July 6, 2001
Red Faction - Review
Red Faction is quite possibly the most anticipated Playstation 2 title in the first half of 2001, and it's easy to see why. The developers have put a lot of effort into the game and comparisons with the king of FPS's, Half-Life is inevitable. While many were left disappointed with Volition's first PS2 title, Summoner, there has been one major difference with the development situation with this game. THQ have allowed the developers to take as much time as they need to perfect the title. This extra time hasn't been put to waste with Volition crafting what is arguably one of the, if not the best FPS ever seen on a console.
|Hmmm... that guy has a big gun.|
Strangely Red Faction began life as Descent 4, the continuation of the hit PC series from a couple of years ago. Somewhat fortunately, the plans to that series were scrapped and the game evolved into a fully blown FPS. The game can be best described as Half-Life with a Total Recall theme and a new gameplay technology, called Geo-Mod, which allows destructible walls etc. Red Faction sees you playing a miner named Parker who works for the Ultor Corporation far beneath the surface of Mars. The miners are suffering from inhumane living conditions and a strange, deadly disease called the Plague that is suddenly sweeping through their ranks. The miners' anger and resentment are ready to boil over, and Parker provides the spark that starts a rebellion against Ultor. Your goal is to stay alive long enough to bring down Ultor and solve the mystery of the Plague. This journey takes him from the gritty subterranean mines to Ultor's pristine science and nanotech labs to the surface of Mars and even onto satellites orbiting high above the planet.
|Geo-Mod technology at it's finest.|
While the storyline is fairly solid it never really grips you in the way that the Final Fantasy games, or even Half-Life does, but that's not saying it's bad it just takes a back seat to the unrelenting action. Perhaps the best part of Red Faction is the way in which the developers have added several twists and a lengthy game. On several occasions I thought the end was near only to find and entirely new mission to complete.
"Get your ass to mars". While it could easily be from Red Faction, it's not. It's actually a line from the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Total Recall, which this game seems to borrow heavily from. That's not a bad thing as Total Recall is regarded as one of the best science fiction, as well as Schwarzenegger, movies of all time. If you haven't seen the movie yet, go rent it now and prepare to have a blast.
The First Person Shooter is generally not a genre that is suited to consoles. The lack of a keyboard to select the options and the precision targeting provided by a mouse can't easily be replicated on a console, but Volition have probably done the best job possible with Red Faction. The game includes and auto aim feature, which still requires a fair amount of precision on your part, but not so much so that the game becomes impossible. In fact, it's probably the perfect balance between requiring pinpoint accuracy, or very little. While some FPS's only include running around and shooting the developers have impressively also included sections where you will be driving submarines, jeeps or even flying gunships. Naturally each of these is armed to the teeth but it is the variety which these add which is one of the most interesting features of the game.
As previously mentioned the inclusion of Volition's Geo-Mod technology is a great aspect which allows you to blow apart walls, new corridors through rock, or new entrances to rooms which have locked doors. While this is used extensively through the early parts of the game in the mines it takes on less importance towards then end of the game in the enemies headquarters where the game requires more precise shooting to defeat the enemies and complete the missions.
|Rocket smoke trails are very good.|
There are some minor disappointments with Red Faction. Firstly there is a lot of loading points. These load times generally last about 15 seconds or so, but occur on a fairly regular basis and become somewhat annoying when in the midst of a tense session. Surely the developers could have either reduced the frequency of these load times, or their duration with some intelligent caching or background loading. Another minor niggle is the enemy AI. While it is generally quite good there will be occasions when the enemy will be hit and run away crying only to see him running towards you a few seconds later pleading for his life. Perhaps the biggest disappointment however is the under-utilisation of the much touted Geo-Mod (short for Geometric Modification) technology. While it is useful in the mine levels when you get into the Ultor Corporation buildings the much touted Geo-Mod technology seems to have been forgotten. Perhaps the inevitable sequel will make better use of this exciting technology.
It's hard to describe the graphical quality of this title, but clinical springs to mind. On the one hand the developers have impressively re-created the atmosphere and design which you would expect from a Mars colony, while the game has a strong sense of Total Recall stylistic design. Indeed the rock tunnelers are an almost 100% match from the movie. The characters are very detailed although the texture maps on their faces should have had a little more depth to them as they simply look like cardboard cutouts. The enemies are varied with creatures like the giant worm (similar to those in the movie Dune) are particularly impressive.
|Now is that an enemy, or a good guy?|
As with any First Person Shooter the frame rate is critical to maintaining a sense of speed and accuracy and for the most part Red Faction manages to succeed with a solid 30fps rate. There is however the odd occasion, especially with several characters and explosions on screen, when the frame rate drops a little, but never to the point when the game becomes unplayable.
The sound in Red Faction has me in two minds. Generally the music is kept to a minimum to concentrate on the sound effects and speech from the non-playable characters. This may all sound well and good but the problem is that when the music kicks in it becomes very noticeable and you then wonder why it has been so silent previously. As you would expect however the quality of the music, speech and sound effects is very good, and definitely captures the mood of the game perfectly.
|The counter on the gun is awesome.|
Red Faction has most definitely been worth the wait. Volition have crafted a sensation FPS and besides a few minor niggles is as good as you will get on a console. As a single player game this is extremely enjoyable and while there is no 4-player mode the games 2-player mode is still extremely impressive with a solid frame rate. The Geo-Mod Technology is sadly under-utilised in this game, something which should be remedied for an almost inevitable sequel in a couple of years time. If you own a Playstation 2 and want something to play until the release of Gran Turismo 3 (now set for August 10) then I can't recommend this game enough. Red Faction is an absolute blast.
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