Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-Tered is the ultimate test to whether Switch owners truly want everything to come to their hybrid console. Red Faction Guerrilla was released in 2009 for the previous generation of consoles, and this release is a year late port of the same remaster (I refuse to say “Re-Mars-Tered” anymore) that came to Xbox One and PS4 last year. But if you overlooked this cult-classic the first two times around, Switch might be its ideal home.
For those unfamiliar with Red Faction, the series takes place in the not-so-distant future on the planet Mars. In Guerrilla, the third entry in the series, Earth’s natural resources have nearly depleted and the evil Earth Defence Force (EDF) has effectively enslaved the population of Mars to mine its resources. You play Alec Mason, a mining engineer who travels to the planet to reunite with his brother and start a new life. Things quickly turn south (following a tutorial of course) and you are forced to join Red Faction, a resistance group committed to driving the EDF off the planet and freeing the people of Mars.
The story is underwhelming. In fact, so is the gunplay, driving, voice-acting, and art direction. The real star of the 3rd-person action game is the Geo-Mod engine. The remarkable tech allows for physics-based destruction of virtually all structures in the world. You can destroy all four walls of a building, but if the supports on each corner still stand, the roof and the remainder of the building may stay upright. Likewise, destroy three out of four corners of a structure, and if there are additional floors, it might collapse under its own weight despite the one remaining support. In 2009, the tech was remarkable. In 2019, it still stands as the best of its kind (I’m looking at you Crackdown 3) and is something you must play to fully appreciate.
Thankfully, the Grand Theft Auto-like gameplay loop will have you destroying a lot. There are six sectors, each with two gauges you must monitor. The morale meter raises as the player completes side missions called “Guerrilla Actions”. Increasing morale gives you a chance to trigger Red Faction reinforcements mid-mission. Likewise, if your guerilla fighters die, the meter goes down. More important to progressing the story is the control meter. Each sector has a predetermined amount of EDF control, and by completing side missions or simply destroying EDF structures you reduce the control to zero before taking on a “Liberation Mission.” Rinse and repeat.
There are several different mission types, but most fall into one of two boxes; repetitive or frustrating. The highlight is “Demolition Masters” which gives you limited time and ammo to take down a structure. This puzzle-like detour was as instructive as it was fun and sometimes introduced you to a weapon you had yet to unlock. On the other hand, a low light would be “Transporter” which has you drive a vehicle from point A to point B in a set time. The driving is simply not polished enough for this to be any fun. The rest is a variation of killing a certain number of enemies or structures. The motivation to do these missions is clear, rewarding you with a specific amount of morale, control, or salvage (the currency). But for story progression, I felt like destroying EDF structure was a much faster and more engaging way to liberate Mars.
The desire to simply destroy EDF structures is a testament to the Geo-Mod engine and the array of weapons at your disposal. Various bombs were fun to experiment with as you tried to target the weak spots of a building, but the Sledgehammer you start with will quickly become a staple in your arsenal. Aside from being a powerful tool against enemy troops, its ability to demolish a building when your ammo runs out (and it will often) is impressive and the best display of the physics tech.
As mentioned, the minute-to-minute 3rd person shooting feels weightless and aiming feels imprecise. This will be most noticeable playing with the Joy-Con, so use a Pro Controller if you have one. The game has both a “High Performance” setting for a more stable frame rate and a “High Quality” setting for better fidelity. In performance mode, never did the frame rate drop significantly enough to ruin my experience, but enough that I was not eager to explore the quality mode. In my time with the high fidelity setting, the game seemed to run as well in handheld, and with a few more hiccups while docked. Considering how good the game looks in handheld in performance mode, it is a shame that the situation wasn’t reversed and players could enjoy a better-looking game on the big screen.
There is an array of multiplayer modes, but just over a week after its release, it is hard to find many players on Switch unless you have a friend joining you. The online suite is your typical TDM and Capture the Flag to go along with some more inspired destruction-based modes. There is also local “Wrecking Crew” mode where you can pass the controller around to see who can do the most damage in a set time. There is fun to be had in this mode, even as a single-player, based on the impressive customization tools offered.
Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-Tered (fine, I’ll do it one more time) has made a case for why everything should be on Switch. Despite being a year-old port of a remaster for a 10-year old game, the Nintendo Switch is the best place to play for those who want to take their destruction on the go. Better yet, the game released without the popular “Switch-tax” at a reasonable $30 (CAD/USD). Without a better GTA-like experience on the young console, Guerrilla is a unique addition to any Switch library.
Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-Tered is available now on Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Okay, Cool was provided with a copy of the game on Nintendo Switch for coverage purposes.
You can find Mark on Twitter at @MarkStaniusz where he tweets a lot about sports. He’s also a Dad now, which is pretty damn cool. Feel free to congratulate him on that.