Designer Talks "Red Faction: Guerrilla"

Since debuting in 2001, The "Red Faction" series of games has been a standout in the crowded sci-fi shooter genre. Developer Volition created the original Geo-Mod engine for the first "Red Faction," which gave players the ability to change the environment on a level that hadn't been seen before. From blasting a hole in a wall to taking down entire structures, "Red Faction" allowed players to take control of their surroundings and use them to their own advantage. Destroying enemies' cover, creating new paths to an objective-you name it, you could do it.

A year later, "Red Faction II" was released, and it built on the gameplay of the original and added more features, including a host of new multiplayer options. This June, the long-anticipated third installment of the series, "Red Faction: Guerrilla," will be coming to the PC, PlayStation3 and Xbox 360.

CBR caught up with Volition's James Hague, the game's Design Director, to talk about the return of the franchise.

CBR: For those not familiar the "Red Faction" games, tell us a little about the universe they take place in.

James Hague: The first "Red Faction" and "RF: Guerrilla" both take place on Mars. "Red Faction" was during the era of early industrial outposts on the red planet, and "RF: Guerrilla" happens later, when Mars is more populated. You can certainly play "RF: Guerrilla" without any prior knowledge of the series, so don't worry about that.

The "RF: Guerrilla" universe is about physicality--explosives and weapons with a very manual feel to them-instead of laser pistols and so on.

How does the storyline for the new game tie into the previous two?

We wanted to continue the storyline from the first game. In the first "Red Faction", you were a miner working for the oppressive Ultor Corporation. Conditions were horrible, and there was a worker revolt. In the end, the Earth Defense Force (EDF) helped you defeat Ultor.

Now it's 50 years later, and Mars has been colonized. The EDF has abused its power, and become the oppressor. It's time for a new revolution.

While the first two games were first-person experiences, you shifted the perspective to third-person for "RF: Guerrilla." What facilitated the change?

We tried it both ways. It started out as first person, but with all the debris flying around and raining down on you, it was frustrating. You'd die and not know why. With the camera pulled back to third person, situational awareness is much better.

One of the staples of the "Red Faction" series has been environmental destruction. How has the Geo-Mod engine evolved for this game?

We took the lessons of the original Geo-Mod engine, and started over from scratch for the 2.0 version. The weak point of the old version was physics, and we decided to blow out that aspect of things. Buildings are constructed from materials with their own masses and properties, and you can arbitrarily damage and destroy buildings or any other manmade structure. Stresses and structural integrity come into play, so you can smash through the lower walls of a building with a truck, then turn around and hear all the creaking and groaning of the metal supports, and maybe the section above will collapse.

A typical reaction after reading about this is "yeah, yeah, just like in games X and Y" but you need to experience "RF: Guerrilla" to see the difference, and it's huge. You remember before 3D games came along, there were a lot of fake "3D" games with scaled sprites? Then when real 3D hit, all of a sudden it became obvious that all those old games were just limited novelties. That's the leap you get when you play "RF: Guerrilla."

While on Mars, players won't just be exploring endless wastes of red sand. Can you talk a little bit about the different sections of the gameworld and how they differ from one another?

Mars has been partially terraformed, so there are areas with some plants and grass, and areas with some snow. Most importantly there are colonies and towns, not just endless expanses of nothing. Each sector has its own unique feel.

What sort of arsenal will Alec Mason be armed with in the game?

The guerrillas don't have access to the same supply lines as the EDF. So while Mason can steal and use EDF weapons, the guerrilla movement also improvises weapons out of industrial tools and explosives. Take an arc welder, pull off the safety devices, beef it up a bit, and it's spectacular for electrocuting EDF soldiers at a distance, even soldiers inside of vehicles. It properly arcs to metal, so it feels realistic and isn't just some unexplained "electricity gun." Mining tools make wonderful weapons: sledgehammers, mining charges. The sledgehammer is turning out to be the favorite weapon in the game.

You've also got a ton of vehicles in this game. What are some of the more unique ones that Alec will have access to?

There are big mining mechs-we call them walkers-designed for heavy lifting. If you get hold of one, you can tear through an entire building, then turn around and see the path you just made through it. You can also throw vehicles with the large walker, and those vehicles do damage when they slam into buildings...or EDF soldiers. Cascading destruction like that is one of the strengths of the engine.

How do the multiplayer modes in "RF: Guerrilla" differentiate themselves from other games in the genre?

Take any classic mode and add true destruction, and you have a whole new game. The map changes as you play, to where you might not even recognize it by the end of the match. We designed custom modes for destruction, too. In Siege, the attackers are trying to destroy key structures in the defenders' base. The defenders can rebuild things on the fly with a tool called the Reconstructor.

There's also a pass-the-controller party game called Wrecking Crew, which we just put together for fun, but it has turned out to be as popular as the online multiplayer modes. There's a lot of truth to "RF: Guerrilla" being three games in one: single-player, online multiplayer, and Wrecking Crew.

You had a multiplayer beta a while back, and you recently released a demo on Xbox Live and the Playstation Network. What do you want players to take away from those experiences?

We want to get people used to destruction before the game ships. There's a backpack in multiplayer called the Rhino. (Backpacks are the "RF: Guerrilla" version of power-ups, but in keeping with the design philosophy, they're physical objects, not abstract glowy things.) The Rhino lets you charge through walls, people, entire buildings. But in testing we'd see people get the Rhino, then think "well, I can't use it in here" so they go outside to a clear area, which defeats the whole purpose of it. We've got to work against years and years of conditioning, of players thinking of buildings as movie sets, not something that can and should be destroyed.

We've heard that there will be DLC available for the game. Can you give us any details?

Sorry, I can't talk about DLC at this time.

Volition have done some crossing over between this series and your other very successful franchise, "Saints Row." For those who weren't aware, what are a few of the easter eggs they should keep an eye out for between the two games?

That the Ultor Corporation from "Red Faction" ended up in "Saints Row" 1 and 2 is a big crossover in itself. Apparently Ultor was big in the fashion world before they got into mining and moved to Mars. I don't want to spoil any surprises, but there are certainly "Saints Row" references hidden in "RF:G." I fear I may have said too much already...

"Red Faction: Guerilla" is slated to be released in North America on June 2, 2009. For more information on the game, head over to www.redfaction.com.

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