I recently finished the main story of Red Faction: Guerrilla on the PS3 and found myself suddenly relaxing, as if unwinding from a tension I'd been holding onto while playing. It took a little while of motoring around Mars and cleaning up various leftover missions before it fell into place in my head. I'd been waiting for the single player game to start sucking, and it never happened. The pieces were there, the potential to fall apart, but it never did fall down like that. So thank you, Volition, for not screwing up this game. How could it have gotten messed up? Just three ways to start with: plot, trophies, and the last mission come to mind. Please note that talking about these below obviously deserves a Spoiler Warning!
Really, like many games, it had the ingredients to have the plot tank. You have a freedom fighter, a freedom fighting organization, one or two ally characters with real names and faces -- all things that could have been a part of sucky or just plain dumb plot developments. But it never had a hackneyed, overused, betrayal plot twist where someone on your side sells you out, typically at a time of greatest vulnerability. It happens so often in games I was expecting it throughout the last half of the game. Surely the commanding voice in the great little cut scenes introducing the missions was going to "test" me or lead me into a trap to bump me off since I was getting popular in the movement. Certainly the attractive engineer that upgraded my equipment would leave and temporarily leave me weaponless or without upgrades until I found someone new to take her place. Nope, what I got was a straightforward resistance fighter plot that worked. How refreshing!
The Single-Player Trophies
Thank you for not making the single player trophies dependent on game difficulty. Early on I heard from Wombat on the CAGCast that the game was apparently best played on Casual or you will die a lot, and that the Achievements/Trophies weren't tied to the difficulty level. Even on this level the enemy troops swarm rather tenaciously. Playing on Casual helped me enjoy the experience a lot better (apparently a common observation) and while a swarm of bad guys could still kill me if I was backed into a corner on some tougher missions, if I was cautious and kept my wits about me in a firefight I could dig my way out of a tight spot and flee to safety. There's no need to replay this game on a harder difficulty for another trophy, it just doesn't need to happen. That's not to say all of the single player Trophies are fun. Beating Pro times on the demolition and car challenges sounds excruciatingly hard, not to mention finding all of the radio tags or ore deposits across a huge map. So no, I won't get every single player trophy, but I still give credit where credit is due.
During the final mission you don't lose all your guns but one they want you to use. You don't get slapped in a weakling vehicle to try and take out superior opposing military hardware. You don't even have some maniacal whackjob yelling about his superiority or about taking over the world in the driver's seat of one of the vehicles you need to destroy. I appreciate that.
A Matter of Trust
It feels like Volition trusted the bash-it-all-with-a-hammer gameplay and the physics models that powered it and gave it a straightforward resisting-the-Man plot without the usual gray-area "am-I-really-good-or-is-the-Man-good?" soul searching and double-crossing garbage. Red Faction: Guerrilla's gameplay elevated it into a satisfying single-player sandbox experience. And I haven't even touched the multiplayer yet, but I heard good things about that, so we'll see how it goes.