Red Faction Guerrilla: Demons of the Badlands Xbox 360 Review
When Red Faction: Guerrilla made its appearance on consoles back in June I was completely blown away. Volition had created a game that pushed the boundaries of what I thought was possible in non-scripted video game scenarios. The GeoMod 2.0 engine that allowed the buildings to crumble to the ground in a realistic manner – completely in real-time – appeared to be a new pinnacle for game physics. Missions and objectives that would otherwise be perceived as somewhat standard, were transformed into something a bit special by the necessity to adapt to constantly changing environments. It also provided me with the ability to participate in an activity I’d longed for following a childhood of watching the Wide Awake Club: Hitting stuff with a massive hammer.
For their first batch of downloadable content, Volition could have easily released a few extra side missions for the main game, or a couple of new multiplayer maps and nobody would have blamed them. Instead, they’ve broken away from the norm and provided an all together new mini-campaign for fans of the Red Faction saga, whoever they may be. I say this, because during my entire time with the original game I must admit, despite the buckets of fun I was having there was rarely a moment in which I actually cared for what was going on. Still, for those who insist that the game is some sort of clever analysis of the US occupancy of Iraq, and spend every waking moment trying to decipher what it all means, Demons of the Badlands provides an interesting little prequel to the original campaign.
Rather than playing as Alec Mason, with his generic good looks and his Primark coat, control is shifted to Samanya, the red headed revolutionary who – for a fit young female in a video game – is quite modestly dressed. As Badlands takes place nearly two decades before the plot of Guerrilla, Samanya is still (spoilers) living life on Mars with the Tuscan Raider-like Marauders. In fact, the entirety of Badlands takes place in a completely different area, and while the subtle shift in rock colouration is hardly enough to distinguish it from the locales of Mason’s story, the architectural differences are a refreshing change.
The Mariner valley that plays host to the three new story missions is a vertical playground. The shanty towns of the endangered marauders are built into the sides of the cliffs and rock faces that fill the area. This new-found verticality adds a dose of character to the environment, but more importantly it provides a new way of playing on the destructive nature of the game. The multi-tiered platforms that litter the canyons offer all manner of creative solutions to dropping EDF soldiers on their heads. It also means that there are more opportunities for the fantastic spectacle that made the main story so good, there’ll often be a bridge that if demolished correctly will initiate a chain reaction of falling debris, taking out gantry after gantry all the way to the ground.
Further evidence that Volition has been paying attention to the community is their new approach to available weapons. Unlike the slog for salvage that played such a prominent role in Mason’s campaign, here weapons and upgrades are simply unlocked for use on the successful completion of missions, side quests and in many cases just for blowing stuff up. This immediately changes the approach to each missions, and while previously there was a demand for careful strategy on some of the more difficult objectives, here it appears to be case of picking the biggest gun and going mental. It may sound like a bit of a cop-out, but on the contrary it simply multiplies the opportunity for destructive chaos, something which should become tiresome, but for some reason doesn’t.
The downside to this of course is that missions seem a lot easier than they were in the full game. Given the number of ludicrously powerful weapons, the ease at which they can be unlocked, and the abundance of ammunition on offer, and it’s not long before you’re seeing the ending sequence. There are after all only three story missions, and while they ramp up the explosive nature of Red Faction, and give way to some excellent set pieces, it’s likely that they’ll be finished with within a couple of hours. There are a host of things to outside these, and for a lot of time during the Mason campaign I found that a lot of these side quests were more interesting due to the sporadic nature of the game mechanics, but it would have been nice to have a few more of the epic experiences.
While I’m on a downer I may as well point out that while a lot of new vehicles and weapons were offered, most of them are the same, the change being purely aesthetic. This is more so for the vehicles than the weapons, and there is the odd gem amongst Samanya’s arsenal, but even so a little more variation would have been nice. The vehicle designs themselves fail to deviate from those of the Red Faction in the main game. This could be excused due to badlands being a prequel, but it’s unlikely to be the case. Even the marauder walker that was paraded around the Internet in the previews is just the standard walker with, um, spiky balls. They don’t even swing around!
Those few niggles aside, it’s hard to find fault really. The demolition missions that posed as an amusing chaos-orientated puzzle feature have made a welcome return, scattered across the valley and now requiring far more thought and ingenuity than those offered in Guerrilla. There are hostage missions and driving missions and everything you’d have expected there to be. Then again, this may well be the fault. If you enjoyed Red Faction then you’ll undoubtedly enjoy this, you’ll appreciate the changes and you’ll appreciate the new missions and plot twists. At the same time, you’ll finish it quickly and find yourself longing for more. It’s worth it just to spend a little more time on Mars with some bombs and some high powered lasers, just don’t expect anything drastically new.