The last console generation seems like a quainter time compared to now. Granted, we didn’t have as many indie games then as we do now, but for every big-budget blockbuster there were numerous B-games: passion projects lacking polish but full of heart. We’re talking about games like Deadly Premonition, Binary Domain, The Saboteur, and, of course, Red Faction: Guerrilla.
Published by THQ – arguably the king of B-games that was thankfully scooped up by Nordic Games after its bankruptcy, becoming THQ Nordic – and developed by Saints Row creators Volition, Guerrilla captured the hearts of many with its fantastic destruction engine and light-hearted tone, telling the tale of miner-turned-revolutionary Alec Mason’s rebellion against the despotic Earth Defence Force. Now, thanks to Kaiko Games, everyone’s favourite space communist-'em-up has been given a new lick of paint – and it’s just what the game needed.
Although it would be a stretch to call the graphical updates amazing, they certainly have made the surface of Mars much more bearable to look at. The red and beige tones of the landscape are quite bland, plus the on-screen filters that change between each zone can often get annoying, but there are some moments that look fantastic even on a standard PS4 – mostly when you’re wrecking buildings. Watching chunks of concrete crumble onto terrified Martian onlookers never looked this good.
In technical terms there are many improvements, too. Red Faction: Guerrilla now runs at a silky smooth 60 frames-per-second, which makes it feel more modern and less clunky. What’s more, there’s pretty much no slowdown, however much havoc you wreak; as much as we launched thermobaric rockets and clattered through buildings with our trusty trademark sledgehammer, the game didn’t visibly drop frames – something very crucial to a game that encourages destruction.
Other than that, though, this re-Mars-ter doesn’t add a whole lot else. The game’s sole single player DLC, the explosive but short prequel Demons of the Badlands, is included, as well as the two additional multiplayer modes and one Wrecking Crew mode that was added post-release.
The lack of new content is fine, though, because Red Faction: Guerrilla, despite its age, is still a fantastically destructive romp through a sandbox Red Planet. For a nine-year-old game it certainly has a lot of life left despite its somewhat repetitive formula, and while many games peter out as the hours tick by, Guerrilla’s steady stream of increasingly overpowered weapons make the ride better as it goes on.
In fact, Volition’s classic is at its most boring at the beginning, which is mainly used to set up the narrative and introduce mechanics, restricting you to the tiny zone of Parker. The story is a standard revolutionary revenge tale that isn’t particularly interesting, but then again it doesn’t need to be when the gameplay is this fun. Even the paltry fare of a sledgehammer and a few explosives that you have access to at the start of the game is enough to have a huge amount of fun in the open world of EDF-controlled Mars.
Once you complete the final Parker story mission, the world suddenly opens up and you can experience Red Faction: Guerrilla in its full glory. Despite being the only way to progress the narratives, the mainline story missions are usually less interesting than the other parts of the game, bar a few memorable outings. One in particular, in which you have to steal a walker from an EDF base, clatter back through it, and fight off hordes of vehicles, feels like an instant classic.
It’s the faction missions that represent the main meat of the game, and boy are they fun. Essentially developer-sanctioned destruction, they can range from anything to assaulting an EDF base with a team of Red Faction fighters to climbing into a tank and blasting away a certain amount of vehicles to stealing an EDF car and desperately running it back to a Red Faction safehouse. The highlight of these, though, are the destruction challenges which add a puzzle element to the gameplay: you’re given some set tools and tasked with destroying a structure within a time limit. It slows the game down a bit, something that would seem like a bad idea on paper, but in reality makes it a lot more versatile.
Faction missions also decrease EDF control in your area, unlocking story missions, as well as increasing morale, meaning that Red Faction fighters are more likely to support you if you clash with the EDF. It makes the somewhat barren world of Red Faction seem a bit more alive and can lead to some spectacular clashes.
The constant repetition of missions can get a little stale, but thanks to the huge arsenal of unlockable weapons, these missions become fun testing grounds for your latest tool of destruction. From thermobaric rocket launchers that engulf structures in flames to nano rifles that dissolve your enemies, the unlocks come thick and fast – something that you’ll be grateful for after the tedious early stages of the game limit you to a clunky, boring assault rifle. The salvage that you need to buy these unlocks becomes much more readily available in the latter stages, again keeping you amused long into the game’s narrative.
Outside of the single player, Wrecking Crew mode provides a semi-fun supplement, supplying numerous destruction-based challenges, but it feels too isolated to rival anything you can do in the open world. What makes destruction so fun in Red Faction: Guerrilla is that you’re constantly trying to fight off EDF soldiers while you go about your demolition. Without them, it feels too easy and too empty.
Don’t bother with the multiplayer, though – and even if you do, good luck, we could barely find anyone on the servers to make up a match, let alone a full one. The maps are average and the modes are your standard multiplayer modes with different names slapped on them. Combine that with the dull assault rifle-based gunplay and it seems like multiplayer was an afterthought for Volition nine years ago. When the single player is this good, it’s a wonder why it bothered.
Red Faction: Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered presents a great opportunity for those who have already played it and those who haven't. For the former, it's a chance to experience its explosive, imperfect glory in a higher framerate and with better visuals. For the latter, it's a chance to play one of the cult classics of last generation at its peak.