I love destructibility. It’s a dynamic and player-driven game system that helps to make multiplayer mayhem like Battlefield 1 feel different no matter how many times you play the same maps. And it’s something that turns any game into a sandbox of sorts.
Take Red Faction Guerrilla, for instance. Before the launch of Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered, I had incredibly fond memories of the original game. I was even more excited when I realised THQ Nordic was following the trend of recent remasters, like THQ’s Darksiders and Darksiders II, by offering a free upgrade to people who own the 2009 game on Steam.
As a fan, I was one of those people, and with the only other expense being bandwidth, it was a no-brainer to download and take for a spin. What became apparent very, very shortly after I revisited Guerrilla is how basically all of my love for this nine-year-old game is exclusively in terms of the destructibility. The story is B-grade bad, but without the self-awareness to make it fun. Even the fact that the always-reliable Troy Baker voices the main guy doesn’t save it from having excruciating dialogue.
The sandbox world feels like GTA-lite on Mars and is somehow emptier than the comparable desert likes of Red Dead Redemption. In fairness, this emptiness feels as though it’s primarily a result of the last-gen-console era and developer Volition’s preference of gameplay (namely, destructibility) over a populated planet. I’m specifically calling out Volition’s clear love of destructibility over everything else because other parts of the gameplay don’t hold up to contemporary scrutiny, either.
Hell, the bad stuff doesn’t stand up to the games of the time. The AI, both friendly and (particularly) enemy, is woeful. Even on the hardest difficulty waves of baddies are less threatening than the prospect of a physics fail or accidental destruction that makes a structure come crashing down on your head. It doesn’t help that the vehicle handling feels like an afterthought, too.
But dat destructibility. Red Faction Guerrilla—and this includes Re-Mars-tered—is at its best when it’s not directing you what to do. The most fun is found in opening the map and planting a destructive route. Weapon unlocks and upgrades should be prioritised in terms of what will allow you to cause the most destruction without having to rearm.
There’s an art to bringing down a building in such a way to flatten other ones nearby, or the self-determined challenge of setting an ambush that involves timing a demolition for the moment enemies arrive and flattening them with a toppling tower. When played for these moments, Guerrilla is an explosive tonne of fun. Even when you run out of explosives and resort to your trusty hammer—which is as apt at finishing off a damaged structure as it is smashing enemies through walls—there’s a lot to love.
But as soon as you step outside of that destructive gameplay loop, Guerrilla starts to fall apart. THQ has taken the basic remaster route, opting for visual improvements rather than gameplay tweaks (such as to the aforementioned terrible AI and lacklustre driving) that would help lift Guerrilla beyond nostalgia and to a place that demanded new players appreciate what fans do as a gem of its time.
It doesn’t help that, on the prettiness front, there are still occasional frame drops on high-end PCs, terrible AI and iffy graphical options. For instance, I had to reset mine every time I restarted the game. Ultimately, while others slammed the “Re-Mars-tered” title modifier as lame, I feel the punerific bolt-on is an appropriate fit: it sets the scene for a cheesy B-grade experience that, while enjoyable in parts, is best enjoyed in terms of exploding arses on Mars.