Video Game Review: “Red Faction: Guerrilla”

Destruction has always been an integral part of human civilization. The moment some ingenious caveman discovered how to cut wood in circles to make wheels, another caveman was already hard at work discovering fire to destroy them. Like it or not, as much as civilization likes to think of itself as always building and expanding, societies in power have many times stood by with a stick of dynamite in their hands.

Yet for some reason, video games have been slow to embrace destruction. I believe video games need destruction to be complete.

“Red Faction: Guerrilla” is the videogame that scratches the destruction itch. It puts you in control of Alec Mason, a mining engineer working in a terraformed Mars. All is not well on the red planet; the governing body, the Earth Defense Force, has begun exploiting its workers to speed up manufacturing and now conducts random strip searches, refuses to pay wages and will not help build a youth center for troubled adolescents.

In movements much like the Occupy Wall Street protests, the workers, Alec Mason included, are tired of being the 99 percent and have formed a movement, known as the “Red Faction,” to counteract these changes. Unlike the Occupy Wall Street protests, however, every member of the Red Faction carries a sledgehammer and is incredibly good at making buildings fall down.

With one swing from Mason, bodies are sent flying, entire cement blocks are chipped off like cake crumbs, and solid steel beams are crumpled.

Every building and object in this game can be destroyed. If you do not like the new color the neighbors painted their garage door, feel free to whip out your sledgehammer and break the garage down into four or five fragments. Take out enough supports, and you can walk outside and watch as the entire house crumbles and collapses into a huge dusty heap of rubble. Or, if you choose, you can stay inside and let the house crush you to bits, which I can assure you is much funnier than it sounds.

The challenge of the game is to destroy buildings as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The Earth Defense Force is not a rag-tag group of riot police that packs tear gas and fire hoses; they are armed with assault rifles and rocket launchers and spray to kill, which really puts a damper on the whole “blowing buildings to bits” idea. If you try to run around with a sledgehammer swinging for the fences, you will probably be shot down.

Thus, the key to the game is using the available tools to blow up key targets, take out some enemies along the way and still survive after the dust has cleared.

In the name of destructive efficiency, the Red Faction provides Alec Mason with numerous pieces of mining equipment that have been re-purposed to become tools of mass demolition.

My favorite tool by far is the demolition charge, which is a small explosive that can stick to any surface and be remotely detonated. With these charges, destroying large buildings becomes a stimulating puzzle.

Under the pressure of an entire trigger-happy platoon of EDF soldiers, you have to make intelligent split-second decisions to tear down a giant mansion efficiently. Where are the building’s supports the weakest, so on can place a charge there for the greatest effect? Should you place the demolition charge on the building now or first stick it onto an enemy’s head?

If everything works out, by the 10th charge you will be safely out of the way as a roof caves in, smothering all your enemies trapped beneath the falling piles of death.

“Red Faction: Guerrilla” provided me with enormous enjoyment, because it simulates one of the most fundamental human urges: to destroy. Few other games match its intensity, spontaneity and ability to inspire the ultimate sense of satisfaction that comes from simply blowing things up. If you enjoy pure, senseless explosion and limitless fun, I cannot recommend this game enough.