After breaking the boundaries of the traditional RPG with Summoner Volition Software, better known for the hit space-sims Freespace and Freespace 2 have brought their talents to the PS2 by offering the Playstations first real singleplayer First Person Shooter. Sure we've had the gorgeous Timesplitters and we have Quake 3 and UT but they're really Multiplayer kick fests.
But now we have Red Faction which offers us a gripping singleplayer experience married with a kinda-tagged on multiplayer (For 2 people) blast fest. And for a tag on it's a lot of fun but could have done with a little more in the way of options. But in the mire of FPS out there what does Red Faction offer us that the others don't. I can sum this up in a new Volition by-word. Geo-Mod. They didn't go for a previously released engine or a re-hash of an old one, they wrote their own that could handle the complex ideas that they had. Ever got fed up with a FPS that allowed you to heft around some obscene amounts of weaponry that produce some gorgeous booms, only to have your hopes shattered as they leave nary a mark on the pristine white walls of the level. When huge chunks of masonry should go flying and a big hole should be left, big enough for you to sneak into and hide. Well have no fear, Red Faction is here and ready to assuage your psychotic blowing stuff up needs.
The game creates the destruction effects on the fly so it's possible to dig a trench with the rocket-launcher and it will happen based on the effect the rocket has on that type of ground. Each weapon in RF has a damage rating and each surface a durability rating. The program compares both and if the weapon exceeds the durability the Geo-Mod kicks in and deforms the landscape by a realistic amount. It's also possible during this to be not only damaged by the rocket, the blast and the splash damage but by flying chunks of rock as the rocket slams home.
This makes the game more tactical at times as a well-placed blast can cause rock to hammer an unsuspecting guard inflicting more damage to him in the process. RF also features some of the most gorgeous glass shattering effects this side of Metal Gear Solid 2. Glass can be holed with a small firearm, or repeatedly shot so it breaks, each shard has power, weight and mass in the game environment so it actually damages things that happen to get underneath a falling shard-shower.
But what about the singleplayer element to the game, well I can report that I've been giving this game a thorough going over and it's got a nice strong storyline and some good plot twists, it's kind of predictable in places but the action never really lets up enough for you to notice. You're too busy keeping Parker alive to worry about any kind of sci-fi Cliché's. You start out as Parker, a Miner for the Ultor Corporation; a ruthless Mars based company that is using Miners like slave labour. You were promised a quick and easy route to riches on Mars but found only darkness and death when you got there. Long work hours and guards who shoot first and ask questions later.
Quickly the game storms into a fight for survival as the mysterious Red Faction begin to urge the Miners to fight for their freedom and you are caught up in this fight. The race is then on through levels, which load fairly quickly, there's some wait now and again on the bigger levels. Each part of the game brings you closer to the answer about Ultor and the Faction, and introduces some kind of plot twist now and again. Ok so that's kind of the story, what about the various eye-candy things that you want to know about?
Right, let's get down to looking at the skin of the game, the Graphics.
Red Faction's graphics at times are truly quite stunning; I love the architecture to the levels and the level of detail to the models themselves. Parker and the various other characters are very detailed and nicely modelled. The guards look like guards and the weapons look like the kind of thing you'd have found in Total Recall. The frame-rate over all keeps at a nice steady pace and I didn't notice any slowdown when involved in a large fire-fight. What with bullets spanging off metal surfaces and churning into walls, rocks flying as grenades and explosions go off, falling guards from a particular head-shot using just the hand-gun. There's a lot going on and you don't really loose track of it.
The Animations are top quality and convincing, guards run around with their hands behind their heads or waving around if you get in a wounding shot, or attach a remote-c4 charge to their body. The weapons have some nice Animations too, and some neat touches, like the rocket launcher with built in screen, get a target in your sights and it also shows up on the little screen. The explosions and the sfx are also top quality; you really get the feeling of blowing stuff up from the rocket launcher, more so than any other game I've seen in a long while. It also helps that the hole left behind by said rocket stays there and doesn't fade away.
I'm not going to spoil the game for you by going on about the actual in-game events or the weapons in great detail, suffice it to say that amongst your arsenal you get to use a dinky but powerful handgun, an assault rifle akin to an Alien's Pulserifle, and a Rail Gun, which can shoot and see through walls. There's also a load of other weapons including a Sniper Rifle for the assassin amongst us. Add to this mix a Jeep, APC, Mine Vehicle (Like in Total Recall) a Flyer and a MiniSub, and you have more toys to play with than you know what's good for. Each of the vehicles handles really well and uses a similar control method, so it's easy to get into one and pilot it. They come equipped with the cannon and rocket options for serious blasting fun. All except the Miner of course which can chew through rock.
Ok, Graphics and Weapons out of the way, what about the AI?
Red Faction's AI isn't the greatest AI in the world ever, at times it seems too damn intelligent, seeing you from miles away and reacting to your presence well before it should, but those faults aside it provides a good challenge to the seasoned FPS Vet like me and has a few little tricks, often running away and seeking cover, using weapons like the Rail Gun to nail you through a door if you're not careful and being highly accurate with a Sniper Rifle. But it does its job and I'm sure that with the PC version, Volition will add improvements and tweaks that we PS2 owners can only dream of.
Sound effects, they're great, guns are meaty the screams and vocals from the guards and various other characters are superbly put together. Often it's quite fun to listen in on a scripted conversation with a couple of guards before you wade in guns blazing and shut them up for good. Footsteps echo on metallic floors, they make nice crunchy noises over broken glass and hollow stone like sounds over the rock walls of the various Martian tunnels.
Red Faction's Multiplayer on the PS2 is good for a little bit of a blast with the game's AI or a buddy, but it really is a tag on option for the PS2, it supports only 2 players and has only Deathmatch as an option. But Red Faction was really only billed as a singleplayer shooter so they succeeded in that area. I can't really fault them for not lavishing much time on the other element of the game. Still it's great fun to blast a buddy for a while and teach them the power of the smackdown explosion from a big assed rocket-launcher.
Ok so overall, yeah, Red Faction is a great game, it sets a new standard for the FPS and should delight those people who just want to blow the living daylights out of the walls/floors/ceilings and stuff like that, with innovative puzzles that require you to utilise the Geo-Mod it gives another level of depth to what could have been a very boring game without it. I personally would love to see more games take advantage of the ability to deform and totally ravage the scenery as well as various bad-guys. I live for the day when we can set a charge, sit back and watch the biggest damn explosion tear through the level leaving nothing in our wake save the charred husks of burnt out buildings. Get it, you won't be disappointed.