I was pretty high on this game when I booted it up for the first time. It was great to get back to Mars and start blowing up everything I could. I thought for sure that I was going to be in it for the long-haul, but after about four hours and two full sectors, I think I’ve gotten my fill of Red Faction: Guerrilla’s particular brand of destruction. While the act of bringing down an entire building one strut or wall at a time is still as satisfying as ever, the surrounding game feels especially dated at a time where games seem to have better gameplay than ever, especially shooters.
When Guerrilla first launched and took Red Faction into an open world setting, it was at a time where Grand Theft Auto was still the only king of open-world gameplay. It was still a novel idea to turn your long-running franchise into an open world game because many developers weren’t ready or able to deliver on the GTA promise. While Guerrilla is no exception in this regard, the open world allowed them to open up the destruction to encompass entire structures, not just walls and floors.
In 2009, it was a passable open world with gameplay that was good enough at the time. It’s safe to say that the destruction was a big part of why the game did so well and why many were able to overlook its faults. Now almost nine years later, and with the advent of Frostbite and other destruction focused gameplay engines and the fact that open world games are seemingly a dime a dozen with several best in class options across multiple platforms, what else is there to make this game special other than the fact it was recently remastered?
I remember back when I first played it that the open world felt overly barren for the majority of the game. While the final sector felt like a more proper city setting worth razing, early sectors like Parker and Dust had only scattered structures and too much wide open space to keep the thrill of destruction going. Too often you had to challenge the endless spawns of EDF forces at one of their outposts to get at anything truly worth bringing down, but this was also decidedly less fun when you’re spending more time dodging bullets than properly setting up the perfect demolition.
Destruction was an art in Guerrilla and expert placement of explosive charges and barrels could level a building in seconds; it was an experience like no other at the time. The shooting, on the other hand, was too loose and boring. There were too few satisfying weapons and ammo always felt a tad too limited in the heaviest gunfights. If I could stealth through a base and destroy a building without being noticed, that would have made things all the more interesting. Unfortunately, enemies simply trigger and become alerted to your presence just by entering one of their dedicated zones.
To make matters worse, once you do clear out that particular garrison, your radar will start to show dozens of new pings as new EDF forces flood the area at an alarming rate. It starts to feel more like a survival mode as you try to eliminate the forces and take down something before dying, only to come back and keep trying until you finally level everything or simply move on to something else. Maybe when I played back on 360 the game couldn’t spawn as many enemies, but now on PC, I find the game to be much more difficult than my first playthrough, between the swarms of EDF and getting stuck on seemingly anything and everything as I try to navigate the rubble.
Therein lies another issue: the game just doesn’t play all that well. Shooting is just okay and running around is fine enough. I will say that I do like that the sprint at least feels fast, or faster than some other games and there is no stamina bar to be seen. This is important because driving is a chore with cars either being way too loose or way too tight. If objectives weren’t so damn far apart at times or if there were more safe zones I wouldn’t need to be driving as much as I do, but even certain objectives require you to drive one of these abominations. Driving is awful and should be avoided as much as possible.
Jumping is equally confounding as it is very inconsistent. Some objects appear low enough to jump over, but oddly have some kind of barrier above or around them to prevent you from getting over. Sometimes you’ll just slide down the side of a cliff if you fail a jump, other times you’ll ragdoll and spiral out of control, but the latter is at least pretty funny to watch so long as it doesn’t kill you. Other times you’ll get stuck on a small object at knee level that prevents you from running or jumping through a hole in a wall or in a building despite it being barely noticeable. Movement, in general, can be inconsistent and annoying, whether in a vehicle, on foot, or mid-jump.
I’m not even going to bother getting into the limited story that sees a reluctant Alec Mason go from anti-trouble-maker to elite Red Faction soldier in a matter of five minutes, because that’s not why you would come to this game. To many, this will be their first exposure to Red Faction since the series has been in limbo thanks to the boneheaded decision to throw away everything that made Guerrilla special in its sequel, Armageddon. Instead of making an improved follow-up to the (at-the-time) acclaimed game, they made a linear shooter more in the vein of Gears of War with limited destruction and a greater focus on a story that was never worth completing.
Perhaps this is an opportunity for Red Faction to gain some traction and become appealing to the mass market again. Perhaps we could finally see a true sequel to Guerrilla that finally delivers on all the promise while offering a better open world and massively improved gameplay. Perhaps now that THQ Nordic owns Deep Silver, the publisher who purchased the creators of Red Faction (Volition), we might see the team return to their forgotten child and make good on all the promise. Then again, with Volition’s more recent offering not doing well with players or critics, perhaps they are not the team to bring back this storied franchise.
I will always appreciate Red Faction: Guerrilla, but this Re-Mars-tered edition doesn’t do anything to fix a game that was never quite as good as it could have been to begin with. If you just want a destruction playground, there are likely better options at this point, but thanks to the Wrecking Crew mode you can focus on just the destruction if you’re a longtime fan who just wants to take down some buildings like in the old days. I wish this game was better, I wish Red Faction was still going, but I don’t think this remaster does anything to push either of those needles.