Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dasvidaniya, Martian

by C.T. Hutt

By night, the streets are hushed. To a blind man it might seem as though civilization was never established on the inhospitable soil of the motherland. The disastrous economic policies of a detached and archaic government have left the once proud civilization in ruins. Clinging to a decadent past, the tyrants of old have tightened their grip around the throat of the populace, muting their cries for reform. Even still, in a dark basement in the most rural and secluded corner of the nation a few dedicated individuals dare to huddle together and between them whisper a single word against the oppressive silence: revolution.

The spark catches, traveling faster than anyone could have dreamed across the country. Soon the nights are no longer silent, but filled with the battle cries of patriots and madmen. The seconds of twilight are measured in gunfire. The whisper becomes a shout and the spark becomes a wildfire. Soon the whole nation is filled with the roar of the common people.

Sadly, this is not the end of the story. Those bright ideals that gave the proletariat their victory were realized at a terrible price. Only once the revolution was won did the full cost to the nation, the culture, and to the peoples’ very souls make itself clear. This is the true story of The Bolshevik Revolution Red Faction: Guerilla, a story humanity would do well to remember.

I only wish that Red Faction: Guerrilla were that interesting. The premise of the game and the symbols used throughout have all the trimmings of an Orwellian satire. Unfortunately, the title fails to become an effective metaphor. I will be the first to admit that my expectations for this game were unrealistically high, but Volition, Inc., who developed Red Faction: Guerilla, could have made something really fantastic if they had just avoided some common pitfalls. Specifically:

A main character motivated by revenge: Living under the thumb of an oppressive government is more than enough impetus to get a revolutionary out of bed in the morning. Having the bad guys gun down a relative in the first five minutes of the game is not only unnecessary, it is one of the most overused plot devices ever.

Excessive Minigames: The main strategy of the resistance forces in Red Faction: Guerilla seems to be to move from area to area and execute the same eight or nine tasks. These tasks take the form of score-based or time-based minigames. Not only does this entail an excruciating amount of repetition for the player, every time a task is completed gameplay abruptly stops and gives you a rundown of your statistics. The revolution will not be graphed. This is just lazy programming; there is no excuse for it.

Non-characters: The protagonist of Red Faction: Guerilla is Alec Mason, a miner turned revolutionary. We know that his family is dead and that he’s a little skeptical about the whole “take back the planet” idea, but that’s it. The secondary characters include a lady mechanic who has a sort of British accent and the leader of the Red Faction, an old white guy. Also there is the antagonist; he wears a dark military coat and has a raspy voice so you know he is evil. If developers can’t be bothered to add a little originality to their characters, I can’t be bothered to care about them.

Red Faction: Guerilla could have been the medium’s attempt at Animal Farm. Instead, developers set their sights lower and gave us The Saboteur meets Total Recall. Being able to destroy almost any building in the game is certainly an amusing feature, but this title could have retold an important story from our shared heritage. I can’t help but feel disappointed.

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