Along with Halo and the original Medal of Honor games, 2001's Red Faction was one of the first first-person shooters to show that the genre could work on consoles. Unfortunately, that game's disappointing sequel, 2002's Red Faction II, showed that not all do, and that some don't work on a PC, either. Now the series is making a comeback of sorts with Red Faction: Guerilla, which THQ will release on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC at some point in the next year. The operative phrase here is "of sorts" because, unlike its predecessors, Guerilla isn't a first-person shooter. Though, according to Producer Rick White, fans of the series shouldn't knock it until they try it.
Crispy Gamer: Let's backtrack a bit. What is the Red Faction series and where does Guerilla fit into it?
Rick White: The series has always been about the little guy fighting back. In Red Faction, you started off as a miner on Mars, and there were some experiments going on, so you revolted and fought your way out, and eventually the Earth Defense Force came in and saved the day. Then Red Faction II took place on Earth. For Red Faction: Guerilla, we're going back to Mars. It's 50 years later, Mars has been terraformed, but the Earth Defense Force is now the oppressive force. You're a guy who just got his plot of land when, all of a sudden, the Earth Defense Force starts taking people's property. It starts with just you fighting, but you eventually get swept into a guerilla movement.
Crispy Gamer: Now the other two games were first-person shooters, but this isn't, right?
White: No, it's definitely not. It actually started out as a first-person shooter, but we soon realized that with all the destruction we've incorporated into the game, we really had to pull the camera back so you can see the destruction you've caused and what's hitting you.
Crispy Gamer: What kind of game is it, then?
White: It's a third-person action shooter in an open-world environment. It's not a run-and-gun game; you really have to use destruction to your advantage. If you just run and gun, you won't last long.
Crispy Gamer: So then is the game typical of open-world games in that there's a main story but also tons of side-quests?
White: It's an open world to the extent that we've put these challenges all over the world and you interact with them how you want. We've tried to bring the Earth Defense Force to life. What I mean by that is they may have an outpost, and they send supplies to that outpost twice a day. You know that if you hit them, it will raise the civilian morale and bring down their control of the area, but you can do that whenever you want. If you just stand there, the E.D.F. will continue to do the things they do: They'll beat people up, they'll send out their propaganda trucks, they'll send supplies to their outposts. Then, on top of that, we have the story missions.
Crispy Gamer: Why did you decide to do this as the next Red Faction, especially after so many years, as opposed to doing, say, Red Faction III as an FPS and this kind of game as a spin-off?
White: We actually toyed with having both first- and third-person views in this game. We even had people who came to work at Volition because they wanted to work on a Red Faction first-person shooter, and they were like, "What the f*#$?" It just didn't feel right, and in fact, once we switched it, they all converted. So we feel that once people start playing it, you'll get drawn into it.
Crispy Gamer: One game that Volition made in the six years since Red Faction II was Saints Row, which was also an open-world game. Did working on Saints inspire you to take Red Faction into a similarly open world?
White: I don't know how much it really influenced it, but I do know that when we were thinking of what we could do with our GeoMod system [a destruction system that allows you to dig holes in things using explosives], and we saw the open world of Saints Row, it just made sense.
Crispy Gamer: How does this game work with the GeoMod system?
White: Well, GeoMod allowed you to dig holes in certain spots, but there were always spots you couldn't GeoMod through, and you had to go back and go through the door. So we decided to set this game above ground, which means it can now be used in meaningful ways.
Crispy Gamer: Does that mean you can now cut a path through a mountain to get to your objective?
White: No, you can't delve into the terrain. Instead, it works with the buildings and anything else that's on top of the terrain.
Crispy Gamer: Can you use it to punch a hole into the side of a building, then?
White: Exactly. All the buildings are destructible. I was playing this one part where you have to rescue some hostages on the second floor of a building, but I had blown up the stairs, so I went up on a nearby ridge and set off some charges on a tower, which brought it down onto the roof of the building. I then used the downed tower as a catwalk, blew a hole in the building's roof so I could get inside, found the hostages, then blew a hole in the wall so we could get out. It really just changes everything.
Crispy Gamer: One of the hallmarks of open-world games is vehicular manslaughter. Will there be different vehicles in Guerilla?
White: Yes. We have the conventional ones: jeeps, tanks, trucks and ATVs, but you'll also be able to upgrade vehicles. You can, for example, bring your truck back to your safe house and put a turret on it. We've also got a walker --
Crispy Gamer: Are those the big mech-like things that look like the cargo loader from "Aliens"?
White: Right. They were originally used to dig and pick up things, but they can be used to crush things or pick up tanks. There's a light version and a heavy version.
Crispy Gamer: Will the game feature any multiplayer, either co-op or competitive?
White: No co-op, we couldn't get the framerate anywhere close to what we'd need to do that, but we do have competitive multiplayer. It'll be 12 to 16 players, and we'll have the classic modes -- Deathmatch, Capture the Flag -- except that they'll also have all the destruction of the single-player mode. This not only makes them really fun, but because the environment is constantly changing thanks to all the destruction, you have to constantly change your tactics. We were playing once, and there was a guy who was sniping from a position where we couldn't take him out, so we blew through the wall of the building he was in, and blew a hole in the ceiling right below him. It really changes the feel of these games.
We also have some unique multiplayer modes that you couldn't do in any other game because of our physics-based destruction, but we're keeping those under wraps for now.
Crispy Gamer: The last game features the voices of such actors as Lance Henricksen and Jason Statham. Will Guerilla feature any celebrity voices?
White: We're still looking into it. Right now we're not.
Crispy Gamer: Do you have any idea when it might be out?
White: Yeah, fiscal year 2009, which means it'll be out somewhere between this March and next March.
Crispy Gamer: Finally, after the disappointing Red Faction II, why do you think Guerilla will redeem the series?
White: I think there's a lot of reasons, but the biggest is that it goes back to the roots of the series: It's on Mars, you're fighting back against an oppressive force, and it's about blowing up stuff and taking advantage of it.