simple and straightforward story but an astonishingly intricate world for the player to get lost in. Deus Ex was linear and very set in where the player is directed, but likewise had the astonishingly intricate story. Guerrilla has neither and I can’t be bothered to try finding something to like when I can’t get involved in it. Apparently there is a weapon that lets you melt buildings – melt them -  that should surely seal the deal but it doesn’t, which saddens me immensely.

I believe a fundamental part of game design is either an excellent story or excellent digesis, as those two things make the game infinitely better and more appealing to me. The problem is games like Modern Warfare, which has neither, but I loved every bit of it. My question to you: What part of a game appeals to you, and is a base requirement for you to enjoy it?

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My Red Faction Guerrilla review: The characters are disinteresting, a useless story that does nothing other than move the game forward, and I pretty average physics engine that only shines when buildings are destroyed. However, the explosions are wonderfully explody and it’s a rather pretty game that is absolutely brutal on your computer. If you like ‘dumb’ action games, 8/10, if you don’t, 5/10.

Shortest/most off topic Lazygamer review ever. [Ed’s Note : I believe that distinction belongs to the GI Joe Review ;)] [As an aside, I know comparing art forms is a fool’s errand, but I feel the fundamental principles of immersion apply to both. Feel free to argue otherwise.]

Last Updated: November 3, 2009

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