Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered Shows the Disappointing Lack of Destruction-Based Games

Video game remasters, when not buggy and sold at the right price, are good for all involved. They’re relatively cheap to make and it gives fans a convenient way to replay an old classic while providing those who missed it another chance to pick it up. But they can also grant us with a case study of where gaming was and how far it has come. Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered is one of those rare remasters that shows its archaic design while also proving how no other game further explored its concepts. Its destruction-based gameplay seems ripe to, ironically, be built upon yet no other game has properly taken up that responsibility.

Destroying a building in the 2009 version of Guerrilla was one of the Top Video Game Feelings™. Felling a structure with a sledgehammer and watching the framerate crumble along with the foundation didn’t grow old. However, like any great mechanic, it begged to be improved and expanded upon by other games. Remasters usually point out the origins or early stages of a popular mechanic or system.

For example, Far Cry 3 Classic Edition is still good, but it demonstrates how much Ubisoft has refined the series and how many other games have aped that addictive crafting cycle. Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and Sonic Mania Plus are both extreme instances that show us the best parts of yesteryear while also illustrating how far platformers have come. These cases give us a peek into the past and prove why they deserved to get remastered in the first place, even if they aren’t quite up to all of today’s standards.

But going through Re-Mars-tered was different because no game has come around and taken the torch, or hammer per se, from Guerrilla. Smashing buildings is almost more fun now than it was in 2009 because it hasn’t been iterated upon to death; it hasn’t even been properly attempted. Even its own sequel, Red Faction: Armageddon, reeled back the destruction by pushing the series in a more linear direction. Armageddon reviewed and sold poorly and developer Volition said they “do not intend to carry forward with that franchise in any meaningful way.

Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered: Next Generation Hardware, Last Generation Gameplay

red faction: guerrilla re-mars-tered

Volition was forced to abandon Red Faction in 2011, which was two years before the current console cycle would kick off. As with any new generation, the allure of faster technology always sounds like a magic wand that will make the previously impossible feats possible. Better artificial intelligence! Done! Realistic physics! Done! Eighteen quintillion planets! Done! Large-scale destruction! Whoa, hold on there. It’s the type of processor-heavy system that screams “next-gen,” but few games have tried to break new ground by breaking new ground.

Crackdown 3’s online mode will feature a “100 percent destructible multiplayer arena,” but the campaign will only have basic carnage. However, the oft-delayed game is not out yet so we have no idea how it will truly work. Battlefield’s destruction has some gameplay benefits and is quite advanced, but it’s not as consistent nor is it important in the story mode. Just Cause 3’s explosive effects can beautifully cripple buildings but it’s locked to specific red structures. This console cycle screams of a faithful spiritual successor and while some borrow a few elements, none of have undertaken full physics-based destruction, despite the hopeful implications that some studio would.

Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered: Stink and Destroy

red faction: guerrilla re-mars-tered

And some studio should especially given how dated Red Faction Guerrilla is in every other respect. Despite having one of Troy Baker’s earliest leading roles, it’s got a paper-thin story told almost exclusively over the radio by flat characters. Mars is a barren, monotonous open world that’s filled with similarly monotonous side missions (aside from the Demolitions Master ones). The lack of consistent checkpoints illuminate the mediocre main mission design since multiple frustrating failstates can send you back the beginning.

Quests also tend to overemphasize combat when the real draw of the game is blowing stuff up. While maybe not outwardly apparent, the prevalence of shooting feels like a desperate attempt to capture the Gears of War crowd, which was a common tactic in that era. There’s a reason goofy sandbox games like Saints Row (also a Volition series) and Just Cause make combat relatively easy; it’s not the point. Open world games have come a long way since 2009 — only a year after Grand Theft Auto 4 — and almost everything about Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered makes that abundantly clear.

Being both so far ahead and so far behind the times is odd for a remaster. They’re usually games that were received well enough to inspire a host of copycats. Outside of its crappy name that forces you to say “turd,” Re-Mars-tered does a good job of showing how its destruction should have inspired the games that came after it. But those games never came out. Instead, that foundation is just sitting ready undisturbed, which seems out of line with the spirit of Red Faction.