Red Faction: Guerilla is a rough, flawed game on almost every level. In 2008, when it smashed onto the scene to revive and re-imagine the Red Faction franchise for the then-modern Xbox 360 and PS3, we over-looked much of these nitpicks because the concept was so enthralling. One man and his sledgehammer can wrought destruction to environments and buildings on a scale we’d never seen before.
But ten years removed, this Re-MARS-tered version only serves to magnify the issues this game always had.
After coming to Mars to start a new life with his brother, the insufferably named Alec Mason is introduced to the militaristic occupying might of the Earth Defense Force. After that freshly-met brother is brutally slain by them, you get to inducted to his group of rebel resisters – the Red Faction. There’s something like 12 more hours of rote and banal story to play through as far as the main campaign is concerned. Side missions include Martian miner-turned-freedom fighter versions of GTA missions. Come protect this spot, escort this person, etc. None of it is remarkable now in 2018, and in the shadow of contemporary open world romps like Fallout 3 and Far Cry 2, it wasn’t very interesting in 2008.
But you don’t come to Guerilla for the story, right? That’s like expecting a treatise on the human condition while watching Pacific Rim. You’re here for the kooky action. And there’s plenty of that in the form of rudimentary third-person shooting mechanics that can’t help but feel incredibly dated. Shooting rifles and pistols have no satisfying recoil or firing sounds. Just sort of a flat hum of “future gun.”
Explosives, on the other hand, crack and boom with the satisfying howls of catastrophe. Putting big holes in any wall or vehicle you come across, and watching it fall to splinters on the enemies under it (or inside it) is always triumphant. Better still during rounds of the multiplayer mode, Wrecking Crew. It’s the crown jewel of the game, frankly. It’s like a demolitionist Supermarket Sweep, requiring you to render as much solid matter into dust before the time runs out in any way you can. It’s takes on death-matches and objective control is admirable, but any part of this game that triples down on the core concept of destruction is a winner. One can see how this mechanic can beguile you, and divert your focus away from how mediocre the rest of the game is.
Driving is an inconsistent experience in Guerilla. You get a sense of utility and function when manning the various different vehicles. Hunky earth-movers and walkers are slow and steady and perfect for demolition, where as dune buggies are dexterous and made to outrun pursuers. The act of driving is a mess, though.
The floaty low gravity physics of Mars means scenarios often feel left up to chance than skill. You can hit a jump approximately the same way in the same vehicle multiple times and be sent careening into death rolls in different directions each time. This adds an unexpected (and maybe unintended) wrinkle of difficulty to missions that are heavily dependent on driving. If you need to hit a small target from the safety of your moving metal coffin and there are any obstructions in your path whatsoever, then prepare to make a couple passes at the objective before you actually stick it. In a game that so nakedly encourages letting loose and embracing the chaos of annihilation, it makes acting on that catharsis harder than is should be.
When it’s time to duke it out with soldier types, they flood into open spaces and leisurely hide behind cover without much interest in gaining a tactical advantage on you. EDF operators daftly chuck grenades without really worrying about if they come anywhere near you. You rapidly approaching a cover point they occupy doesn’t inspire them to do much more than wait and shoot. If they challenge you at all, its because the sheer number of them that show up to stop you once alerted can be staggering. They also pursue you with a hellhound’s vigilance, seemingly never tiring to tossing an endless supply of nameless, faceless pawns to be destroyed by you.
As the game is remastered, some visual aspects have been upgraded. 1080p, 60FPS bunker busting is a good look. But even though some of the lines are sharper and some hues more rich, Guerilla has some of the ugliest textures in open world games, and an incredibly bland color palette. Everything is a shade of Martian brown/red/gray, and it’s such a befuddling color code to make out quickly that it feels pretty impossible to tell one section of the world from another without consulting your map. If the goal of a remaster is to make a game look like you remember it, and not how it actually was, Voliton’s answer to that is “Yo, but remember the Geo-Mod engine, tho???”
The real shame about Red Faction: Guerilla is that it feels like something should have grown from this seed when it was planted back in 2008. It was imperfect then, but the concept was sound. Some of the most successful series these days got that why through iteration and innovation. Guerilla never got that chance. And instead of taking that chance in 2018, we get a reminder that some good ideas never get the chance to see things through.
Review copy provided by publisher. Reviewed on a PlayStation 4.