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A Level A Day – “Red Faction: Guerrilla,” Tutorial Level

A Level A Day – “Red Faction: Guerrilla,” Tutorial Level (photo)

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Truth in title, dear readers: A Level A Day will be my attempt to give my thumbs more exercise every 24 hours. ALAD will be part diary, part analysis and a smidgen of random observation on games that either slipped through the cracks or might deserve reconsideration. I won’t promise to finish every game but I’ll try to track what I think of as honestly as I can, so you’ll at least know why I’m stopping a particular game.

Sunday, December 5, 2010: “Red Faction: Guerrilla, Tutorial Level”

I didn’t play THQ’s sci-fi third-person action title when it first came out. It crept out under my radar and I actually gave my copy away. And, yes, I did smack myself when it wound up being talked up by a bunch of my peers. The reason I’m going back to it is because it’s available as part of the new OnLive service, which lets you stream video games from remote servers directly to your TV. Without an actual disc to play, OnLive gives me the chance to check out this sleeper hit.

“Guerrilla” comes as a soft reboot to previous Red Faction games, which started in 2001 and were well received. The one thing that made the games stand out was their Geo-Mod game engine that allowed for explosive deformation of the game world. With the tech developed by studio Volition, buildings weren’t indestructible and you could blow holes through walls, creating new pathways and thus new strategies to engage the enemy with. So, it’s clear that when THQ decided to go back to “Red Faction,” they decided to focus on extrapolating this technical achievement.

The game’s story focuses on mining engineer Alec Mason, who’s journeyed to Mars looking for honest work alongside his brother Dan. An opening cutscene shows the brothers reuniting and then moves to Dan giving his just-arrived brother the lowdown on status quo of the colonized Red Planet. It’s run by an oppressive military regime called the EDF. “We’re under martial law here. Prison Camps, torture, death squads… people need something to believe in.” As they drive, they watch people being the EDF breach a suspected Red Faction stronghold and then later line people up against a wall. “Forget the propaganda. ‘Free Mars’ is over,” brother Dan says. (This is referring to the aftermath of “Red Faction 1.”)

At Dan’s house-which is basically a trailer on red, dusty terrain-some mysterious visitors pull up. Alec watches from afar and them remarks to his brother that he’s seen the woman before. Dan waves him off, but the woman in question was on a wanted poster displayed at the checkpoint. Think she’s important?

The gameplay basics start getting introduced right away. Alec wields a sledgehammer that can destroy most any structure and you have to bring down a research tower and abandoned lab of deceased scientists. Destroying stuff generates scarp, the economy of the game. I’ve also got explosive charges that stick to stuff. Anything you throw ’em on blows up real good. As I’m going about the ‘sploding and smashing, Alec confronts his brother about the girl, to which Dan says “You know what’s going on. The Red Faction could use a guy like you.” The rest of the exchange goes like this:

Alec: “To do what? What are you people doing out here?”
Dan: “Whatever it takes.”
Alec: “I’m not a terrorist, Dan”
Dan: “You think I am? The EDF are wiping out towns… Alec, we need help!”
Alec: “You got me into enough trouble earthside. I just wanna do honest work here.”
Dan: “That’s what we’re fighting for! If we don’t resist, they’ll take everything.”
Alec: “Enough.”
Dan: “You’ll see I’m right about this.”

An EDF gunship swoops in to arrest Dan and before they even move to run, he gets shot down. This miserable turn of events just incites me to play even further and, even if this intro sequence feels a bit by-the-numbers in terms of how it introduces gameplay mechanics, “RFG” sports one of the best opening levels in recent memories.

It’s funny to be playing “Red Faction Guerrilla” at the tail end of a year where “Medal of Honor” and “Call of Duty: Black Ops” have stirred up political controversies. Alec is basically getting caught up in a subversive anti-authoritarian underground and I’m getting the sense that game’s going to great pains to tell you that you’re doing the right thing. In the first “Red Faction” game, main character Parker was fighting against an evil corporation that was exploiting miners. (One of the game’s sectors is actually named after Parker, who’s gone down as a war hero.) At the end of the 2001 “Red Faction,” The Earth Defense Force swept in to save the day. In the fifty years between “Red Faction 1” and “Guerrilla,” it’s EDF who are actually the bad guys. This turn of events suggest a continuity of oppression, if only incidental, between corporate and military entities. Even if it’s accidental, most video games don’t contain this much subtext. It makes the blatantly manipulative brother death almost palatable and incites me to wonder how much the game’s going to appropriate radical-left political jargon.

IFC_Portlandia-S8_best-of-skits_subaru-blog

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

Uncle-Buck

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…