Released earlier this year to critical acclaim on the PlayStation 2, THQ and Volition Inc. have finally brought their highly anticipated first-person shooter, Red Faction, to the PC. Whether from the PlayStation 2 release, or the much talked about Geo-Mod engine, I’m sure we’re all very familiar with Volition’s latest undertaking. So without further ado, grab your hard hat and let the revolution begin!
In Red Faction, players assume the role of Parker, a tough-guy miner situated on the red planet and caught in the midst of a miner’s revolt against the sinister Ultor Corporation. As Ultor’s elite security forces obliterate escaping miners, it’s up to you to spearhead the rebellion and bring down the Ultor Corporation. Comparisons to the film Total Recall are in order, not only because of the locale but also in context, the familiar man against the system motif. The story is compelling and moves along at a swift pace, as our hero meets up with the Red Faction leader, a disgruntled security tech that helps guide Parker from the subterranean mines and science labs to the surface of Mars and even high above the planet, on orbiting satellites.
You can’t talk about Red Faction without mentioning the much-hyped Geo-Mod engine, so let’s open with that. The engine allows for mass landscape destruction. For example, you can create your own doors and pathways by reducing rock to rubble. Oddly enough, this feature is used quite sparingly in single-player and inconsistently as well. What crumbles in some spots, doesn’t in others. Areas of importance are clearly labelled, so you know exactly where to induce destruction. You can also take advantage of this unique engine in combat. By using the surrounding environment, you can inflict damage on enemies via shards of glass and other flying debris. Of course, you can inflict even more damage by firing the weapon directly at your enemy, but it aids in times when engaging multiple enemies, or when you want to be a little creative with your kills.
Another unique aspect of Red Faction is the ability to pilot various vehicles including a jeep, submarine, armoured transport and the crème de la crème, an armed spacecraft. Vehicle control is seamless and besides providing genuine breaks in gameplay, it’s just plain fun to chase down and run over helpless foot soldiers.
If you played the PlayStation 2 version of Red Faction, you’ll find the same framework behind the PC version. The only differences are increased resolution and subsequent visual quality, better control, and of course the addition of online multiplayer modes. Graphically, Red Faction is very tight, yet there’s nothing really mind-blowing other than some glass-shattering special effects. Character models are crisp and well detailed but the facial animations aren’t too spectacular. The martian environments are believable and although they start off quite bland, while conveying the shafts and underground labs, they become a little more diverse as the action moves towards the surface of Mars and beyond.
The level design in Red Faction is a mixed bag. While the levels are well varied, meshing stealth, undercover and sabotage missions, the storyline is completely linear. Once you finish the single-player component, which concludes after approximately ten hours of gameplay, running through the game a second time won’t produce any new surprises other than more enemies if the level of difficulty is increased. Weapon selection is also fairly uninspiring in Red Faction. Parker can equip himself with 15 varying weapons, including the usual assortment of Uzi, shotgun, pistol, rocket launcher and flamethrower. The highlight of the package is arguably the Rail Driver, which can pierce successive objects (ie. walls) and comes complete with an infrared scope.
Red Faction features three multiplayer modes; Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag. The Geo-Mod engine plays a much more prominent role in multiplayer contests, as mass destruction becomes the order of the day. Red Faction comes with an assortment of large multiplayer levels and the addition of the RED editor gives aspiring designers the chance to create their own multiplayer levels as well. The only problem with the multiplayer component, and a pesky one at that, is some shoddy code, which creates lag issues in matches consisting of more than four players.
While Red Faction flourished on the PlayStation 2, it faces a bigger challenge on the PC, due to the amount of competition in the first-person shooter genre. As a result, it doesn’t fair as well. That’s not to say that Red Faction isn’t a solid game, it most certainly is, but besides the Geo-Mod engine and vehicular combat, Red Faction doesn’t present enough ingenuity to warrant a higher grade or a Gamers Choice Award. A couple of years ago, Red Faction would have been a stellar title but now, it’s simply a very good one.