Red Faction Review
The first person shooter category is exceptionally over-crowded with games like Unreal Tournament, Half-Life, and Quake III, but after all there's always room for "Jell-O" right? So, why not have the same attitude for FPS titles? It has become apparent that there are less and less FPS releases because of franchises like Rainbow Six, Quake, Unreal and Half-Life dominating the field. Competition has become severely stiff between these titles, only 8 months in its life span, the PS2 has already received excellent FPS titles such as Quake III, Unreal Tournament, and TimeSplitters. Two of three of those games were instant PC hits raking up sales figures, earning awards and surpassing sales records. But THQ doesn't seem to mind, they've got something so incredibly fantastic, so innovative, and so ingenious it's sure to make the other FPS titles run for their mamas. Presenting Red Faction, an FPS title that has it all and more. This game is without a doubt the most imaginative first person shooter you'll ever play, keep reading the review to find out why.
This game's ingenuity comes from its extraordinary graphics engine and a first of its kind feature titled, GEO-MOD. By now you should've heard what GEO-MOD is, it is a feature of Red Faction's that allows the gamer to destroy his/her surroundings, no matter what they are. This makes for absolutely the most interactive adventure you'll ever come across. The feature is used commonly throughout the game for all sorts of things, for example; if a door is jammed, you'll have to blast the wall to the side of it, and make your way through. Objectives along those lines will be common use of the GEO-MOD system. During multi-player sessions, in some areas there are secret environments to be entered, and the only way to reach them is to blast your way towards them. The textures -which you'll be too busy diminishing- are quite detailed and look real, as the game progresses you'll come around many different environments, everything from mines, to an office complex, to a power plant and many more. Red Faction is simply one of the most vastly detailed FPS shooters on the market, although there is one big problem with the game's character detail.
Games like Unreal Tournament or Quake III don't have a progressing adventure mode like Red Faction. Instead they have deathmatch levels or capture the flag levels, but Red Faction doesn't work that way. In essence this is an adventure game (think Metal Gear Solid) in first person perspective, with no "levels", just straight gameplay (now think Half-Life). So where am I going with this? Well you see those aforementioned FPS titles don't have the common enemy that you have to kill in order to progress in the adventure, they have opponents that need to be fragged over and over again. In Red Faction enemies don't re-spawn, or do they? You see, my basic point is that Red Faction's character detail is way too repetitive, every single enemy looks the same and moves the same. Maybe it was a sacrifice for the GEO-MOD inclusion, or maybe Volition didn't think much of it. As much as it doesn't affect the game, it still does stand out as a visual flaw, and I believe we need a little more diversity in this field, and I'm not only referring to Red Faction. Those of you who played the demo also complained of its faltered frame rate, and some worried to a certain extent, but have no fear young ones, Red Faction's frame rate is superb. It sails at a solid 30 frames -not the 60 we were hoping for-, and the action very rarely skips a beat. Overall, Red Faction is definitely a pretty looking first person shooter and looks extremely good on the PS2, the innovative GEO-MOD feature, the great texture quality and the detailed, although repetitive, characters make this game one pretty looker.
That fact that the GEO-MOD feature is used, it makes this game much more exciting to experience and the overall gameplay score increases significantly. Like I've mentioned before, Red Faction's single player mode actually has a story to it, and it's surprisingly good. Not since Half-Life can I remember a one-player mode as good as Red Faction's. (Slight possible spoiler ahead, description of story) Red Faction's story is about a group of earthlings who arrived on Mars, primarily due to the fact that a company named Ultor promised them amazing opportunities and great jobs. Well it turns out the they were completely enslaved by the company and were forced to do mining and excavation under Mars' crust. One day the miners decided to lead a revolution and turn against Ultor and destroy them once and for all. Of course your character being a miner, you are unaware of what is about to happen until it actually happens and a female voice by the name of Eos gives you directions as to what to do. You are Parker, quite possibly the most courageous miner of them all, you will be taken through Ultor's vast areas as you wreck absolute havoc on everybody and everything. Your main object... is to destroy Ultor with the help of other miners just like you, Eos (leader of the Red Faction) and Hendrix.
As Parker you will be able to manipulate a variety of different vehicles such as a Driller, Submarine, Aesir Fighter, ATV (All Terrain-Vehicle) and APC (Armored Personal Carrier). These vehicles are an absolute necessity and best of all, they all cause destruction. Speaking of mass destruction, what's a good FPS title without some heavy artillery? Red faction most certainly packs a punch when it comes down to weaponry. You have a selection of two different kind of sniper rifles, a rocket launcher with an infrared heat screen display on it, a 12MM handgun that can be altered to a silencer, a shotgun, assault rifle, heavy machine gun, submachine gun, remote charge explosions, grenades, Rail Driver (*drool*), flame thrower(!), and a fusion rocket launcher (think Redeemer from Unreal). For those perfectionists out there, that's a total of 12 different weapons! And this game's fire power most certainly rivals that of Unreal Tournament's.
Now take my word on it when I tell you that Red Faction single handedly has the best single-player mode of any FPS title out there on any platform. But just like the visuals, Red Faction's gameplay does take a slight hit, which prevents it from getting a higher gameplay ranking. The multi-player mode is certainly not what I was expecting (a four-player mode) and to say the least I felt a bit disappointed, but never the less I decided to try out the two-player mode that was available and much to my surprise the match was incredibly fun. I was playing a split-screen duel and played every stage, and the two that stood above all were the Lobby and Canyon stage, where you are placed in a bunker like area and forced to snipe your opponent who is on the other side in his bunker. The multiplayer levels are fantastic, if you've got nobody to play with, then you can have yourself a good ol' fashion match of up to 6 bots. In almost an instant Red Faction can go from adventure title, to a shoot 'em up fragfest. Despite the shortcomings of a four-player mode, Red Faction's two-player mode is equally satisfying and enjoyable, on top of that this is without a doubt one of the best first person shooters money can buy! I highly recommend a purchase of the game.
With the GEO-MOD also comes great sound effects that make the explosions and gun fire much more livelier than other titles. When you destroy a piece of the environment you can hear the debris and ruble hit the floor, it sounds very realistic, especially when you hear the little pebbles make it to the floor after the whole explosion took effect. There is voice acting in Red Faction and lots of it, you will constantly hear Eos and Hendrix tell you what your primary objectives will be for the period of time, and from time to time your character -Parker- will speak as well. I should also mention that the soundtrack is pretty damn good, the techno like beats will really get you into the pace of the game. They play continuously throughout multi-player sessions, but come on only during heated times in the single-player mode.
Perhaps everybody's biggest gripe with Red Faction is its awkward controls, in the beginning the control feels very confusing and iffy, but after you adjust your X-axis (left and right look) speed and your Y-axis (up and down look) speed you will feel much more comfortable. On top of that, with a little practice the whole control scheme will capture your fingers in a matter of fifteen minutes, no longer. The control comes off a bit unstable at the beginning but that's only because this game uses both analog sticks for movement, a lot like TimeSplitters' control. The digital directions will allow you to put away your gun during a stealth stage or allow you to take aim at a target with any gun by pressing up. The control takes a little time to get used to, but wears on quickly.
In the end Red Faction is among the many Playstation 2 titles that deserves a look. It's got a great 'A-movie' story, with excellent voice acting and interesting dialogue, an amazingly innovative GEO-MOD feature that lets the gamer destroy any part of the environment, and on top of that a single-player mode that lasts damn near 20 hours! I highly suggest purchasing Red Faction for the good of your soul, you'll be extremely glad you did, because this game turned out to be one of the best FPS titles available. Even though Volition started off the PS2 journey rough (*ahem* Summoner *ahem*), they delivered one fine piece of software that no PS2 owner should be without.
6/5/2001 Arnold Katayev