Wot I Think: Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered

T’was 2009 that Red Faction Guerrilla first appeared, an astoundingly ballsy and destructive Martian open world game before everything was open world games. And goodness gracious, it was fantastic. You played as a freedom fighter for the Red Faction, rebelling against the terrible authoritarian energy company EDF, who control the populations of Mars. And your tasks primarily involve knocking things over.

The original version was reviewed by someone called “Kieron Gillen”, and as he semi-comprehensibly pointed out at the time, it was the first time Volition’s Red Faction series had realised its own ambitions. “This is a game which understands that the key point of Red Faction was blowing things the fuck up and just spends as much time trying to turn blowing stuff the fuck up into actual game.” It’s hard to argue against it.

So what is the fist-chewingly horribly named “Re-Mars-tered”, then? It’s an update, a refresh on the original, designed to run slickly and widely on your modern PC. And good, because it turns out it’s just what we needed.

I often feel sorry for those who make updates to older games, what with our habit of upgrading our memories over time. So, yup, Red Faction Guerrilla ReMarstered (FRGR) looks like it does when I remember it! Which is to say, a dated-looking-but-nice-enough presentation, running in 3440×1440 at 120FPS, still featuring unsurpassed destruction and explosions.

In 2009 RFG felt incredibly political. Western forces were still occupying an ever more tumultuous and unstable Iraq, six years after Bush’s disastrous “mission accomplished” statement, a situation busily birthing what would five years later become ISIS. And here was a game in which you played the terrorist, charged with overthrowing the occupying forces, beginning with the most primitive equipment against their elaborate forces. You, Alec Mason, accidentally find yourself spearheading the Red Faction’s pushback, after the death of your brother at the hands of the EDF, and you start off holding just a hammer.

But what a hammer. With it Mason smashes down many a building, reducing enemy camps to rubble, and gathering the scrap that results for his chums at home base to recycle into new weapons and tools. Quickly the arsenal grows, including trad guns nabbed from enemies, flingable mines to detonate en mass for maximum destruction, and eventually nano-based weapons that rapidly reduce structures, vehicles and bodies to a golden mulch.

And after a couple of tightly scripted missions, you’re set free into the huge playground of Mars, a map scattered with dozens of icons representing destruction challenges, hostage rescues, rocket firing rampages, and scripted events that progress the story. Which is to say, a game that feels an awful lot like everything Ubisoft makes these days, before it was everything Ubisoft made.

It was still of its time, of course – Far Cry 2 came out the year before, and it was clearly a direction in which things were heading. But Volition understood the format to an exquisite degree, influenced by their own experience with 2008’s Saints Row 2, and made the whole shtick feel as un-obnoxious as it’s ever been.

Of course, it wasn’t a perfect game. The three big issues were the ridiculously slippy vehicle controls, the imbalanced difficulty, and the dullness of the third-person shooting that interferes far too often. And, well, it’s still that game.

The upgrade work on RFGR is focused on graphics, and they’ve done a splendid job there. While it certainly looks dated, it doesn’t look nearly a decade old, and with the ludicrous fun on offer I almost immediately stopped noticing the brown-brown-brown fidelity and just started enjoying the destruction. And the pretty sunlight. They’ve clearly done lots with the lighting, and it really pays off, shining prettily on its angular landscapes.

But those cars are still so, so bouncy. (Yes, it’s Mars, but still.) And the gun battles are still so mediocre. And the difficulty still ramps up in ludicrous spikes. The latter is filed under what we Gaming Scientists call Just Cause Syndrome, where it escalates the enemy response far, far too high in response to your carrying out requested tasks. Even on what the game calls “Casual” difficulty, you’ll still on occasion find yourself being shot at by dozens of soldiers, heavily armoured tanks, and flying monstrosities raining down blue blasts.

And yet all of it is forgiven because of that extraordinary destruction. Smashing buildings with a hammer still feels impossibly detailed, as piece by piece you fracture walls and load-bearing pillars, until eventually the whole thing comes crashing down in spectacular fashion. Then add in all the various ways to blow shit up using its excellent array of non-gun weapons, and there’s all the fun to be had here. And the game knows it. It sets you these hilariously unjustifiable tasks to take down buildings using specifically limited supplies, and doesn’t even pretend at a narrative reason – it just knows it’s fun, so it sets you up all these chances to do it.

The result is that, yes, Red Faction Guerrilla is still a brilliant fun time, and still has all the same flaws as before, but now runs all pretty on your big screen. Which is enough! I’m delighted! Times have changed enough that the political charge is gone out of it, but it’s likely it was never really meant to be there in the first place.

I’ve had such a blast playing it all over again, and desperately wish Volition would announce a new entry in the series that – unlike the follow-up Armageddon – is also set outside in a big open world.

Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered is out today for Windows. It’s a free update for people who already owned it on Steam or costs £15/€20/$20 new there, and it’s half-price on GOG right now.

36 Comments

  1. Matt_W says:

    Might be time to dig into this game. It also was the subject of the
    funniest HAWP video of all time.

    • Mikemcn says:

      Woah is that thing about the later game encouraging suicide tactics real? I don’t remember much about guerrilla but if they did that intentionally that’s some neat game design.

  2. Optimaximal says:

    I was hoping you’d say they’d sorted the difficulty spikes out, because I found the final mission so blatantly impossible that I just gave up on it.

    It was way beyond whatever Just Cause threw at you, largely because Just Cause let you just bail out of a mission area *WITHOUT ENDING THE MISSION* to go get some more ammo, a bigger gun or a tank.

    • beleester says:

      Annoyingly, the proper way to do the final mission is exactly the opposite of what it sounds like. They give you a giant rocket tank, so you think you’re supposed to just barrel through the opposition blowing shit up in every direction. But actually the rocket tank is pretty fragile and the climb is pretty long, so you want to just move slowly and steadily and destroy enemies at long range before you advance. Once you reach the top, pick up a rail driver and you can snipe General Roth out of his tank without ever leaving your cover.

      I’ve done it on the hardest difficulty, so it’s definitely possible, but it’s just… not a good way to end the game.

  3. Skiv says:

    Im loving the fact they officially put “Space asshole” as the official music :D

  4. Sp4rkR4t says:

    Do we have a time for when our original edition super-magically transforms into the new edition?

    • Baines says:

      Steam forum just says when the remaster is released, which is (at this moment) still an hour away. Sometimes these kinds of upgrades happen seamlessly, while other times I’ve seen them be rather troubled. We won’t really know which this will be until it actually happens (or fails to happen.)

      • ShrikeMalakim says:

        At least in NA, it’s a separate appid, but it just appeared in my library. The Red Faction Guerrilla Steam Edition is still there, too, with its own store page, at the Summer Sale discount, this one just showed up as well.

    • Muzman says:

      For info’s sake; it comes up as an entirely separate game. It’s bascially the same otherwise and you can import old saves if you have any.

  5. stomponator says:

    Great game. Entering a building through its wall, killing every soldier inside with a hammer, rescuing the hostages and bringing the building down with a few, well placed charges felt absolutely amazing.

    I would like the option to replay certain missions, though! I loved messing shit up with that one giant robot.

    • beleester says:

      Yeah, the best parts of the game were when you got to use your hammer for opening paths rather than for smashing things. Like the mission in Dust where you’re evacuating and you get to smash your way into buildings to rescue people.

      Not that it’s not satisfying to flatten a soldier with a single swing, but the game really came alive when they gave you more complicated goals for demolition than turning the entire building into rubble. I would play an entire game of Demolition Challenges.

  6. medwards says:

    Can we not refer to the Red Faction as terrorists. I mean, unless we want to go rewrite history textbooks to paint the miners of Blair Mountain as terrorists.

  7. Excors says:

    It’s a shame that RPS doesn’t give review scores, as that means you can’t deduct points for the terrible attempt at a pun in the game’s name.

  8. elevown says:

    Destructoid gave it 5/10 saying the port was terrible – so now I don’t know what to think.

    Is it buggy and crashing all the time? Does it feature the kinda upgrades you’d expect to modernize it?

  9. Jerppa says:

    Is it better than Myst?

  10. NuclearSword says:

    Remember when Sci-Fi Channel (in the US; I assume it aired on Space in Canada, and *shrugs* elsewhere) signed that deal with THQ to make shows based on their IP, and they only made one based on Red Faction Guerilla, and it was actually pretty good*, but they didn’t greenlight it to series for some reason? That was weird. However, THQ Nordic should’ve included the Red Faction Origins TV Movie/backdoor pilot thing in here as a bonus feature or DLC or something; it’s just gonna end up lost to the ether otherwise.

    * – I realize “by video game adaptation standards” and “by Sci-Fi channel standards” are not high bars to clear

    … At any rate, I recall this game being fun for awhile, but all the destruction just blended together after a short while. Once you realize there’s nothing enemies can do to stop you from slapping some C4 onto a vehicle, driving the vehicle towards stuff, jumping out before it crashes into said target, then detonating the whole shebang while running away giggling like an idiot, you’ve achieved peak Red Faction Guerrilla and might as well pack it up.

    • Muzman says:

      It’s funny how we get tired of that but people used to amuse themselves forever getting 5 stars in GTA3 and subsequents on purpose and having a lot fewer options for how to deal with it.

      Some of those huge pitched battles (which everyone else thinks are too hard apparently) have been some of the best of their kind in my experience. I’m talking big raids with lots of rebels by your side. Other games try this stuff, but it’s not the same knowing the destruction is scripted. I’d say peak RFG is in the midst of a pitched battle you shoot down a flyer and it crashes into an enemy guard tower which then collapses (it was never a good place to store all those drums at the base of it).

  11. Marclev says:

    ISTR reviews at the time mostly saying that this was a bit of a one trick pony, with it being fun to blow up building, but there really not being much else to do.

    In hindsight, there may be a lesson to be learnt about being careful what you wish for, I doubt anybody back then predicted the modern day phenomenon of Ubisoft icon hunts.

  12. mitrovarr says:

    I had a lot of fun with the original version. I didn’t find the difficulty exceptional, nor the enemy response – I mean it’s Red Faction Guerilla, you’re supposed to wreck stuff and run away, not stick around and attempt to fight the entire Mars army.

    • Muzman says:

      Yeah, for some reason people click into some shooter mode where they say “Assault rifles = I should be having fun and winning like it’s Gears of War”. Well that clearly doesn’t work, especially early on.

      The balance could be better there though. It’s another case of “difficulty” being just ramping up the damage enemies can take. I’ve always wanted a ‘realistic’ damage mod (I think someone tried to make one once. I never tried it). I have a much easier time with dying and running out of ammo etc when I know I’m more or less as fragile as a given enemy.

  13. FriendlyFire says:

    So what is the fist-chewingly horribly named “Re-Mars-tered”, then?

    Oh come on now John, you’re just jealous that they thought of that eminently RPS-worthy pun first.

  14. ThornEel says:

    Still can’t get past that you are fighting the EDF energy company

  15. malkav11 says:

    “And yet all of it is forgiven because of that extraordinary destruction.”

    Except it wasn’t. At least, not by me. I’ve tried to get into the game probably three or four times now but the absurdity of the enemy response levels just flattens any enjoyment I get soon enough. As it did with Just Cause 2, in fact. But I will credit Guerilla with at least having better destruction, better toys, and better open world tasking than JC2 ever did.

    • Muzman says:

      Why are you hanging around man?! Run away. Surely this is the tactic the game is trying to signal to you.

      • malkav11 says:

        Run away to where? There are infinite enemies spawning from literally everywhere that are faster than you are.

        • Muzman says:

          There’s only a few times I can think of where I’ve been that badly cornered, but experiences vary. I’m not sure it’s in every situation but getting back to a hideout used to clear your “wanted” rating.

  16. mbp says:

    I strongly recommend playing Red Faction Guerilla on the easiest difficulty setting. You still get all the building destroying carnage that is the absolute best bit of the game but you avoid the worst of the difficulty spikes.

  17. fish99 says:

    Oh it’s free? Cool, downloading now.

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