EXCLUSIVE! We go hands-on with the brand new Red Faction

Anyone order Just Cause - on Mars?

Guerilla takes place fifty years after the events of the first Red Faction and bypasses the second game's trip to Earth in favour of another Mars setting. "We see the Red Faction storyline as having two threads," explained Rick White, the game's producer. "It's not that the Earth thread wasn't successful, it's just that the Mars thread is more compelling." So back to the red planet it is, where things are a little different from last time around...

The major change is, obviously, in the genre. Volition has tried to build on their experience with Saints Row by setting Red Faction 3 in an open-world with a third-person viewpoint. The reasoning is twofold. First of all, Volition's aim is to become an open world specialist studio - and that simply won't happen with the Saints Row series alone. The second reason is more relevant to the Faction series. As Rick tells it: "We've got much more destruction going on in Red Faction 3 and you need to see what's going on. You can't do that in an FPS as the view's too restrictive - so we had to pull the camera back."

With Mars now partially terraformed, the action all takes place on the surface. It's a busy world, with plenty of vehicles to be commandeered (everything but the aircraft we're told) and buildings to be destroyed, and it's this demolition that takes centre stage. Volition has spent the last four years working solely on true physics-based destruction, a system that we gleefully tried to tear to pieces.

Structures are all load bearing. Take away a building's support and you'll bring the whole thing down. So, find a tower with four legs and you can bet that knocking two of them out will collapse the entire thing. A bridge may well remain standing if you remove the middle legs, but as soon as anybody tries to cross it in a vehicle it'll come tumbling down. And we're not just talking about pre-determined chunks of stone and rock here: anything and everything that falls apart does so dynamically. Walls are built not as solid chunks to be removed as a whole, but as layers of materials; each layer with its own physical properties. Knock part of the wall out and you'll see the pipes and rebar within.

The destruction is permanent too. Return to a scene of devastation and, unless there's a mission-critical building, everything will still be reduced to rubble. Key buildings will of course be rebuilt in order to push the story forward, but that's not to say it's impossible to be the product of your own downfall. One mission, House Arrest, asks you to rescue two hostages from the first floor of an EDF stronghold. The first example of this mission played out as we expected - storm the building, kill the bad guys, rescue the hostages. Blowing up the stairs prevented anyone from chasing us, but what if we'd accidentally destroyed them before finding the hostages? Well, that all depends on how clever you are.

A neighbouring ridge can be abused to leap onto the roof, or a nearby antenna could be knocked onto the building and used as a bridge, but in some cases you may trip yourself up entirely and have absolutely no way of completing your mission. "You could blow a hole in the ceiling from the room below the hostages," suggested Volition VP Dan Cermak. "Of course, there's no guarantee the hostages will survive if you do that."

It seems that the physics system opens up a huge amount of opportunities. Thankfully there are plenty of tools at your disposal to make use of them, the most interesting of which is the default sledgehammer. The main character swings his hammer so hard that it's impossible not to wince as his arms look like they're torn from their sockets. Pulling the right trigger unleashes a horizontal swing, the left trigger a vertical, and it's easy to knock entire walls down (and building as a result) with a handful of well-placed strikes. In fact, set things up correctly and you can even score a kill by knocking a chunk of wall out and onto the head of somebody on the other side.

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