After nearly a decade since its original release, we’re revisiting the Red Planet vision created by Volition before they moved wholesale on to the Saints Row series, and the playable but soulless Agents of Mayhem. Arguably the best instalment of the four games, Red Faction Guerrilla ReMarstered is the entire open world destruct-em-up plus DLC after a lick of performance paint and some of the slowdown dust wiped from its edges. Whilst updated versions of last gen games are all the rage, and some cynically point towards cash grabs and easy money for publishers, it’s fitting that this is here because it didn’t set sales alight at the time, and was overshadowed by the functional but far too linear goings on in the sequel, Red Faction: Armageddon. Those of us who have longed for a return to the simple ways of Alec Mason and sledgehammering a building to pieces can rejoice and be recruited into the liberation of Mars once again.
Set in 2125, Red Faction Guerrilla has you (as the aforementioned Alec Mason) arriving on Mars to start a new life. Meeting up with his brother, Dan, he’s filled in on what life is really like out in the barren wastes and that the Earth Defence Force (EDF) have turned from heroes to oppressors since the events of the original two games. The Red Faction is alive and well as a small rebel force and are actively working to oust the EDF from each inhabited region and free the people. Unfortunately, Dan doesn’t survive much beyond his role as establishing the backstory, and Alec is left to join up with the freedom fighters and start out liberating the small mining colony of Parker. When up against overwhelming numbers and brutal firepower the best course of action is surgical hit-and-run strikes against infrastructure and facilities, and with Mason being a mining engineer, it’s a match made in heaven. Only he can free the planet, one guerrilla action at a time.
The key selling point in the games has always been the destruction of the environment to allow a sense of freedom rarely found in gaming. Whilst the original two were more like corridor shooters with specific walls that could be demolished, Volition upped their game with Red Faction Guerrilla and introduced Geo-Mod 2, their proprietary software that enables the level of destruction on display. Switching to an open world meant a bigger playground to roam around in and more variety on offer in terms of game play, and they didn’t disappoint when virtually everything that appears on screen can be taken apart to its base components. Right from the first playable section you’re taught how to destroy the buildings and pick up salvage (a money substitute), and the majority of missions revolve around that core mechanic. They built an impressive system and that’s what the game is all about – they knew their audience well.
Move on 9 years and that hook is still there, and feels relatively fresh even if other elements don’t. Because we’ve seen little else with destructible buildings outside the Battlefield series and the errant Crackdown games, it still feels good to demolish anything and everything in your path. Wall blocking your route to a prisoner? No problem. Guards hiding behind cover? Easy. Aircraft shooting you from above? Disassemble one of their wings. Mason’s remit as a guerrilla is to destroy, destroy, destroy and you’re given all the tools to go about it with aplomb. Brute force can solve most issues, but there’s something particularly satisfying about identifying a weak spot or supporting structure and surgically removing it to watch an entire building collapse. There are even specific challenges in place that pit you against the sort of problem that MacGyver relishes, and they’re still the stand out feature. Of course there’s running, gunning and fighting to free Mars, and those bits feel a bit dated, though not as much as expected.
If you’re not attaching remote explosives to bridge supports, chances are you’re in a gunfight with the EDF or the Marauders that inhabit the Badlands. It’s lite cover-based combat with a couple of assault rifles, a shotgun or a pistol, and it’s done well enough that it doesn’t feel that different to some of Volition’s later games. Movement is floaty and forgiving, possibly a homage to the slightly lower gravity, and it extends this feeling to vehicles as well. Huge hulking heavy machinery can get up a bit of speed and leap of ramps and bumps in the desert, jolting and spinning off course when they land. It makes sense, Mars gravity is about 40% that of Earth and keeping the same physics wouldn’t help sell the colonisation of another planet. They’re also able to create the open world by doing away with the pesky lack of oxygen – Mars is in the process of being terraformed and it’s possible to breath the atmosphere. In turn this means a variety of environments so you’re not stuck trudging through all red soil and rocks. The sense of frontier colonisation is conveyed with the small isolated settlements, the desolate landscape and the wreckage of the first Red Faction campaign. It’s really nicely done, though by today’s standards it feels a little sparse.
You’ll be busy though, there are side missions, collectibles, upgrades – all the things we know and love in an open world shooter. Whether you’re sat on the back of a truck blasting EDF encampments, or smashing the local geology apart with your massive hammer, there’s usually something to tackle between story missions. Most activities also help reduce the EDF’s hold on the region, and completing the guerrilla actions rewards not only a reduced enemy presence, but new weapons as well. It’s worth getting as many done as possible just to see what comes next because you’ll be lusting after something beefy to do more damage. You never forget your first singularity bomb…
Outside the campaign there are two modes to keep you entertained – Wrecking Crew and Multiplayer. Wrecking Crew distils the wanton destruction of the main game into small maps for a couple of couch based players to go head-to-head for a high score. There are a few modes, several maps, and it lets you loose with pretty much every weapon available with little restriction. Multiplayer is where you head online to rampage through the Martian environment, crushing foes and buildings alike with jetpacks that offer up special perks as well as the standard in game arsenal. Also with multiple maps and modes, there’s a surprising amount of depth on offer in the online play and at the time of writing the servers are well populated so it’s easy to grab a game or two. It’s not the main draw in Red Faction Guerrilla, but it’s a fully featured addition that begs you to spend more time in it than you realise.
Being open world, Red Faction Guerrilla isn’t free from glitches, though they’re relatively minor. It’s the crashes to XMB that end up frustrating, and it doesn’t always autosave where you’d think it would. Expect to spend time rebooting to get back in the action (admittedly it doesn’t take long), though hopefully whatever the issue is will get patched out soon enough. Part of the ReMarstered package is the option to play in either 1080p/1500p at 60 fps, or 4K at 30 fps. If you’ve not got supersampling enabled on the PS4 Pro and only an HD screen hooked up then you won’t see any options at all. Switch it on or connect a 4K display and you can select performance or visuals bias to your hearts content. The 60 fps option is definitely the way to go for a much smoother gaming experience, but it’s down to user preference in the end. Graphically it looks very nice with texture updates, lighting effect tweaks and post-processing effects embellished so that the explosions look prettier, but it never looked bad originally. Sound is decent too, though in full surround the cutscenes tend to still go into stereo which can sound a bit strange, a 7.1 audio mix would have been nice if there’d been time, though it’s hardly a major issue.
What you’re getting for your money is a prettier, smoother version of Red Faction Guerrilla to play on your current consoles (or a free upgrade if you have it on Steam). There’s a lengthy campaign to play in a world unlike most we see digitally rendered, hours of multiplayer content for those who like to anonymously frag others online or grief loved ones in person, and it’s at a decent price too. It’s a shame that the follow up to this was so poorly received (and conceived) because this is exactly the type of game that Volition should have carried on making. Sure, we had some good Saints Row games, but where’s the love for the adventures of the Mason family and their struggle to free Mars? Or why did Geo-Mod tech never start appearing in other games? Hopefully the release of this remaster will demonstrate there’s appetite for a new Red Faction adventure and we can all get our asses back to Mars soon.
A PS4 review copy of Red Faction Guerrilla ReMarstered was provide by the THQ Nordic PR team and the game is available now on Xbox One, PC and PS4 for around £25 depending on your store of choice.