Red Faction: Guerrilla didn't really get the best shake the first time around. It released on June 2, 2009, the first day of E3 2009, meaning it was promptly swallowed up by the hype. It was bookended by InFamous and Prototype, two third-person titles that offered super-powered protagonists, as opposed to a normal guy with a hammer. Guerrilla sold okay though and brought Red Faction's environmental destruction hook to an open world environment. Publisher THQ greenlit a sequel and attached television show in 2011, but neither found an audience and the series was shelved.
THQ Nordic is giving Red Faction: Guerrilla another lease on life and a chance to show off its magic to a wider audience. The new release is called Red Faction: Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered, which brings the hammer-wielding action to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Improve textures, lighting, and support for 4K resolution rounds out the package.
Revisiting the series is a weird experience. For one, I forgot about how the game presents its story. In the span of five minutes of gameplay time, you go from meeting the main character, Alec Mason, to meeting his brother, finding out about that brother's activities with the rebel Red Faction, and having him killed by the Earth Defense Force (EDF). The other characters have all of a few seconds of sadness before they put a hammer in Alec's hand and say "Welcome to the Resistance!" And by "Resistance", they mean Alec does all the work.
Which is perfectly fine to be honest. The sequel to Guerrilla, Red Faction: Armageddon, was more focused on the narrative side of things, but I didn't really care. I don't care about Alec Mason's story here, but at least Volition and the player were on the same page. "You just want to destroy things, right?" the developer asks. That is all of I want; thank you for understanding.
Red Faction: Guerrilla wasn't a looker in terms of visual variety. The game ran okay in terms of the amount of debris and smoke that could litter the field, but setting the title on Mars meant that everything was one color: Red. Volition tried to play around with different structure types, but ultimately, it's all very red, which can get a little tiring as your playtime drags on.
You complete the game by liberating regions from their EDF masters, via the systematic destruction of everything in sight. (I don't quite get the logistics of this, as Alec seemingly does as much damage to friendly structures as he does enemy ones.) Destroying random stuff nets you regional morale, which turns colonists to your cause. Add in the story missions and you have the makings of a standard open-world game. Yes, Guerrilla was new back in the day—Assassin's Creed II came out the same year—but it is rather rote at this point.
That said, I don't really think of Red Faction: Guerrilla as a game you play to beat. It's the type of game you jump into for a few hours to destroy stuff before putting it away again, because the destruction available is still best of in class. A decade later, swinging the hammer at a wall, vehicle, or enemy and seeing them just crumple is so satisfying. It is probably one of the best video game weapons ever, with a real feeling of weight and power to it.
The hammer is backed up by other awesome weapons from the Red Faction, EDF, and Marauder groups, including the always-helpful Remote Charges, Proximity Mines, Rocket Launcher, Gauss Rifle, or Nano Rifle. Anything that explodes or provides an interesting side effect, like the Singularity Bomb's ability to create short-term black hole, is a worthwhile addition to your arsenal. The closer a weapon is to a real-world counterpart, like the Assault Rifle, Shotgun, or Pistol, the more disappointing it is. That's because Red Faction: Guerrilla's shooting just isn't up to snuff. It feels floaty and imprecise, even with some of the more powerful weapons. The floaty feeling extends to driving vehicles, which never feels great.
Running around like a mad man, hammering walls and blowing things up never gets old though. If you're a bit of a structural engineer, you'll even start to learn where exactly to hit buildings with explosives to bring them down. Red Faction: Guerrilla is a game like Blast Corps, where destruction is its own reward. It feels great to get that last hit in and watch an entire building just collapse. There's even some smaller missions that task you with destroying a structure with limited resources; the puzzle-like nature of these missions is great.
Unfortunately, you're not entirely free to do so. See, every time you destroy something, the EDF drops in to stop your roaring rampage. They must have drone cameras everywhere, because the moment you start destroying something, they will be on you. And killing a squad only makes more. Once they're fully on, squads will arrive by transport and gunship. They'll spawn out of nowhere. And their aim is amazing, the complete opposite of Star Wars' Stormtroopers. This leads to situations where you're simply overwhelmed from the word "go", especially in some of the game's later story missions. There needed to be some tuning on the enemy response system back in 2009, and I'm saddened to see the remaster didn't address those problems.
Speaking of the remaster, how did those tweaks and improvements turn out? Well, the improved textures, lightning, and 4K resolution make the game look great overall, but a handful of issues remain. Even the PlayStation 4 Pro chugs when the destruction gets too hot and heavy, though the frame rate is fine most of the time, hovering at 60 fps. The game is entirely too dark on normal settings: I had to turn the gamma up just to see what I was doing. There's also pop-in here and there, and the cutscenes look to all be in their original resolution.
Worse than that are the random glitches. Occasionally, Guerrilla will hang there in a loading screen, requiring you to restart the game to proceed. Sometimes the game will straight up freeze or crash; it's honestly been a while since a PlayStation 4 game has crashed on me. It's such an aberrant experience on a console that I'm a bit shocked.
Rounding out the experience is the multiplayer, which I didn't get to try during my review period, and Wrecking Crew, which distills the entire experience down to you, some weapons, some buildings, and a timer. Wrecking Crew is honestly my other highlight in this experience, because somehow I missed it my first time. Being able to destory with no EDF breathing down your neck is simply a treat.
I wouldn't say this is a great remaster. Yes, it brings back Red Faction: Guerilla to prominence and it's a game that I think needs some love. Guerrilla never really had a proper sequel with the same gameplay, and I'd love it if the reception to this game greenlit a new title. But the problems with Red Faction: Guerrilla back in 2009 remain in this new release. The story is threadbare, shooting and driving aren't great, the enemies come on too strong, and there are glitches galore.
Despite that, this type of environmental destruction in an open world is still amazing and the hammer continues to prove itself as one of my favorite game weapons ever. Perhaps the budget price of $30 will be enough to lessen the sting of some of these issues, because I still had a blast with Red Faction: Guerrilla overall.
Red Faction Guerrilla returns, taking a second crack at being an instant classic. The awesome environmental destruction returns alongside the hammer, one of the best gaming weapons ever. And the game has been redone in 4K resolution with improved lighting and textures. Unfortunately, the bad stuff still remains: shooting and driving feel floaty, enemy response is tuned too high, and there are a number of glitches present. As such, the remaster merely brings a great game into the modern age, without the improvements that would mark a better re-release.