It’s strange to me that the Red Faction series didn’t manage to entrench itself in the mainstream the way I thought it would. Whenever people start talking about their favourite shooters, you hear about your Dooms and Half-Lifes and Gears of Wars and Modern Warfares et al… but never Red Faction.
Perhaps I have a skewed perspective, because the original Red Faction (2001) showed up at a time when I was unable to play Half-Life, despite really, really wanting to, and needed an alternative. Red Faction provided just that, with a compelling story and good shooting action and, most importantly, for its main hook that differentiated it from other shooters – the Geomod engine, which allowed players to blast their way organically through certain types of level geometry. It wasn’t without limitations, but at the time, it felt like there were none. The sequel, Red Faction II (2002) was a disappointment by comparison because it had a weaker story and, tragically, much more toned-down Geomod destructibility.
And then in 2009 came Red Faction Guerrilla, the logical evolved form of the Geomod engine. Games machines were more powerful and physics engines had become a thing, so now the Geomod engine could be applied to entire buildings and other structures, calculating the gravity and stress on each brick and girder. This allowed players to place explosives on vital supporting structures, blow them up and watch the whole building collapse under its own weight. It’s beautiful and it never gets old. You can even do things like, say, choose which side of a huge silo to blow up so that it collapses onto another building and destroys that too. Sometimes you are given other options, such as riding in a huge mech to tear through enemy bases like they’re made of cardboard, which is good fun.
Of course, it wasn’t perfect. Occasionally the Geomod engine would pork out and you’d find an entire three-storey office complex inexplicably supported by a single girder as thin as lollipop stick – even after you’d wiped out the entire ground floor. But those instances were rare and oddly amusing.
In case you’ve never played it before, Red Faction Guerrilla’s plot is somewhat like the first. You play the role of Alec Mason, who arrives on Mars to join his brother as a miner only to find that the miners are being oppressed by the Earth Defence Force. Alec’s brother is killed after the first tutorial mission and you end up joining the Red Faction, a underground guerrilla resistance determined to end the EDF’s rule. A serviceable story for a game.
The game is presented to us in a typical open-world shooter format. There are main missions, side missions, activities, collectibles – the usual. The shooting action is pretty average, admittedly – it does the job without being terrible or brilliant. Although some of the weapons you earn later are kind of fun, such as the Arc Welder, which can eletrocute multiple enemies at once. You can also hop into vehicles if you want to get around fast, but the handling is kind of crappy. Some vehicles have weapons too.
One thing I’d forgotten is how controller-snappingly/keyboard-smashingly frustrating some of the missions can get. Some of the trial missions where you have to demolish a target via a specific method within a certain time can be maddening, and some of the hostage rescue missions are quite ridiculous. On thing to remember is that in some types of missions, the enemies never stop coming, so you need to get in there, achieve the goal and get out, killing only enemies that get in your way – like you’re a guerrilla soldier, I guess. It might go against some players instincts, it certainly did for me, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll fail missions less. All of the missions reward you with salvage, currency, which you can use at your home bases to buy new weapons and tools and upgrade them, pretty standard stuff.
The Re-Mars-tered edition is a pretty basic remaster. No gameplay has been changed, the Geomod engine hasn’t been improved – it’s exactly the same game as before, just with updated visuals. Higher resolution textures, new lighting, new shaders… the usual stuff. It does come with the add-on where you play as Samanya back when she was a Marauder with her badass Marauder armour, which was a nice, if short, DLC. There are various mulitplayer modes too, which are fun with the Geomod destructibility tied into them, and while it doesn’t appear to be jumping, I did find a few sessions.
This really is a take-it-or-leave-it remaster. If you now longer own the original and would like to play it again, or if you simply want a prettier version of the game, it’s available. Luckily for me, I already owned Red Faction on Steam, so I got this one for free, but it’s cheap enough that I would have bought it even if I didn’t – and I love Red Faction Guerrilla, so there.