Disclaimer: This review will only cover the campaign and not the online multiplayer.
While playing the Playstation 4 edition of THQ and Volition’s cult hit RED FACTION: GUERRILLA, there was a recurring thought that I found difficult to shake:
“I wish I played this game around the time it was first released.”
RE-MARS-TERED is, you guessed it, a re-mastered version of the original game, released back in 2009 on the Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows. It’s an open-world action game offering the tantalizing promise of an explosive B-movie adventure set in a future where humans have colonized Mars.
Players take on the role of Alec Mason, an engineer who arrives on Mars to be greeted by his brother Dan. Almost immediately, Alec realized that Mars is not what he expected, as the Earth Defense Force (EDF) has effectively taken control of the planet in a manner most corrupt. Dan asks for Alec to join the Red Faction in order to revolt. It’s not long until Dan is gunned down in front of Alec, thrusting him on a quest for vengeance and to take back the planet for the people.
Players looking for a compelling narrative should seek elsewhere. GUERRILLA’s story does little to emotionally involve the player, as the characters are one-dimensional, the writing is mediocre, and the pacing leaves much to be desired. The events are so rushed that it’s nearly impossible to care about these characters or sympathize with them. Though some of the voice acting is decent, many of the NPCs provide unintentionally humorous moments. Though there are a few moments along the way where a mission teases the notion that the story may develop into something more interesting, especially with the addition of alien races, it never feels engaging.
With that said, GUERRILLA seems somewhat aware that its plot is not contingent upon delivering what could be an otherwise satisfying experience – there are no pretensions about what it’s trying to accomplish. Instead, the game embraces a B-movie mentality that action and spectacle can suffice as more than enough when it comes to entertainment.
Mars itself is the most beautifully realized and interesting character the game has to offer. There’s undoubtedly a great novelty that comes from exploring a landscape not seen too often in games. Sure, plenty of games allow players to experience other planets, but the developers successfully capture both the familiarity and alien qualities of the red planet.
GUERRILLA’s gameplay can be broken down as such: Mars is divided into several sections, each yours to explore. In order to progress to the next section, you must complete missions that will free the area of EDF control. Typically, these missions involve the destruction of EDF property, defending locations – anything to reduce the EDF’s population. Of course, there are side missions to complete, such as delivering vehicles and rescuing hostages. Some of my favorite side missions were spent with Jenkins – a character who feels like he would fit in with the Mad Max universe. These missions play out in the form of an on-rails shooter, with Jenkins driving around and the player trying to cause as much damage to EDF property as possible.
This is where GUERRILLA shines brightest and how it became a bit of a fan favorite a decade ago. This game encourages destruction and explosions of the highest caliber. In the original Red Faction, the terrain was destructible and played a vital role in the gameplay, allowing for creative solutions. This time around, the terrain is not destructible, but any and every building or structure is. Though the main weapon given to Alec is a trusty mining hammer, other weapons and gadgets can be unlocked and upgraded to assist in dealing some spectacular damage. Even by today’s high standards, it’s a testament to how mindlessly enjoyable and cathartic this type of carnage can be.
Unfortunately, it’s not long before one starts to realize that there is a pattern here. Each area basically offers the same types of quests, only in a new location. And since there’s really nothing to do except partake in quests, it all feels very predictable rather fast.
It also comes to show how far open-world games have come in terms of polish. The shooting mechanics in particular felt dated and I often would resort to explosives and my hammer, as those often got the job done more efficiently. While the vehicle controls also felt light, it’s a bit more forgivable given that these aren’t conventional cars (I also found these driving sections to be a much needed respite from the seemingly never-ending shootouts).
Visually, the game has its ups and downs. Character models and landscapes generally look nice and its rarely boring to look at. Though there’s some texture pop-in while cruising quickly in a vehicle, it never ruined my enjoyment. On the audio front, the soundtrack never manages to present anything overly memorable, but it suits the action. One other issue worth mentioning was that cut-scenes were generally much louder than gameplay sections – perhaps this isn’t an issue everyone has experienced, but it was certainly jarring.
It’s also worth mentioning that the twenty to thirty second load times in GUERRILLA are borderline unbearable in 2019. Dying in this game is common, as the action is often chaotic and unpredictable. While some may label this as “janky”, it often adds to the game’s “so-stupid-it’s-fun” charm. However, with the amount of time it takes for the game to load after each death, it really can hinder one’s enjoyment.
Even with the game’s faults, RED FACTION: GUERRILLA RE-MARS-TERED achieved a rare feat: it somehow kept me coming back. Even though I knew exactly what to expect from every play session. Even though I knew there would be moments of frustration due to the game’s dated mechanics and structure. Even though the story was dull. It’s a reminder that games can accomplish a lot with the simple notion that blowing shit up is, and almost always will be, fun as hell.
RED FACTION: GUERRILLA RE-MARS-TERED is available on Playstation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. Review copy provided by Evolve PR.