Red Faction Guerrilla : Re-mars-tered Review – Blight on Mars

Ohoho, I have been waiting for this.

Since the day THQ went bust and left behind a huge legacy of video game gold, there has been one single series that I’ve been praying for THQ Nordic to return to, and they really did save the best ’til last. de Blob, Sine Mora, The Raven, Darksiders– those are all fine and dandy, but that isn’t the shining star I’m talking about. I’m talking about Red Faction and its greatest entry: Red Faction: Guerrilla. The day is finally here.

Red Faction: Guerrilla is the 2009 entry into the Red Faction series, helmed by Volition before they struck gold with the silliness of Saints Row The Third and Saints Row IV. After THQ briefly closed down Volition, and by extension themselves, the series was seemingly left in a state of limbo. It was only a matter of time before THQ  Nordic gave their attention to the series, letting remastering regulars Kaiko (Darksiders Warmastered, Legend of Kay Anniversary) do the honours.

 

You play as Alec Mason, the fresh-faced miner who has arrived on Mars in the 2120s, with the Red Planet being newly terraformed and under the rule of an oppressive Earth Defense Force. Not wanting to involve himself in the carnage and revolution, he is thrust into the matter when his brother, Daniel, is killed by an EDF squad. Being the next best thing by proxy, Alec has no choice but to step in and give Mars to the people, all the while sounding really, really, really uninterested about liberating Mars.

 

Story is quite clearly Guerrilla’s worst aspect, but this is a remaster, and the remastering needs to be talked about. In reality, Guerrilla always needed severe tune-ups way back in 2009, as it’s in the same boat as Condemned: Criminal Origins and Spec Ops: The Line when it comes to “Horrifically flawed gems that need your attention”. So, is this on the great remasters side, sitting alongside The Master Chief Collection and Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy? Or does this wallow in the same hole as The Last of Us Remastered and Voodoo Vince?

Move over Vince, you’ve got a new friend.

 

As much as Guerrilla kicks ass, Nordic and Kaiko have done essentially nothing to make sure that this is the definitive way to experience the game. You’ve got the usual stuff on offer; a 1080p upgrade, 60FPS, a slightly shinier surface of Mars, and the 1 piece of DLC that was given to this game. Visually speaking, Mars has never looked dirtier, and the industrial rustic nature that Guerrilla boasted means that whatever upgrades have been made aren’t even that noticeable.

Even with these fancy performance upgrades, they don’t much to differentiate from the original’s performance. The draw distance is still unacceptable, and the grass textures that populate the 4th sector, Oasis, seem to only load in when they feel like it. Other than that, I hope you enjoy staring at a loading screen for 2 minutes every time you fail a mission due to the AI buggering up.

When it comes down to it, everything that was present in the original Guerrilla is standing alongside the improvements, and that includes the incredible amount of problems that the game had. Despite Guerrilla’s cult status, this is the perfect series that needed either a reboot or a remastering, with some of the issues buffed out. What have THQ Nordic and Kaiko done to buff those issues out? Well, nothing.

 

The AI is a stellar example. Confined to standing still, lifeless as the planet they reside on, it takes no more than for Alec to accidentally bump into a stop sign to think that they are going to rise up right here and right now. They don’t know how to fight, and they will always meet their end to the armoured turrets that can turn buildings into a scrap salsa, which in turn punishes the player with the annoying morale system.

How it works is that the more you liberate, the happier these people are, and the less control the EDF have over the sector. What happens if you get the morale down to 0? Nothing, you’re still going to have guerrillas jumping out of the woodwork to help you. What happens if the EDF control meter goes down to 0 before you liberate the sector via the final mission in that sector? Nothing, you’re still going to have the EDF jumping out of the woodwork to kill you.

It’s a bit of a joke when you have a counter-intuitive meter trying to limit the amount of fun that you have during the campaign, but it’s another thing entirely for that meter to not mean anything in the long run. Another staple of the long list of issues that Guerrilla has been festering in since its launch, with nothing changed.

 

So yes, this is still the same Guerrilla you can hazily remember from 2009. The same awful AI, the same annoying morale system, the same incredibly lifeless Badlands, and the same stupidly flawless pro times on Transporter / Demolitions Master missions. In all seriousness, it is true that you can only change so much in a remaster before it stops becoming the thing you remember, but it still would have been nice to see those flaws evaporated. Thankfully, the gimmick hasn’t changed though.

Ho-yes, thus we reach the meat of Guerrilla’s reason to exist, and that’s the amount of physics destruction that you can make with just a simple hammer. Be it smokestacks, buildings seemingly made out of Corn Flakes, or apartment blocks, nothing is safe from Alec’s penchant for shrapnel. In fact, this metaphorical meat is more than enough to carry the game on its own, as the caveman cathartic-ism it provides is unmatched by everything else.

 

It’s not like Battlefield and Fortnite, where you have to ping a few bullets or explosives at a building for 10 minutes before it comes crumbling down in a dusty and boring manner. This is in the same boat as Just Cause and Worms where the player has a direct control over the environment, with an immense amount of satisfaction and power behind it.

 

The Sledgehammer. The Nano Rifle. The Thermobaric Rockets. The Walkers. Weapons of sheer destruction that will everything in their path into dust and death, and the wonder of it never gets old. Cool guys may not look at explosions, but the kings of the world take pride in their work, watching as the turbines fall to scrap at your feet.

 

Despite the annoying physics-based puzzles that the Demolitions Master challenges are littered with, they’re still the perfect way to show off why Guerrilla is so great. Chain reactions like explosive dominoes, a well timed skeet shot with a hydrogen tank, or just generally losing your mind in a cheaply-made building with an Ostrich Hammer; It’s all wonderful to literally blast through.

 

Bear in mind that in order to achieve said ecstasy above, you will need to shovel through a loooooot of bad mission structure, incredibly slow pacing, and tens of turret sections. The campaign of Guerrilla is something that hasn’t aged well, given that this game was pretty much a mild burp that original developers Volition made, 8 months after the release of Saints Row 2. 

 

There’s a lethal combination at play here, lemme tell you. Pair this extremely-dimwitted AI with the fact that a lot of missions don’t have mid-mission checkpoints, and you have a recipe  for hair loss and blind rage. One moment that almost struck me with an urge to chase after former Volition developers was the missions where you have to liberate Oasis from the EDF.

Taking down one solitary tank from the south? Alright, fair enough, I have just enough Nano Rifle ammo. Another tank coming from the north? Well, I don’t have much ammo to spare, but I’m sure these Remote Charges can do the job. Another 2 tanks, coming from the north and south respectively? I… yeah, there’s an ammo box here, that probably has enough to–

Another 3 tanks pushing together, along with an entire platoon of SUVs? Okay, no thank you.

 

When it’s not the game trying to effectively sabotage your fun with seemingly insurmountable challenges, it’s escort quests and driving sections where the NPCs are trying their hardest to talk your ears off. Yes Jenkins, telling the EDF to go back to Earth was funny the first time, but this tank is ripping your tin can vehicle to bits, and I really need to concentrate on that.

So no, the campaign of Guerrilla is a bust. It’s a boring, dull adventure through wastelands more lifeless than Pandora, and at the end of it, you get the feeling that nothing’s changed. The EDF is gone, and Mars is still this broken-down wasteland with nothing to offer. So if the campaign is a bust, then what reason is there to get this game? One word: Multiplayer.

Back when developers were tacking on multiplayer modes to their games because “any game like Call of Duty is sure to succeed, right?”, Guerrilla was no exception. However, Volition and THQ had a superpower that was omitted from other developers at the time, and that was caring about the product that they were making. With that said, Guerrilla’s multiplayer is unending barrels of fun, stupidity and big bangs.

 

With the maps contained as opposed to a boring open world, the chaos that unfolds is more enjoyable and fun for the players and spectators. You’re lying out of your arse if you don’t believe that placing a black hole bomb in a small building and watching as passers-by and blocks of concrete get flown into the air, isn’t one of the best things ever. Because it is! It’s fun, brilliant, and almost genius in its design!

 

Despite the multiplayer of Guerrilla not offering much, it suffers less due to the more interesting ideas being more consistent, unlike the campaign being thinly spread across the surface of Mars. The neat little spin Volition did on the Domination game mode is a fun concept in Damage Control. There’s also a great game of Hide N’ Seek that you can play with your pals by using a Sledgehammer and Re-Constructor in any of the maps. Ideas like that are the context behind the following statement: Red Faction: Guerrilla has some of the greatest multiplayer of all time.

In the end, this leaves your debonair delegate at a certain crossroads. While it’s clear that nostalgia has clouded the memory of Guerrilla’s problems, it’s not as bad as say, Rogue Trooper or Voodoo Vince, when it comes to failing to grab you once more. Guerrilla had flaws, but only some, and while this remaster failed whole-heartedly in airbrushing them out, it’s still wonderful to come back. A return to a home once seemingly lost, is better than seeing the furniture moved around by the new step-dad.

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