Double Buffered

A Programmer’s View of Game Design, Development, and Culture

Red Faction Guerrilla: It Feels Good To Be A Space Asshole

Posted by Ben Zeigler on October 26, 2009

I finished Red Faction: Guerrilla (RFG) a week ago and had been meaning to write up my thoughts. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience but I was finally spurred to do by the release of the music video Space Asshole by Chris Remo of Idle Thumbs. I’ll wait while you go you watch it. I’m not in a hurry.

There are two components to RFG that come together to build an entirely unique experience:  a unprecedented engine that allows the complete destruction of all man made objects in a huge environment, and a structure that gives you the ability and motivation to engage in that destruction yourself. RFG is part of an elite group of games that simply could not exist before this generation of hardware (along with Dead Rising and a few other physics-based titles). When you swing your giant sledgehammer at the load bearing wall of a building, it explodes in such a realistic way that it brings the same cathartic joy as watching that printer scene from Office Space. It’s long been known by game designers that Destruction is the simplest expression of Power, and RFG is the perfect consummation of that trend.

The game as a whole is well made, but there are a few weird missions. RFG is a game that was built to allow Moments of gameplay instead of a smooth curve of polish. But, I experienced a few moments that will live on in my memory for years to come. The first one was during a demolition mission where you had to take down a fifty-floor skyscraper. The narrative-breaking demolition missions (good, I was getting a bit tired of it) give you a preset number of weapons to destroy a given building. For the skyscraper mission you get 4 huge rockets and 30 shots of a disintegration rifle, which is normally enough to quickly devastate anything in the game. I shot the 4 rockets at the 4 supports of the building, but they wouldn’t give. I had hit the first indestructible objects in the entire game, which was a bit of a shock. I looked around for alternate solutions and noticed the very top of the sky scraper was incomplete. I then zoomed in my disintegration rifle to get a close lock at the connections between the main supports and the spire of the skyscraper, and saw there was only about 12 connections. 14 or so shots later there was a loud creaking noise as the roof titled a bit to the left, where it rested to my disappointment. Suddenly the structural integrity was lowered enough that the roof started falling straight down, where it proceeded to pulverize anything below it, myself included. I then used the giant rockets to finish off the straggling 9th floor, and barely reached enough destruction to clear the level. I had destroyed a massive monument to man with only my bare hands… and a few nanotechnology-infused weapons. I was proud.

And then I started to feel a bit guilty. The game has all sort of vague plot explanations for why I was supposed to be destroying massive skyscrapers (they were uninhabited! and owned by an evil government!) but I still felt a bit like a virtual terrorist. I felt as empowered as perhaps I have ever felt (although the plasma tank in RFG felt just as empowering in a different way), which in retrospect is a bit sad and scary. RFG speaks to the primal urge to leave your mark by burning it into the flesh of earth (Where the Wild Things are, which I saw last night, understands that same urge). It was a unique and unrivaled experience, and for me at least raw destruction has lost a bit of it’s novelty. There’s nothing left to break, time to see games worry about making things instead.


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