I’ve been sucked into Fortnite and it’s all the fault of Red Faction. Yes, I am a little ashamed, given that I still despise Epic Games’ blatant Among Us thievery. But after bouncing off it multiple times, what got me was the way the battle royale mode evoked a 20-year-old FPS.
If Red Faction doesn’t ring any bells or if your experience of the series has been limited to the recently remastered open-world Red Faction: Guerrilla, you’re missing out on a real treat. Every year I hope that someone (not you, Grove Street Games) will announce a remaster or, even better, a remake of the original, but so far, Geoff Keighley and his corporate chums have remained silent.
The plot of Red Faction may well have something to do with the lack of a remake – it’s about a group of oppressed Martian miners rising up against the company that’s been working them to death. As storylines go, it’s hugely satisfying, but what really makes Red Faction stand out is its GeoMod feature.
Using grenades, rocket launchers, and explosive packs, you can organically carve pieces out of levels, destroy bridges, and so forth. Red Faction is fun in single-player, but it really comes into its own in multiplayer matches, particularly on a custom map where everything is flagged as destructible.
Want to snipe some unsuspecting players? Blast a big chunk out of a wall and you’ve got a place to hide. Are you sick of the enemy team using that same bridge as a shortcut to pilfer your flag? Toss a couple of remote charges up at it and take it out of commission. Or if you really want to bathe in the sweet light of smugness, set the charges off the exact moment they’re beating a hasty retreat across it.
But it’s not just about grinning like an idiot while you blast away from your secret sniper nest; it enriches the game for everyone involved. You might think you know a level like the back of your hand, but there’s every chance it’ll have been altered by the judicious application of explosives.
Get shot once by someone who’s blasted their way behind a level’s drywall and you’ll check that spot next time you play (and probably a few times after that). The GeoMod changes in Red Faction might not be as radical as with, say, procedural generation, but it’s good to know that you can sneakily carve out your own advantage.
I get that same rush from Fortnite Battle Royale, coupled with the knowledge that, if I play my cards right, I can get the drop on my opponents. If you’ve played Fortnite, you might think the two titles are polar opposites. Red Faction is about destruction, whereas Fortnite is all about construction, but the principles at play are much the same.
In essence, it’s level editing on the fly. The first time I leapt into a Battle Royale match, I crafted a small barricade that I reasoned I could hide behind, and it felt absolutely amazing. I got a thrill out of knowing that an enemy could find their path blocked thanks to my meager intervention. Would they attempt to clamber over the obstacle, or would they pause, pondering whether I was lurking behind it, ready to divorce their head from their shoulders?
I never found out because, a couple of minutes later, I fell off a building and died. But up until that fatal moment it was every bit as exhilarating as Red Faction, laying in wait for a would-be target. Subsequent matches involved more building and less plummeting to my death, but they brought the same thrill. I stumbled across a sniper’s nest that, instead of being carved out of rock, was crafted out of wood. I made brief use of it, but what was really impressive was the lengths to which someone had gone to give themselves that advantage.
That’s because, like blasting in Red Faction, construction in Fortnite is noisy, risky business. More than once, the former saw me gunned down because someone heard me carving a chunk out of a wall and shot me just as I was detonating the explosives. Likewise, building even the simplest refuge in Battle Royale creates a moment of vulnerability.
That said, Fortnite does take things a step further. If someone chooses to carve a hidey-hole out of a level in Red Faction, it’ll be gone next match, but you’re stuck with it for now. Someone else can borrow it and deal some death from that same vantage point.
But Fortnite will let you destroy people’s constructions, whether they’re in there or not. You’re undoing their impromptu level edits with extreme prejudice, and believe me, it’s a lot of fun. I’m surprised by how many people have complained about Fortnite Battle Royale’s building system. Yes, it’s not a typical battle royale, but it shakes things up in some very welcome ways.
It’s not lost on me that Fortnite is a microtransaction- and crossover-heavy game with a story that ironically rails against corporate control. But in the absence of a full, non-open remake, Fortnite is giving me the Red Faction rush I’ve been craving.