03rd Jul2018

‘Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered’ Review (PS4)

by Rupert Harvey

RF-G-PS4_2D_Packshot

It was hardly a vintage year, but 2009 did bring us a few classics: Minecraft, Arkham Asylum, Uncharted 2, Red Faction Guerrilla… Wait, what? That’s right, THQ Nordic have just updated the third and best of the bonkers third-person shooter/smasher series. This PS4 version boasts 60 glorious frames, and on the Pro we’re blessed with a crisp 1500p resolution, or full 4K at 30fps. But in other ways it’s a retrograde experience.

It’s the 22nd century. Alec Mason, mining engineer and demolitions expert, is sent to Mars. As before, the Red Planet has been terraformed (and it seems its gravity has been corrected), and it is now under the control of corporate fascists the Earth Defence Force. Within seconds of the game’s opening, the EDF murders Alec’s brother. Alec vows revenge, and he will do so by working with the Red Faction, a rebel group struggling for control of Mars’s six vast regions.

They may be vast but that doesn’t mean they’re varied. Ultra-definition can get you so far, but this is still a nearly decade-old game and its age shows not just in stiff animations and perfunctory storytelling. The environment is remarkably bland and sparse, with the only real difference between the zones being a different colour scheme. A relic from more limited times, you always feel boxed in by the geography, there’s an ocean of fog, and the draw distance is minimal.

The graphics, even with a billion pixels, are pretty muddy, making it hard to tell friend from foe from Martian rock. The lighting is particularly poor, with little grading and a total lack of sourcing. Also, playing in performance mode on Pro, I noticed that cut scenes drop to 1080p, which is jarring.

If you missed Red Faction Guerrilla first time around, perhaps a gameplay touchstone might be PS3’s Warhawk. This is a similar-feeling third-person shooter which gives you access to various overpowered weapons and vehicles. (I also had disturbing flashbacks to the Mako sections of Mass Effect during the final vehicular mission.) Red Faction Guerrilla’s USP is that you can smash any building you see, either with explosives or your mighty mallet.

There is a certain jank and jerkiness as you move your character around the environment, particularly as structures start collapsing around you – a lot of sliding and slithering against ever-shifting polygons – but it doesn’t detract too much.

Amazingly, there’s an actual cover system, although it is essentially useless. You’re better off embracing the game’s raison d’etre: maximum chaos. There is a mindless, quick-fix joy to be had from shooting up the place and taking on challenges, which range from rescuing hostages, to taking down key strongholds, to driving vehicles back to your safehouse within a time limit. Completing these challenges will gradually lower the influence of the EDF in the region and allow you to push on with the plot.

The plot has few surprises, bar the mid-game introduction of a third faction. The gameplay itself remains fixed after the first hour – all that changes is the number of enemies and how hard their bullets hit. This is a simple game about blowing stuff up indiscriminately, and it builds to a suitably epic mountain assault, which is more of the same, gameplay-wise.

Red Faction has been superseded by the likes of Far Cry and Just Cause, in terms of imaginative mayhem. As such, it lacks the variety and quality of life attention (the absence of fast travel is a killer) which make those modern games such a breeze to play. It’s enjoyably manic, but also rather samey and aesthetically drab. So, perhaps it’s best served in small doses. Dated even for its time, Red Faction Guerrilla has an unapologetically retro feel, with all the charms and compromises that brings.

Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered is out on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows from today, July 3rd 2018.

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