Allow me a moment to lead off with a bombshell: I DESPISE remasters. Seriously. I hate them with the burning passion of a thousand collective infernos. However, somewhere within the recent glut of gaming regurgitations, there was one beacon of goodness that inspired genuine affection. It was a weird sensation to be sure, but sometime after learning that Nordic was rebranding under the THQ banner, it was announced that THQ Nordic was giving Red Faction Guerrilla the 4K treatment. For some unexplainable reason I was over the moon at this proposition and instantly began to reevaluate every remake I’d beat up in the last five years. Then I saw its new title. *Sigh* Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-Tered Edition. Suddenly, the illogical anger was back again and all was well with the world. I still couldn’t wait to play the game, but I did so while wishing harm upon the entirety of THQ’s marketing division.
Welcome to Mars
“Mars: Where everything’s red, and that’s not just the bloodshed!” If this were the tagline in any tourism magazine, most folks would likely give the bustling colony a long second look before planning a trip. Unfortunately for Red Faction Guerrilla’s (I REFUSE to use Re-Mars-Tered, come at me) protagonist Alex Mason, he was completely in the dark about all of the oppression and violence taking place on desolate planet. He thought he was simply joining his brother, working as an explosives specialist for a mining company. Little did he know that digging for ore was about to become the least of his concerns.
Shortly after reconnecting with his sibling, it becomes increasingly obvious that Mason’s brother has landed himself into some deep trouble. Apparently Dan has aligned himself with the Red Faction, a group of outlaws leading an uprising against the occupying Earth Defense Force. Before you ask, no, this isn’t the same EDF that’s ever so fond of dispatching oversized insects. This incarnation is more of a, “shoot any person who crosses them, square between the eyes” variety. After witnessing his brother getting gunned down in cold blood by the aforementioned military force, Mason suddenly finds himself on the wrong side of a rapidly escalating rebellion. He was now in the Red Faction, whether he likes it or not. With all of these story elements firmly in place, players are handed a sledgehammer, a handful of remotely detonated explosives and a clip of ammo. The uprising has begun.
The first thing that you learn about Mason is that he’s one tough sonofabitch. He immediately sets out to right the wrongs of the EDF through making shit go BOOM! In the process, he shows off one of the key pillars of Red Faction Guerrilla: destructibility. Virtually anything that’s man-made can be destroyed. Either he has superhuman strength or the building code on Mars mandates that everything must be constructed using exclusively paper maché and chewing gum. Regardless of which is true, players can blast through the entire structure of a building, foundation and all, using only a handy dandy sledgehammer. But why would you ever want to manually take a building to pieces when there are explosives that could accomplish the same task in a fraction of the time?
Boom Goes the Dynamite
Easily the biggest strength of Guerrilla is its open-ended mission design. Bluntly speaking, the game engine could give two squirts how you complete an objective, as long as it’s accomplished without dying in the process. For example (and also what you will likely find in the gameplay video above) Mason has to attempt a harrowing rescue of two infidels being interrogated in an EDF base. After countless attempts to sneak in undetected and limiting the collateral damage in the process, I was left frustrated and unsuccessful. So how did I manage to ultimately complete the nigh impossible task? I threw stealth out the window and knocked on the front door with a goddamn semi. After rather violently inviting myself in, I somehow managed to avoid the area where the hostages were being held. Unfortunately for the rest of the EDF, the rest of the structure was reduced to rubble. If the game has taught me anything, it’s to never bringing a knife to a gun fight. Instead, bring a diesel-powered behemoth and give those gunmen nothing to hide behind but the bodies left in your wake.
A vast majority of the campaign revolves around doing the bidding of Red Faction leadership. Oddly enough, Mason never really questions why the hell he was destroying a planet he’d just landed on. All he knows is he has orders and by damn, he will complete them. Missions are of a variety of different types, but a vast majority revolve around destroying EDF structures of economic value, freeing fellow rebels, or outright attacking EDF outposts. All of these actions help to gain the favor of unaligned citizens, in hopes they will eventually convert to the cause. Eventually other factions will even join the mix, but the crusade against the opposition remains the same.
For a game that hinges on the fragility of its environment, there are far less weapon and explosive options than one might expect. That said, what they do provide is more than up to the task of unleashing increasingly hellacious levels of devastation. The key is to constantly remember to mine ore and materials from everything that gets destroyed. Upgrading each piece of gear in the arsenal continuously unlocks more perks, which in turn increases the combustible potential!
Dystopia, Now in 4K
When you consider that Red Faction Guerrilla is nine years old, right down to the very day that this embargo lifts, it’s somewhat shocking to realize how well the game has aged. Obviously the mission structures are a bit less impressive than what you might expect today and Mars feels far more lifeless than modern releases. However, when you remember that the setting is a barely occupied hunk of rock, the lack of activity can be somewhat excused. Ultimately, the crux of being to blow everything to smithereens is both evergreen and endlessly enjoyable. Now if only the shooter sections could have seen a bit more attention, this could have been capable of overshadowing the initial release.
Visually speaking, this is an experience of both highs and lows. For one, the cutscenes remain untouched from the original release and look positively repugnant when compared to the in-game fidelity. Thankfully cinematics are few and far between, because every time one of the Vaseline-smeared mannequin slap-fights play out, you’re instantly reminded that the game is nearly a decade old. On the polar opposite end of the spectrum, the upscaled resolution, lighting effects, and detailed texture work help the in-game action feel far more modern than you might expect. That said, it’s still hard to give a pass to the muted palette, continuous pop-ins on the horizon, and handful of scenarios where frame rates dip well below the advertised 60 fps when playing in 1080p.
As backhanded as it may sound, Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-Tered Edition is far better than it has any right to be. The mechanics that originally made it heaps of fun still hold true today. Shedding the excessive complexities that accompany modern open-world games is a surprising breath of fresh, albeit dusty, air. Regardless of whether you are a red planet rookie or grizzled Martian veteran, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to revisit this explosive gem. It really brings the house down.
Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-Tered Edition review code provided by publisher. Version 1.0 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.