Genre is a tricky thing. The consensus on Red Faction Guerrilla is that it is a third-person shooter. A more accurate genre descriptor for it would be mayhem sim. Third-person shooting is a minor detail in the big picture. This is a game where you wallop enemies with a sledgehammer as your go-to takedown. You can demolish buildings with an array of weapons and explosives. You can bustle around in walker mechas, slap around guards, and tear down buildings. It’s a frantic open world romp with a robust physics-based destruction engine.
None of this has changed in the Re-Mars-tered version. Apart from the genius dad pun, expect the exact same game with native 4K support, reworked textures, shaders, postprocessing, and improved lighting and shadow rendering. I didn't play the original, but I've acquired it in a Steam bundle at some point. So I played a bit in advance, just to get a feel for it. The remastered graphics are clearly improved, but it’s just a new coat of paint in the end. Everything else is intact, including cutscenes, story, gameplay, sound, and, particularly noticeable, AI.
The premise, which harks back to the original Red Faction from 2001 and its Half-Life clone allure, is also the same. Your name is Mason, you arrive in colonized Mars to meet your brother, who is killed by the Earth Defense Force (EDF), a typically fascist military organization, backed by the Ultor Corporation. Disgruntled, you join with the eponymous Red Faction to fight back. They give you missions of destruction and mayhem that let you take over areas in the map bit by bit. It's that whole spiel we’ve seen in dozens of open world games since then. There’s nothing bad about the premise, it’s effective and simple. There are also glimpses that the premise could develop into a more intricate storyline, but it never does.
A couple of missions have a good atmosphere, and I wish there were more like it. When Mason sets out to find a mythological nanodevice, he ventures into Marauder territory. It’s a boilerplate tribal civilization with Mad Max undertones, but it’s what I hoped to see more of as I kept taking on missions. It’s fair to say that action games can’t afford to delve too deeply into storylines and missions that resemble an RPG. Some might say the audience tends to have a lower tolerance for story-driven games. It’s a shame because it would have made Guerrilla much better.
At its core Guerrilla’s gameplay is pure, unadulterated fun. You start with the sledgehammer, a machine gun and pistol, and a remote charge detonator. Destroying buildings and blowing up vehicles just never gets old, though the mindlessness can make your brain a bit mushy after a few hours. It’s just the sheer hack-and-bash process of taking down a building that keeps you going for hours on end. You find weak points in the structures and try to take it down with fewer hits. As you progress you get a few more toys, and it becomes even more fun and addictive. I didn’t expect to be hooked like that. This is your brain on explosions.
There’s also a lot of driving around to get from A to B, which starts to get really old after the first dozen hours. Once you’ve seen a few Mars landscapes, you’ve seen them all. It doesn’t help that there isn’t much going on in the background or the streets, except when you get to a residential district in the final area. If Guerrilla had taken a few other pages from the Grand Theft Auto playbook, it would have been much better for it. Not just in terms of story, but in its atmosphere and fleshing out the planet.
It’s a challenging game in most difficulties, requiring caution once you’ve caught the attention of the EDF, who tend to swarm you quickly. The third-person shooting is bog-standard, with the same cover system we’ve seen in hundreds of games. I had a lot more fun with the sledgehammer than with the guns, only using them when absolutely necessary. A few of the advanced weapons you unlock are fun to mess around with, but nothing special. A stealth system might be out of place in this game, but it could be worth exploring.
My hands-down favorite character in Guerrilla was Randy Jenkins, whom you meet for one of the side missions as his backseat bombardier. He shows up in a Marauder-styled vehicle and drives around while you shoot missiles at EDF billboards, buildings and vehicles. As you do, Jenkins never stops talking for a second, and he’s superbly written for such a minor character. Every time you meet him for another round of assault, he tells you something new about himself, and there’s a sense of progression to the story that’s much more interesting than your tryst with the lovely, boring Samanya.
If only the developers had focused more on this Borderlands narrative style, Guerrilla might have been a seriously great game. It’s that sort of funny, unusual character that gives a good story a hook. What’s odd is that Volition, the studio, certainly had the talent to pursue something like that, as they had already done previously with the Saints Row games. Guerrilla might be set on a mostly barren planet in comparison, but Jenkins is proof that there was room for better, more engaging characters.
For the first twenty hours or so the game was running very smoothly. As the missions became more complex and more populated, the performance took a hit sometimes, with a few noticeable stutters. I used the PC version for this review, and I tried to run the game with every setting on maximum. Running an i5-4690K and a GTX 1080, I expected it would be fine, and it was, for the most part. I also had about five crashes, three of which took place in the final push, which was really frustrating because of the checkpoint system sending me back to the start of the mission.
Apart from the eventful single-player campaign, the game includes a multiplayer component, offering further challenges in addition to the side missions. Not being able to test the multiplayer with a review copy, I can't speak to it. According to information available on the original version, the multiplayer should include six modes. These include typical multiplayer modes such as individual and team Deathmatch and Capture-the-flag. Other modes deal with either destruction or protection of buildings. One of these is "Siege," so that one team attempts to destroy buildings and the other team defends them. Once one of them emerges victorious or time runs out, they reverse roles. There is also an offline couch gaming "pass the controller" mode for one to four players, called "Wrecking Crew," with similar challenges.
In spite of some niggling issues, I had a real blast, which is surprising, as the pretentious, brainy gamer I think of myself. It goes to show that gameplay is absolute king, and there’s no revolution in sight. For all its minor flaws and missteps, Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered is absolutely worth the time and coin, especially if you get it for free on Steam as a previous owner of the Steam version. You can crank it up with all its graphical enhancements, or you can pop it on your console of choice. Whether you are a new player like me or a hardened Martian, you will have an explosive good time.
Red Faction Guerrilla was a frantic open world romp and mayhem simulator. This remaster is a total recall of the original with a fresh coat of paint.
- All The 'Splosions You Can Eat
- Pure Undiluted Fun
- Randy Jenkins
- PC Version Might Crash
- Driving Gets Repetitive
- Not Enough Randy Jenkins