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Red Faction: Guerilla

Red Faction: Guerrilla, a free-roaming romp across the fully destructible surface of Mars, is shaping up as one of the surprise hits of 2009, not to mention a minor technical triumph. After profiling the single-player campaign last month, we’re pleased to confirm that Guerrilla’s destruction engine – which the developers Volition claim is a full “five to ten years ahead of rival shooters” – makes a full appearance in multiplayer, which we were able to test in our hands-on.

It’s an impressive technical achievement, considering the game supports up to 16 players wailing on each other and the surrounding architecture with sledgehammers and man-sized rockets. The destruction engine isn’t a multi-player gimmick – it changes the face of the game’s six online modes. In addition to the standard deathmatch (Anarchy) and team deathmatch (Team Anarchy) are a handful of modes entirely predicated upon Guerrilla’s destruction engine.

There’s Damage Control, which is a bit like King of the Hill. Except, rather than controlling territory, the goal is to destroy your rival’s control points, and then rebuild them in your team’s image using a reverse-demolition Reconstructer. This mode requires careful teamwork and communication, lest the match descends into rival teams abandoning their control points and running pell-mell towards the enemy’s own.

Demolition is akin to Warhawk’s Hero mode. A nominated player is the team’s Demolisher – the only player who can destroy structures and accrue Demolition points for their team, and hence, must be protected at all costs. But our favorite thus far is Siege mode. Teams take turns defending and destroying the opposite team’s fortifications. Between rounds, the defending team does its best to repair the base with their Reconstructer.