2009 was a fascinating time in video games. Consider that back then, the very first Just Dance and Batman: Arkham games came out. And, perhaps more notably, THQ still existed, and they had just released Red Faction: Guerrilla, a sequel to a game that somehow even fewer played as if there was a number of sales lower than zero.
We didn’t know it then, but Guerrilla was far more influential than it ever had any right to be. Ubisoft, for instance, had yet to develop its iron grip on the open world formula, and looking back on it, Guerrilla laid much of the groundwork for them at a time when Far Cry 2 was the leading architect of the format. Its playbook of scripted sequences leading into a liberal sprinkling of optional objectives across the map became the norm over the next nine years.
It also had a singular focus on destructibility, an isolated designed that actually served as a detriment to the rest of it. But to this day, there aren’t many games that have attempted to build gameplay around entirely physics-enabled structures tumbling outside of Steven Spielberg’s Boom Blox. Only after watching the E3 2014 announcement and Gamescom 2015 demo of Crackdown 3 with its cloud-enabled physics did we see the fulfillment of what Guerrilla promised so casually. (And it’s still not even out until next year.)
And maybe because of that forward-facing direction, very few people played Guerrilla. It was criminally underappreciated except by those that played it, a fervent minority that still swears by its absolute dedication to its destructive design. Although surely it also had to do with its similarly underwhelming lineage, frustrating vehicle controls, and bland gunplay, all of which are entirely and completely fair criticisms. Even worse was when it randomly spiked the difficulty because…because…uh, of a reason.
This remaster (I categorically refuse to type Re-Mars-tered more than once an article), however, is a mighty fine way to get this game back into the public discourse. With developer Kaiko Games’ work, it hardly looks like a decade-old title (though definitely still dated and very, very brown) while still playing the same. And by that, I mean smashing an oversized hammer into the supports of a building still takes it down in a delectably, possibly erotically satisfying way.
Because we still have yet to see this sort of gameplay on this scale in this way, playing it feels as fresh as ever. Even firing it up after dedicating so many hours to it back in the day, I needed to acclimate to the idea that you can work through obstacles in any way. And that consequences are, usually at the most inconvenient times, irrevocable. Bash an enemy too hard into a load-bearing column and you might be caught in the rubble, or aim too wildly with your fucking disintegration rifle and there might go the bridge you need to cross.
But that’s the fun! You are not a blessed icon of freedom (this game was also shockingly political at the time, featuring you as a literal terrorist while the USA continued to occupy Iraq) where everything you do is a step towards a righteous end. You are a chaotic element that shakes up a static and muted ecosystem, and that means that for as much progress you make towards your goal of liberation, you also fight against yourself as towers and buildings and bridges all crumble and fall right on top of you and your comrades.
You can feel like a surgically precise menace, taking apart foundations pillar by pillar with your hammer until you down this steel redwood with purpose and understanding. Or you can feel like a force of nature and fire off gravity wells into the center of stacks as they suck into a beautifully jumbled mess. And different situations call for different tacts, and you don’t really realize it until it’s already happening.
The truly joyous component of this is that much like how Darksiders: Warmastered Edition (ugh these names) felt like a testing ground for THQ Nordic revitalizing the franchise for Darksiders III, this feels like injecting life back into Red Faction. Next E3, we could see the announcement of a new game in the series, one that completely ignores the existence of Armageddon and brings back the awareness of what absolute bliss comes from wanton destruction.