THQ Nordic has been busy lately – Titan Quest came to PS4 and XBoxOne in March (coming in less than a month on Switch), had respectable reviews of Wreckfest in June, and Darksiders 3 is expected to arrive later this year. With a bevy of new and old games on their plate, it is good to see they are showing open-world shooter fans some love with the release of Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered (RFGR) coming out just in time for 4th of July festivities. Available on PS4, XBoxOne, and PC, players will be able to create their own fireworks as they fight to liberate Mars from the clutches of the Earth Defense Force (EDF) starting on July 3. Do the reworked graphics of the remastered edition warrant putting on your rose-colored glasses for a destructive trip down memory lane, or will it just have you seeing red for wasting your time and money on a game that is almost 10 years old? I’m here to answer that question with our Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered review.
For those unfamiliar with the Red Faction franchise, Red Faction Guerrilla was the third of four titles and is arguably the best of the series. Released in 2009, RFG left the first person view and confined spaces of the first two games behind with a switch to third-person and a fully destructible open-world environment. We aren’t talking about being able to blow up a few boxes or the random wall or vehicle. No, we are talking full on madness and mayhem, where just about anything other than the ground itself can be demolished. Using a “realistic” physics model, and a wide array of implements of destruction, you are able to turn anything from a storage container all the way up to multi-level buildings, and even complete complexes, into rubble which can then be scavenged for scrap. This level of environmental manipulation had never been seen before in a video game and, to my knowledge, hasn’t been duplicated since. Even Michael Bay would have to give a nod to the sheer scope.
The storyline is your typical dystopian future fare – you travel to Mars to meet up with your brother and start a new life, only to see him murdered by the Earth Defense Force for his ties to the Red Faction, a small group of rebels intent on bringing down the oppressive regime. Labeled an enemy of the state, you join the Red Faction, and so begins your quest for revenge.
Clearing the EDF out of a sector is pretty straightforward, blow stuff up. Destroying EDF property and completing the main story quest will lessen their hold on the area and raise the morale of the locals. As this happens, more rebels will join the cause and fight by your side. This is a bit of a double-edged sword, as the AI for both the enemy and allies is pretty basic, meaning they die easily. Allies follow you wherever you go, and though they will try to use cover, many times they stand out in the open for easy pickings, or even worse move in front of your weapon as you are firing or surround your vehicle making you run someone over to move. Their deaths lower the morale of the sector, and any killed by you (it will happen) has a larger effect. I have even had allies turn on me and start shooting due to random damage caused by my actions. At least they have a short memory and forget what you did when they lose line of sight.
The EDF isn’t as forgiving. Similar to Grand Theft Auto, the more chaos you cause, the more the enemy responds. A small-scale confrontation can quickly turn into wave after wave of heavily armed troops coming your way. Again like GTA, making it to a safe house resets your threat and makes it safe to go out again. There are free-fire zones where the EDF will fire on sight, so don’t think playing it safe gives you free access to all areas of the map.
Like most open world games you aren’t tied to the story, and there are plenty of side quests, achievements, and exploration to keep the player occupied. Though the story is adequate and the side missions and challenges are fun, the destruction is the true draw to the game. When you blow something up there will be pieces of scrap to collect from the debris. That scrap is required to research new weapons and armor, leading you to an ever-growing arsenal capable of even more destruction. Rinse and repeat. This type of progression can grow old quickly, but after many hours I haven’t hit that wall in Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered.
The “realistic” physics model noted above is part of the reason. Blowing things up is always fun, but the spectacular fashion in which this happens in RFGR keeps you coming back for more. In many games, when something is destroyed it just fades from view, but in RFGR chunks of debris will fly off, but the majority of the rubble from a destroyed building or vehicle remains. Even more fun is using a crumbling structure to create chain reactions. Placing explosives in the correct spot can cause a tall structure to collapse onto other buildings, destroying them in the process. It’s very satisfying, trust me.
So, back to the original question – is it worth picking up a game that is almost a decade old for just a few improved textures? If you never played the game, it is well worth it. There is more to the remaster than just slapping a few improved textures on an old engine, you are getting a complete overhaul of the graphics. From the description on the Steam page, you can expect:
- Heavily reworked textures and graphics features adding, for example, specular maps.
- Improved shadow rendering
- Improved Lighting
- Shader & Postprocessing rework
- Native 4k support for the finest up to date mars destruction experience ever
What does all that mean? It means the improvement is substantial. Don’t expect the beauty of a new AAA title like Farcry 5, but you won’t turn away in disgust either. The textures have good detail, and the explosions and resulting smoke and debris cloud hold their own against more current titles. But what about people who played the original?
The game-play is virtually unchanged from the original, so if you already played the game back in the day, the answer may be no. But don’t walk away just yet, as there are a couple of good reasons to head back to Mars. First, the game is just a hell of a lot of fun. With so many survival games, Battle Royales, and games focused on building, it is a refreshing change of pace to just head out and destroy everything in sight, especially with the improved graphics.
Second, if you already own the Steam version of the game, you are being treated to a free upgrade to the remastered version. This is a nice tip of the cap from THQ Nordic to the game’s fans, especially considering they didn’t get any of the revenue from the first few years of sales. That alone should be enough to jump back in and see what changes have been made, and I bet you will spend more than just a couple of hours rampaging across the Martian surface. And we can all hope that if Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered can muster a decent showing, maybe THQ Nordic will green-light another title in the Red Faction line. I would gladly part with my money for the chance to head to Mars (or somewhere else) and see what level of destruction could be had with a new engine.