When the original Red Faction dropped in 2001, it was kind of a big deal. Sure, it wasn’t the best first-person shooter we’d ever played, but its destruction physics really were something else. Corridor shooters could often be stifling and claustrophobic affairs, but Red Faction just pointed a grenade launcher at the walls and blew them apart. Who needed doors when you could just demolish things instead? We’ve seen a few series attempt to copy the power of Volition’s GeoMod tech – Just Cause and Battlefield both offer impressive destruction in their own right – but very few games have ever really reached the unscripted level alteration of 2009’s Red Faction Guerrilla.
Without its creative wrecking powers, Red Faction Guerrilla is just another one of those generic third-person, open-world shooters that seemed to clog up the previous generation. Does anyone remember Fracture? Inversion? The Saboteur? Well, Red Faction Guerrilla quickly descended into this miasma at the time, which is a shame, because its unscripted destruction elevates every single mission and side-activity since every building or structure could be blown or smashed to bits. All you’d really need is a sledgehammer, some throwable explosives and penchant for all-out chaos. So it’s with that same sense of lavish agency that Red Faction: Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered finally lands on Switch.
Yes, there’s a story in here somewhere, one involving a nefarious military authority, a rebellion of Martian freedom fighters (the titular ‘Red Faction’) and a tale of bland vengeance to get our cookie cutter hero motivated to participate. You know he’s a PS3/X360 era protagonist because a) he has an instantly forgettable name (“Give it up for, Alec Mason!”) and b) he’s voiced by Troy Baker. You’re constantly told you’re doing all this for martian rights, but really you just want to see that tower come crashing down in real-time while ragdolling some poor goon across the map with your sledgehammer.
Original developer Volition was already learning how to create open-worlds with fun activities – it would release Saints Row: The Third two years later and perfect its own formula for this – and while parts of Mars too often fill barren and underutilised, almost every activity you do find involves blowing things to smithereens. You’ll ride shotgun in a trike and destroy barracks and checkpoints; you’ll help overrun an enemy base by either killing its enemy occupants or bringing the whole place crashing own; you’ll rescue hostages while shattering walls to make an impromptu exit. The mission structure might change, but Red Faction Guerrilla never forgets what its good at: glorious demolition.
The Destruction Master side-missions are still the best, which task you with destroying one or more structures in a time limit with a certain weapon. You might need to use remote charges to topple a tower, or blow apart a facility from a distance with a rocket launcher. Watching masonry crumble away as internal steel structures warp and break never stops being a riot, even when you’re hours and hours into the campaign. The fun is finding where a building’s weakness lies and how best to disintegrate it.
In terms of environment design, Red Faction Guerrilla is a little disappointing, though. It's reminiscent of the original Borderlands, with a wash of browns and rusty reds making every hill and canyon look painfully similar wherever you roam. Yes, this is Mars, but a little more creativity wouldn’t have gone amiss. As you open up more areas, there’s a little more variance introduced in terms of new vehicles and building designs, but a few more structures and a slight change to the overall hue isn’t enough to make it seem any less repetitive. There’s a little too much barren space where there could have been a greater spread of activities.
Much like the versions launching on other consoles, Red Faction Guerrilla also benefits from some graphical improvements over the 2009 original. While the cutscenes are still a little ropey, there have been noticeable enhancements to actual gameplay, including shadow rendering and lighting (although the latter is only ever really used occasionally; most of the time you’re exploring Mars on Switch everything is bathed in a soft light) and the use of post-processing.
You can also shift between Performance and Quality mode, with the former keeping exploration, gunplay and driving mostly slowdown free, while the latter eschews total smoothness in favour of finer texturing. Considering the importance of the GeoMod engine, High Performance was often our mode of choice.
As a package, Red Faction Guerrilla on Switch isn’t holding back on content, either. Much like Saints Row: The Third - The Full Package, it brings together all the previous modes plus additional DLC content, including the Demons of the Badlands prequel. Alongside the main solo campaign, there’s Wrecking Mode (which is a solo or multiplayer mode where players try and destroy as much of the map as possible), and support for both local and online asymmetrical multiplayer. These modes are great fun when viewed through Red Faction Guerrilla's destruction prism, so here’s hoping they get a little more love this time around. There’s even support for gyro controls, which are actually much better than aiming while in normal handheld mode (Pro Controller, as usual with Switch shooters, is the preferred method).
It’s crazy to think that the original Red Faction Guerrilla came out 10 years ago, especially when you consider no one has matched it for sheer destructive agency. As an open-world third-person shooter, Red Faction Guerrilla: Re-Mars-tered doesn’t do much to set itself apart from the pack, but its unscripted destruction physics help elevate even the most boring of missions into a riot as you smash walls to reach an objective or use a rocket launcher to crumble enemy vehicles. With extra DLC bundled in and some decent Switch exclusive motion controls, Red Faction Guerrilla is another forgotten shooter that deserves a second (or third) shot at stardom.