The Essential Switch Ports: Red Faction: Guerrilla Re-Mars-Tered

Smooth portable play and two graphics modes!

Nintendo Switch Screenshot taken by Alex Rowe.

It hurt me a little bit to type out the silly full name of Red Faction: Guerrilla’s latest edition in the title above, but that’s the only painful thing about this Nintendo Switch release.

Also available on the PS4, Xbox One, and PC, Red Faction: Guerrilla Re-Mars-Tered is a lightly re-touched version of a Volition-developed game first released in 2009. The new edition has the same visual feature set on the Switch as on the more powerful consoles, and comes complete with new textures, enhanced lighting effects, additional particles, and an adjusted color palette.

The Nintendo Switch edition features two different graphics modes , just like the versions on the other systems. In High Performance mode, the frame rate is fully unlocked, the draw distance and shading quality are reduced, and the resolution scales dynamically. In High Quality mode, the resolution is locked, the frame rate is capped at 30, and all effects are turned on.

These quality settings apply whether you’re in portable mode or docked mode. Both of them run pretty well using the Nintendo Switch for handheld play, but the High Quality mode suffers a bit during heavier moments when using the console docked. Still, three out of four configurations offer excellent performance, and that’s remarkable considering how processor-intensive this game is.

Red Faction Guerrilla was designed to make effective and extensive use of the multi-core CPU’s inside the Xbox 360 and PS3, in an era when home computers and game software were only just starting to fully embrace multi-threaded processing. In Guerrilla, you play as Alec Mason, a mining engineer who moves to the newly-colonized and terraformed planet of Mars in order to join his brother. Things quickly go very wrong, and Alec finds himself a new recruit of the anti-government Red Faction. You’ll take on numerous missions across an open world, in order to dismantle the corrupt leadership and take back the planet.

Most of these missions involve blowing up copious amounts of stuff, and gunfights with different enemy solders and vehicles, all of which leads to CPU-intensive explosive physics mayhem. The two original Red Faction games were popular due to their GeoMod technology, which allowed players to bore holes through the level geometry. This game refreshes GeoMod, and through a combination of custom code and the Havok Physics engine, every building in the game world is fully destructible.

This was phenomenally impressive in 2009, and remains so now regardless of your chosen platform. Only a handful of games released since have this level of commitment to destruction. Just like in Control, the physics modeling and the dynamism of the environment change and enhance the gameplay. You can wipe out enemy cover, topple buildings onto roads to block convoys, and get out of trouble by knocking a hole into a wall and running through it.

The frenetic, fun action moments translate well to the Switch, and similar to the recent port of Volition’s Saints Row: The Third, Guerrilla has a full implementation of HD rumble. The strong and dynamic rumble effects further enhance the destructive gameplay, and are a nice Switch-exclusive touch.

Guerrilla gave up a fair bit of environmental complexity and mission scope in order to incorporate its destruction systems. However, the relatively short stages and easily-navigable world are perfectly suited to portable play. It’s easy to play in quick bursts, and the upgrades don’t require too much in-game money to earn.

The PS4 Pro version of the game has some horrific performance issues (more on that over here!), so I was worried when this game launched on Switch, but I was impressed and relieved from moment one at how smoothly it runs. I’ve dearly missed Volition’s fictional universe this generation. In the 360/PS3 era, they released six different games, but so far in this generation they’ve only put out one (Agents of Mayhem). They’ve announced that a return to the Saints Row universe is in the works, and I hope that Red Faction can come back some day, too…though two different publishers currently own these IPs.

It’s nice that these lightly upgraded ports are keeping Volition’s franchises alive and available, and it’s great that they turned out so well on the Switch. As one of roughly eight people who loved Red Faction Armageddon, I’d love to see that one come over to the Switch as well.

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