What we said
Volition's game is remarkable only for what it attempts rather than what it achieves. And so Red Faction can be summed up thus: a first-person shooter, where you can sometimes blow holes In the scenery, with designs on being the best PC action game since Half-Life, but in fact it isn't.
What you thought
- I have just quit from one of the worst games I've ever played, Red Faction, the game you gave 73% to. Are you mad? Up until now, I've sometimes been dubious about some of your reviews, but usually after testing them, I end up completely agreeing with you. This however, takes the biscuit. To its credit, though, the Geomod technology is nothing short of amazing. I spent a whole hour blasting a hole in the wall. It goes on forever. And the glass is also a masterpiece of programming. Place a bomb next to a glass window and detonate it. Then watch the glass fly everywhere. Right, now that the good stuff is out of the way, let's get to the bad bits, and yes there are lots of them. Firstly the AI is some of the worst I've ever seen. I think I could honestly say it's on a par with Doom. All the enemies seem to do is duck, run one step away, turn, duck and shoot again. If that's average AI then surely Half-Life's AI is close to being lifelike. Another thing is that the level design is awful, and as for the beginning, what's going on there? After finishing my shift in the mines, I saw two men shouting, and suddenly a scuffle broke out and everyone was attacking me. What's going on? The game constitutes little more than walking through corridor after corridor shooting some of the worst enemies in gaming history. If you want my advice, avoid this game. The only thing going for it is the Geomod technology, which hopefully Mod makers will pick up and use to make a game that Red Faction could have been.
- Red Faction is a very important game, not only for the games industry, but for our society too. All too often, games ignore the importance of politics and real-world issues. However, Red Faction is the exception to this rule and I hope that others will follow its example. Comparisons to Total Recall are inevitable, due to the Mars setting and the idea of the repression of the working classes by greedy multinational corporations. The subsequent revolt by the lead character represents the struggle within society to break free of capitalism. As an FPS, it is almost unparalleled in terms of action, while the Geomod technology is nothing short of breathtaking, and with its political subplot (which you grossly neglected in your review), must go down as one of the most groundbreaking and influential games of our time.
Download Red Faction
There were a lot of good games on show at this year's E3, but very little innovation. Take the first-person genre. We were privileged enough to get into id's back passage for an impressive display of Wolfenstein's AI capabilities and the new social skills of Quake III Team Arena, both looked excellent, but are just variations on an existing theme and don't add anything new or sensational. After leaving id, our behind-closed-doors look at Unreal 2 consisted of a brief technology demo of the Unreal engine, and there was absolutely no talk of Half-Life 2. (Although, industry rumours suggest that an official announcement might be made at ECTS later this year.)
On our way back from the Sierra stand we were stopped by an overexcited THQ representative. Grabbing us by the elbow and steering us through to a private enclosure he whispered E3's biggest cliche into our ears: "Red Faction. We're really excited about this game." It seemed a lot of other people were as well. We were shunted into a room the size of Ally McBeal's stomach and forced to watch a three-level demo of Volition's new FPS through the armpit of a sweaty American, who worryingly kept shouting "hell yeah" at the screen as the character blew a hole in the wall.
This is what's causing all the excitement: deformable terrain mixed with advanced physics (courtesy of the new Geo-Mod engine), which means Faction's levels act as if they were real-world constructs. Through the mixture of sweat and grunting Americans this was the point that was drummed into our heads minute after minute after minute. And if Volition can get it working well then it could transform the genre.
We've just played around with the latest code and it all seems to work as advertised. In one level there's a lava flow pouring down a pipe, with a few carefully placed rockets it can be diverted to flow in order to help you tactically in the game. Using the thermal imager in your rocket launcher you can pinpoint opponents through walls, bridges and towers and take them out by collapsing structures. It literally adds a whole new dimension.
And that's not all. You can also look forward to an immersive singleplayer storyline with equal dollops of stealth, and full-on action, complete with location-based damage, and Volition is promising a whole slew of land, sea and air vehicles to command; we've seen one so far, an APC equipped with a chaingun and a grenade launcher. Nice. It all adds up to a pretty ambitious attempt to take the genre one step further, but if anyone can pull it off (so to speak), Volition can. Creator of the FreeSpace series, its master-coders are also responsible for Descent 1 and 2. Red Faction started out in life as Descent 4, but Volition quickly realised that what it wanted to do amounted to a completely new game. Keep an eye out for this one. It may well be big.
Red Faction was easily the most complete FPS that we saw. The big thing about it is the accurate deformable terrain - somewhat of a first in this genre. We had loads of fun burrowing under doors and through walls, but when it came to the actual combat, we weren't quite so convinced.
Although solid, the AI failed to sober us up in the same way as Unreal 2 or AvP2. However, the effects are incredible, and the weapons included some really heavy duty equipment, which will satisfy just about anyone with a love for mindless destruction.
As with several other FPSs on show, Red Faction will give you the opportunity to pilot a variety of vehicles. We tried out the assault helicopter, which was very easy to manoeuvre with the mouse and keyboard controls. This was by far the most amount of fun we had during the presentation, and while we left impressed, we were hardly blown away by the whole experience.
Medal Of Honor. Return to Castle Wolfenstein and AvP2 might be the year's biggest shooters to come, but there's another single-player game just around the corner that you should keep one eye on. I've talked about Red Faction in these hallowed pages before, but with THQ and Volition concentrating on getting the PS2 version out of the door first, the best incarnation of the new game has been conspicuous by its absence over the past few months. That all changed when the latest build arrived on my desk, including the full single-player campaign and 24 multiplayer maps including 18 straight deathmatch and six CTF.
So what's new? The unique selling point is still the Geo-Mod technology, which enables you to blast through most of a level's architecture, but now that we've had the benefit of the PS2 reviews a couple of interesting points have been raised. For a start, despite the existence of the Geo-Mod technology, criticisms have been levelled that the game doesn't make full use of it. In fact, it's only actually necessary to use it in a few sections in the game, which seems like a bit of a waste.
Kill The Guards!
In one level you come across a couple of guards cowering inside a fortified room. Running up you can throw an explosive charge through a gap in the wall, kill the guards and then blow a hole in the wall before getting in and pressing the obligatory switch. This sort of thing is pretty basic when you think about the stuff that was being shown as part of a tech demo last year, with lava flows being diverted and the like. Puzzles built around the Geo-Mod capabilities would have lifted the game above its FPS counterparts, but it looks like Volition isn't going to exploit this fully in its first title.
The multiplayer side of the game is far more open to the possibilities of the new technology. In one of the CTF maps we played, you can blow holes in the opposing fortress, leaving your opponents far more open to attack. Volition has cleverly introduced indesutictible meshes into walls, which means you can't blow every last brick away, although you can snipe through the holes with your rifle.
Better news comes with the fact that the game is going to ship with a full editing suite, RED. Because of the Geo-Mod technology, it might take a bit of time for the mod designers to get up to speed, but it should mean future mods will make more of something that Red Faction appears to have sidelined.
Another issue with the game is its AI. Early on in the game, the guards you encounter show about as much intelligence as a paper cup filled with goo. Apparently this is deliberate - the early guards are intentionally stupid to introduce you into the game softly. The fact that they don't appear to get any cleverer later on is a bit more worrying, although this may well change before the game goes gold. As with No-One Lives Forever, the guards do show some signs of basic scripting - running away when low on health and the like, but there's nothing that we've seen yet that's on a par with the best games over the past couple of years.
Even if the A1 isn't honed to perfection, there's still enough about Red Faction to make it stand out. Instead of having to trudge through it all on foot, you get to commandeer vehicles, including a submarine and a jeep. The range of weapons is good, and most come with a dual fire mode. The assault rifle, flame-thrower and rocket launcher should ensure your blood lust is sated.
Geo-mod system doesn't sound exciting. In fact, it sounds downright dull--like an option you'd hear "comes standard" on a car commercial. But what it represents makes Red Faction the most exciting thing to happen to first-person shooters since Quake took them online.
Sure some games use bullet holes or scorch marks to show damage, but the Geo-mod (short for Geometry Modification) system in Red Faction takes that idea and runs away with it: You can actually blow real holes in the walls, floors and ceilings.
And this means more than just a nifty new layer of realism--it opens up whole new avenues of gameplay, as lead designer at Volition Alan Lawrance explains: "You can blow holes through walls to form escape routes or attack unsuspecting enemies. You can collapse structures to kill enemies that might otherwise be impossible to kill. You can destroy the cover enemies are hiding behind, cause bridges to collapse, or burrow yourself a nice spot to use for protection." We've seen it in action and it's indeed impressive (see sidebar on the next page). The other thing that makes Red Faction so exciting: the physics. You're probably thinking "Physics?! That boring crap I have to sit through in third period?" Yup, that stuff. Check out all the cool stuff that Red Faction's super-physics make possible: When you shoot a window, it shatters out from the bullet hole into tiny shards that realistically fall; when you blow up a window, or a wall--or a group of bad guys, for that matter--the debris flies away from the blast, just like in real life (careful, it can hurt you too); fans and the wind outdoors effect smoke and slow-moving projectiles (like tossed grenades, for example); bullets ricochet off of metal surfaces at the angles you'd expect them to; water and lava pour and pool like real liquids; it's all very kick ass. But take away the Geo-mod and the fancy physics, and what would you be left with? Actually, Red Faction would still be shaping up as an excellent first-person shooter. Let's go down the shopping list for what makes any fps worth a damn:
Cool story line: check. You play Parker, a miner on Mars and employee of the Ultor corporation. Horrible working conditions and a mysterious mutation-causing disease known as "the plague" have the workers ready to revolt. As a member of the underground resistance group Red Faction, your goal is to discover what's behind the plague and bring down Ultor. You'll travel through subterranean mine shafts, over the Martian surface--even up to satellites orbiting far above the giant red planet.
Scripted events a la Half-Life: check. And not only does stuff happen as you're playing in the levels to advance the plot, often times you can alter the course of the game by your actions. For example: At one point you might find a guard about to execute a fellow miner. If you don't intervene in time, he's dead meat, but if you do, he'll tell you the location of a weapon storeroom.
Cool weapons: check. The bread and butter of any fps, Red Faction will have 15 weapons, each (like Unreal Tournament) with two ways of firing them. Some look especially tasty, like the flamethrower: Shoot it normally to light your enemies aflame or turn off the pilot light, spray the liquid all over the hall, and ignite it when your friends walk in. Plus there's plenty of bigger weapons--machine guns and rocket turrets, as well as vehicles with mounted guns and other deadly goodies.
Multiplayer: check...sort of. A two-player splitscreen game will be included, but four-player looks doubtful since, as Alan explains, "we don't want to dumb down the visuals to the point where it's playable for four." Still, being able to alter the levels of 8-10 multiplayer maps on the fly should provide enough strategic possibilities to keep you and a buddy busy for a long, long time.
So while Red Faction looks like it will be an incredibly unique and innovative title, Volition knows it can't stop there. The guys behind the Descent games, who still play Unreal Tournament almost daily on the office network to blow off steam, know it's not buzzwords or innovation alone that make a game worth playing. "When it comes down to it, this is a game about action and killing guys," says Lawrance modestly, "we're just trying to make the killing fun." Maybe not exactly fit for congressional testimony, but that's the kind of stuff we like to hear.
Mars. The Red Planet. Determined to profit at any cost, the Ultor Corporation has established a monopoly on Mars, giving them the ability to strip-mine the planet's natural resources. In response to their abuse of the local mining population, the Red Faction freedom fighters launch a revolution that will change the face of Mars forever.
In order to accomplish their massive goals, Ultor has established a brutal and oppressive corporate government. Miners are overworked, underfed, and controlled by gestapo tactics and bullying guards. The conditions are hostile, and the plight of the miners is a desperate one. To make matters worse, a virulent and mysterious plague has begun sweeping through the population, randomly striking miners with a terrible wasting disease. Your character is one of the miners, Parker -- a intemperate youth from Earth, bitter with the knowledge that he can never return home.
All is not lost though. A small, hidden group, calling themselves the Red Faction, led by a mysterious woman known as Eos, seeks to free Mars. Pamphlets and posters proclaim her message to the miners: Be Ready. When the day comes, all miners must rise up in arms and bring Ultor crashing to the ground. Soon enough, the day is upon you, and, as Parker, you must battle to escape Ultor's tyranny.
Along the way you'll meet Hendrix, the mole inside Ultor, who seeks to help you stay alive and make Mars a free world. Eventually you'll meet Capek, the twisted mind behind Ultor's science labs, a disturbing man who may be the only person who knows the true purpose of the plague. How will you fare, when the fate of an entire planet rests in your hands?
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
I tried to take as many variables as possible while playing Red Faction. Did it flow well? How gripping was the storyline? Was it hard to aim? Time and time again, I kept coming back to two rock solid gameplay features that I've never seen before in a console FPS. The first is the quality of control. Higher than 90% of other console-based FPS games, it is the control that makes this game. Second is the Geo-Mod technology, which actually allows you to destroy terrain, but I'll leave that for later.
The control in Red Faction is amazing. I'm not sure how, but Volition (the studio that developed Red Faction for THQ) has managed to find the perfect FPS control scheme for a console. I've never played a first person shooter on a console that responded so well, and I doubt I ever will again. Controlling aim and movement with the PS2's Dual Shock controller is wonderfully easy, and the smooth movement of the analog sticks makes precision aim a simple task. Also, given that you can pilot five different vehicles, each with very different weapons and control characteristics, being able to turn on a dime or slowly advance is very important.
You'll find a host of weapons available to you, from pistols to rifles. While none of the weapons stand out as being unique, they do have some interesting features, and nearly all of them have a secondary fire mode. The Rail Driver has a built-in penetrating scope that allows you to see targets through walls and snipe them as such. The precision rifle is a quality assault rifle and, with the enhanced scope, replaces your sniper rifle about half-way through the game. Eventually, you'll even find a riot shield that is good for blocking bullets and moving through enemy territory without getting too badly banged up.
Enemy AI is relatively well done and the guards/mercs/soldiers that you face will do their best to outmaneuver you. Once you've gotten stuck in their crossfire, they can be pretty good about keeping up the pressure, although they do tend to get frightened and run away unusually easy. The levels themselves are well laid out and have enough detail to keep your eyes interested. Of particular note are the 'stealth' levels, an obligatory part of every FPS that removes most of your weapons and forces you to infiltrate enemy held areas, all the while avoiding detection. These sessions are relatively short and simple, avoiding the traditional mind-numbing guesswork present in other games.
In almost all other ways, Red Faction is similar to other FPS titles. Movement, viewpoint, and weaponry are all of the standard fare, and the storyline progresses in the traditionally disappointing linear style. Loading times are immense, as the game moves from scene to scene. Fortunately, they're quick enough to maintain the flow of the game and,given that you can save at any point you'd like, taking up only ~650kb of space on your memory card, you'll quickly forget that this game even has large load times.
Red Faction supports only two players, using the split screen feature on a single PS2. While disappointing, you can have around two to six bots in any given session, and there's a series of multiplayer levels specifically designed for this mode. While they aren't as expansive as the single player campaign, some of the levels allow you to experiment with the Geo-Mod technology, providing secret bonus areas for people willing to go the extra mile... through bedrock.
Glass punctures and shatters realistically. Rockets deform the landscape and leave gaping holes where bedrock once stood. Characters move in a fluid manner, gripping their weapons realistically in life-like poses. The graphics engine that forms the core of Red Faction is perhaps the first game I've seen that approaches the level of complexity and detail that we can expect from next generation FPS titles. With a realistic, if not entirely global, physics system, characters move less like mannequins and more like people. Underwater, tense submarine battles end in a bright flash, followed by a large pressure bubble from the destroyed sub, and the collapse of the sub's internal structure.
Although it lacks a strong showing of lighting and particle effects, Red Faction more than makes up for it with the detail of their weaponry, scenery textures, and character models. One of the first games that actually takes good advantage of the power of a PS2, the graphics detail on Red Faction actually approaches that of the PC version.
The only part of the audio in Red Faction that I truly enjoyed was the voice acting. With it being such a hard to find commodity, good voice acting is one of the things that can really help a game along. It helps immerse you in the game as well provide important content and hints for the storyline.
Sound effects and soundtrack were par for the course, especially since the latter only uses short, 30 second long clips that seem randomly scattered throughout the game.
Originality / Cool Features
Probably Red Faction's strongest piece of technology, and definitely the most hyped feature of its gameplay, is the fantastic Geo-Mod technology. By simulating the effect of high explosive weapons on the game environment, the Red Faction engine allows you to instantly deform the ingame environment. Although the prospects of being able to destroy, at will, nearly any barricade can create new opportunities for gameplay, something else must be said first. Blowing stuff up is fun! I don't think I realized what I was missing until Red Faction gave it to me. Knowing that I can destroy a wall, exposing pipe work and internal structure, and climb inside the blast crater is pure, indescribable bliss. The only shame is that they didn't include weaponry that could destroy everything in the game, as there are still some blast doors too large and massive to be destroyed with conventional explosives.
If you ever want, need, or crave a good FPS game for a console system, get this game. Beyond any doubt, Red Faction has the best control, look, gameplay, and weapon variety I've ever seen in a console based FPS, and it definitely shows. As one of the first next generation FPS games, it incorporates new ideas like persistent environment deforming and a nearly global physics model.
Red Faction is a good buy for anyone with a PS2, hands down. I wouldn't avoid this title unless you really don't like science fiction, or you're not a fan of FPS games.
Mars will be free! Abundant in mineral wealth, the Ultor Corporation has established a foothold on the Red Planet and constructed mining facilities to extract the precious Martian ore. Bloated with profits, powerful from their greed, Ultor has a bright future as a planetwide monopoly. Their power is built on the backs of miners who work triple shifts as virtual slaves, lured to Mars by tales of fortune and glory. A strong, able, and ready security force keeps the miners in check, and a force of mercenaries waits in the wings to crush any significant uprising. A deadly plague is slowly eroding the miner population, as it sweeps through Mars, taking life after life.
This existence is harsh and brutal, as your character, Parker, knows firsthand. With the risk of death hovering every day, and the deplorable conditions that miners are forced to live in, it’s no wonder that some of them are considering rebellion. One group in particular, called the Red Faction led by the mysterious Eos, have been warning all miners to be ready when the time comes to take up arms against Ultor. Then, one night on a long shift, Parker watches a fellow miner throw off a guard and take his weapon. Although the miner is shot down quickly, that single incident sparks off the revolt that is the backdrop for Red Faction.
Taking to combat like a duck takes to water, as Parker you’ve got to try to do your part, helping other miners in the Red Faction and trying to win your freedom, even if you’ve got to pry it from the fingers of a dead, shattered Ultor Corporation. Along the way, you’ll find help in the form of Hendrix, an Ultor security technician, a secret mole in Ultor’s security who is more than willing to help the Red Faction and, in particular, you. Eos, leader of the Red Faction, is there too, giving you specific orders on where to go and what to do, maximizing the destructive potential that you’ve got at your fingertips. You’ll even meet Capek, the twisted cybernetic monster responsible for the plague, and perhaps the only man who can cure it. Somewhere along the way, you’ll need to find a way to save the Red Faction and lead Mars to freedom.
Red Faction is one of the latest releases from Volition, Inc., developers of such amazing games as Freespace and Summoner. This title is a First Person Shooter (FPS), one of the staples of the video game industry, and showcases some of the best graphics that Volition has designed to date. With a somewhat weak, yet adroit, storyline and a new gameplay technology called Geo-Mod, Red Faction is definitely a game worth taking a look at.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Like many modern FPS games, Red Faction has a simple, intuitive interface. Controlled with the keyboard and mouse, it uses the WSAD control scheme that has come to dominate this field. Simple controls and a Half-Lifestyle weapon change, contribute to making the game easy to control, and intuitive to play. The keyboard controls movement, as well as item use, reloading, and weapon changing. Your mouse controls firing, the alternate fire modes, and weapon changing if you’ve got a mouse wheel. Of course, as is standard for a FPS game, you can customize these settings to be whatever you’d like.
As you progress through the game, you’ll get access to powerful weaponry. You’ll start off with only a stun baton, pistol, and rocket launcher, but if you get far enough, you can find a sniper rifle, precision rifles, and a massive weapon called the Fusion Rocket Launcher. Most of the weapons have an alternate fire mode, which can do things like activate a scope, engage the heat seeking feature, or attach a silencer to the weapon. One of the most unique weapons is the Rail Driver, a portable railgun that only holds one shot but can punch through anything. Its alternate fire brings up a terrain penetrating thermo graphic scope, which allows you to snipe an enemy through a wall.
The missions progress in a fairly linear style, moving you from mission to mission, each of increasing importance. For instance, one of the first things you’ll need to do is disable a geothermal plant, a multi-step procedure that will cut off power to a large portion of Ultor’s security force. In the later stages of the game you’ll need to shut down Ultor’s space station, requiring a short trip into space. Although the game plays very linear, the environment, graphics, and even level design all work to create a world that easily supports the story, adding to the depth of the single player plot.
Red Faction comes with a standard repertoire of multiplayer features, with Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag. Entertaining, and certainly important to the replayability of the game, each of these games play easily, and are tweaked for a quick, rapid action gameplay style. Although your character isn’t as easy to kill as in realistic combat simulations, he isn’t quite as tough as some characters from other FPS games. This means that you’ll not only be able to score a lot of frags in a given session, but you can also expect to be fragged quite a bit. Multiplayer brings together all of the best parts of Red Faction without a storyline, including use of the Geo-Mod technology, as some of the multiplayer levels are designed especially with destructible secrets, ones that you can only find with a judicious use of explosives.
Red Faction excels at graphical quality, maintaining not only a sense of theme throughout the game, but sharp, detailed textures that believably simulate the environments you’ll explore. Whether rendered in 640x480 or 1024x768, the objects and scenery is proportioned well and detailed enough to give you pause to stare, especially after you’ve destroyed your first submarine, and watch it implode into a small floating bubble of sub parts. The game incorporates a wide variety of graphical effects, from particle effects to realistic liquid haze, along with glass that shatters realistically. They’ve also created a powerful physics engine that accurately handles falling effects, which, when combined with Geo-Mod, allows you to collapse structures with nothing but a rocket launcher.
Although I enjoyed listening to Red Faction, the audio effects were by far not its strong point. The audio effects were varied enough to give audio based clues, like when to recharge, and whether or not your opponent is using a Precision Rifle or the SMG. As far as the soundtrack went, it didn’t. Apparently crippled during development, the soundtrack comes on for short periods of time, providing appropriate, if not brief musical accompaniment. One highlight in all of the aural boredom was the voice acting. Since Red Faction doesn’t have the greatest storyline in the world, you’re probably wondering why I consider it a highlight of the game. It’s because of the voice acting. Even some of the poorer stories can be rich and compelling if performed well, and Red Faction is performed well.
Originality / Cool Features
Once again, as in the PS2 version, the Geo-Mod technology takes center stage. Fun, entertaining, and somewhat educational about the power of explosive weaponry, having the ability to deform terrain is just plain fun. From the first time you let a rocket loose to destroy a wall blocking your way, you’ll probably be just as hooked as I was, and ready to destroy even more. It’s a shame that certain objects, like doors, are indestructible.
Pentium II 400 MHz or faster processor, Microsoft Windows 95 or 98, 64 MB RAM, and a Voodoo 2 graphics card.
Red Faction, in spite of its flaws, is a well-executed and entertaining First Person Shooter. Not too long, not too short, there’s plenty of material to destroy, with a few puzzles intermixed along the way to keep the storyline interesting. The storyline itself isn’t the greatest, but it is very well done compared to what this genre of game usually sees and the high quality graphics back that story up very well.