Red Faction Guerrilla on Switch is a portable joy, but docked play falls short
Plus: the Re-Mars-tered Edition revisited on PC, PS4 Pro and Xbox One X.
For a double-A game, a Switch port of Red Faction Guerrilla is pretty ambitious stuff. This release was always a physics showcase - to the point where we used the Xbox One X remaster as a point of comparison against Microsoft's destruction-driven multiplayer Crackdown 3. The original last-gen release pushed the Xbox 360's 3.2GHz PowerPC cores hard and we suspect the key challenge here was in making that physics system work effectively on just three 1GHz ARM Cortex A57s. Surprisingly though, this aspect of the game works rather well.
Graphically though, the Switch port is something of a mixed bag, almost like a current-gen/last-gen hybrid. It does indeed draw upon the new visual elements of the PS4 and Xbox One 'Re-Mars-tered' editions, so aspects iike texture detail, specular highlights and crepuscular rays are definitely improved over the last-gen releases. Intrusive screen-tearing - an ugly aspect of the original releases - is also gone completely.
However, texture filtering arguably looks worse than the last-gen game and resolution can be problematic, depending on how you choose to play the game. Yes, in common with the other Re-Mars-ters, quality and performance modes are included in the package. Opt for the performance preset and the frame-rate is fully unlocked, effects like ambient occlusion are removed and resolution is dynamic (792p-900p docked, 360p-576p undocked). The secondary quality mode seems to lock the pixel-count at the upper bounds and instigates a 30fps cap.
You might have noticed that the resolution divide between docked and portable configurations is rather wide and this translates into substantially better performance with the game running in portable mode, regardless of which mode you're running in. It also means that we have two separate recommendations for the choice of mode you should use, depending on whether you're playing docked or on the go.
Portable play with the quality mode enabled is easily the most consistent way to play Red Faction Guerrilla on Switch. Resolution is locked to 576p and the frame-rate sticks pretty doggedly to the 30fps limit - with just some minor wobbles. Performance mode looks noticeably worse and while frame-rate is higher, consistency in performance is gone and DRS kicks in, and 576p is already quite low enough.
Bizarrely perhaps, the situation reverses when playing docked. Quality mode locks to 900p and although there is a 30fps target, the game rarely achieves it - much of the action lurks in the mid to high 20s and when really pushed, Red Faction Guerilla just can't produce any kind of smooth presentation. Clearly the 900p target pixel count is just too high - a locked 792p or DRS here could possibly make a huge difference in getting this up to portable performance levels. With that in mind, moving to performance mode here helps in that you get a much more playable experience - it mostly stays north of 30fps, even though image quality takes a noticeable hit.
There's the sense that the developer has perhaps aimed too high with the docked profile, while the portable option is well matched with the capabilities of the hardware. Further options or tweaks to resolution could improve living room play, but the one constant is that the physics simulation holds up - an impressive feature bearing in mind how little resources Switch developers have to play with here. It's a central element to the experience and watching the destruction play out with abandon on a portable really is very engaging - yes, the game is old, but it's still great fun to play and there's nothing else like it on the platform.
When the Re-Mars-tered Edition first shipped on the current-gen consoles, we didn't have the manpower available at the time to cover it - and having checked out PC, PS4 Pro and Xbox One X to get a handle on how well the Switch ported was handled, it's clear that this was a bad call. This upgraded release really is excellent fun and well worth checking out. Sitting at the top of the console pile is the Xbox One X build, delivering an experience targeting 60 frames per second at 1800p resolution, or else providing a rock solid native 4K at 30fps in quality mode. The high frame-rate mode has some tearing and frame-drops in explosive scenes, but by and large, it holds up - and it's my preferred way to play.
The PlayStation 4 Pro build is a little weird. Quality mode delivers the same 4K30 as X, but performance is frankly awful - to the point where it may well be the worst performing game we've seen on the system. We're talking OG Lichdom Battlemage levels of bad frame-rate here. Switching to performance mode sorts this issue, but gets nowhere near 60fps, yielding a very inconsistent experience. However, switch the video output of your Pro to 1080p and you get a full HD output that locks closer to 60 frames per second than any other console version of the game. It's the best way to play on Pro and it's baffling that this is secreted behind a video output option on the front-end of the console.
Meanwhile, if you've yet to experience the PC build, it's highly recommended - it's highly performant, capping out at 250fps (!) with support for any and all pixel counts, up to and including ultrawide display support - I played at 3840x1600 resolution.
Revisiting the Re-Mars-tered Edition has demonstrated that a highly enjoyable game has transitioned nicely from PS3 and Xbox 360 to the current-gen consoles, and now we have a Switch conversion to enjoy too. This release is a bit of a Jekyl and Hyde situation though: portable play in quality mode is by far the best way to experience Red Faction Guerrilla on Switch. Graphics, resolution and performance are well balanced in the quality mode. However, this title is another example of a game that just doesn't hold up on a modern living room display - and the modes ensure you need to choose between a wobbly performance mode or a sub-par, sub-30fps quality mode. I do think a patch or two could get this aspect of the game into shape, even if it means compromising on resolution. But for portable players, the experience in the here and now is definitely worth checking out.
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