It’s almost a year to the day since we reviewed Red Faction: Guerilla Re-Mars-tered (that name makes me groan every time) on PS4, and this week it comes to Switch. When they were originally released the Red Faction games set a new bar for destructible environments, but does Guerilla still have the same impact today, particularly on the Nintendo console?
Guerilla is a straight graphical remaster of the original game, without no new or changed content, and as a result it definitely shows its age. Little things are noticeable, like the game world having to reload when you start a main mission. This is particularly jarring when you fail a story mission, since there is no auto-restart option; if you want to jump straight back in you’ll have to wait to load into the main world, then wait to load back into the mission. We’re generally used to open world games that transition seamlessly from mission to mission without a break, so this is a big backwards step. Similarly NPCs will just repeat the same dialogue on a loop, and the AI is not particularly advanced, with enemies and allies alike running around like headless chickens. The updated graphics are really variable, with some of the lighting looking great, but in general they don’t really match up to the best modern remasters, and there are lots of graphical issues such as texture popping.
Another way it shows its age is through the plot, which is a predictable good vs evil narrative without any nuance. You play as Alec Mason (voiced by Troy Baker), an engineer who finds himself involved in Red Faction, a revolutionary force aiming to free Mars from the oppressive Earth Defence Force. At one point it looks like the game is going to delve into the morality of a revolution that does more harm than good for the people it seeks to liberate, but that is quickly brushed aside in favour of destroying more things. You’ll be disappointed if you hoped for any depth to the story, which takes a fairly black and white view of the villains and heroes; the EDF, for example, are constantly killing civilians without any logic.
The gameplay sees you completing a variety of different main mission and side quests, all of which invariably end up with you destroying buildings that are seemingly built from plywood. Your main weapon is a big old hammer, which you can use to smack straight through solid buildings until they topple. If that takes too long for you, there are also remote charges you can throw and detonate. Later on extra weapons of destruction are unlocked, such as the rocket launcher and proximity mines. By destroying buildings and vehicles you’ll collect salvage, which can be used for more weapons and upgrades. The ultimate aim is to liberate six regions of Mars by completing side quests which lower EDF control of an area, as well as unlock story missions.
The wanton destruction that the series is famous for is really fun, and it’s this that will keep you playing the game. Even this can get repetitive though, and there isn’t a huge amount of variety in missions, which generally divide into destroy something or rescue something before something else gets destroyed. Red Faction’s destroy anything physics were revolutionary for their day, but when the remaster is competing against the likes of Crackdown I’m not sure it offers a lot. Even a relatively lower-profile series like Just Cause offers more variety in its destruction. Similarly all the areas in the game feel very repetitive; Mars isn’t known for its variety of environments, so regions are generally distinguished by being a different shade of reddy brown and some small lighting changes.
The difficulty of the game varies wildly, even on the easier setting. Lots of times I could happily run around completing objectives without worrying at all about the multiple enemies shooting at me. Other times enemies seemingly appear from nowhere as soon as you start a mission. A few missions can also be frustrating in of themselves, such as one that requires you to complete ten objectives before various buildings explode. The dialogue implies that you are on a timer, but there is no onscreen indication of this. The first few times I tried the mission buildings would explode when I was in the vicinity, failing the mission. I had no idea whether this was a timing thing, or whether I should do the objectives in a certain order to avoid this, or whether it was just bad luck.
The Switch port is relatively solid, although there are a few minor additional issues. Load times are definitely longer, with a wait of 20-30 seconds to enter the level. The good news is that once you’re in the open world there are no loading screens, except for starting missions and fast travel (thankfully these loads are only a few seconds). Aiming while using the pro controller is fine, but if you’re playing in handheld with joycons it’s tricky, as it is with all shooting games. I generally didn’t bother with the guns that required precision firing, and instead went with spray and pray weapons like the Assault Rifle and the Arc Welder, or just ran around with the trusty hammer. It would have been good to see motion controlled aiming, similar to Breath of the Wild and Skyrim. On the plus side for the Switch port I didn’t experience any of the framerate issues reported on other consoles last year, even in handheld mode.
Overall things haven’t changed much since the PS4/Xbox release. It’s still a fun game to mess around in, but there are a number of minor issues that betray the fact it’s an older game. There are plenty of other titles that do what Guerilla does in much better ways, and without feeling as repetitive. The Switch port is likewise solid, although a number of quality of life changes could have been made to suit the handheld version. Ultimately your enjoyment will probably come down to how much you like the destruction, and how repetitive you find that aspect. For me, I wouldn’t say it’s a priority purchase at full-price, but definitely worth picking up on sale for a bit of mindless fun.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*