The Bottom Line: Would have been a real groundbreaker if only you could break the ground.
I once worked as a cart pusher for a local grocery store chain. I hated every second of it. Blisters were always appearing on my feet in the spots that I always press down on. I was required to wear the ugliest polo shirt I had ever seen. I was paid minimum wage, while workers who hadnt been there as long as me made more. The annoying pop soundtrack that was playing endlessly almost numbed out my brain. No employee discounts. I had to work through the second-worst blizzard that Buffalo had ever seen, a seperate ice storm and two or three windstorms. All while most of the other cartboys there sat on their worthless carcasses. And to top it all off, I was fired because I dared to practice my religion. But after hearing about the plight of the Ultor mine workers on Mars, I wanted to run up to my idiot ex-employers and kiss them. What these guys endured makes my cartboy job look like a paid vacation to Bermuda. They got overworked for ten hours a day, with guards who were there to make sure they didnt try to slip away on a bathroom break. Then they got to go back to their sweat-filled bunks, which they shared with the workers on the night shift. The food is terrible and, worst of all, the suits running Ultor are turning their heads on the deadly plague sweeping through the mines.
While I endured my own private plight at the grocery store, I had a subtle way of striking back at my employers-I told the customers to shop at the Wegmans across the street. The good miners at Ultor, on the other hand, have a much more direct approach-they pick up guns and run around blowing up their employers. Ah, the American dream!
Red Faction came out way back in 2001, when console FPSs, although they had made strides toward equaling the level of their PC counterparts, were still considered inferior. It impressed the PC fanboys so much that they began considering consoles to be legitimate gaming machines. How appropriate. I never really considered computers to be a legitimate gaming medium, but this little debate is not the point. The point is that this big PS2 hit is a fine FPS that would have been named the best FPS of 2001 had it not been for Billy Moneybags Gates, his Xbox and a little game called Halo. Red Faction recieved a lot of critical acclaim when it came out, as I said. Halo had me hooked on store demos. Ill just say that while Red Faction is a perfectly acceptable PS2 substitute for everyones top ten-topper of 2001, it isnt enough to make anyone whos played five minutes of Halo forget that there are greener FPS grounds to be found on Microsofts big green machine.
So now that weve established that Red Faction doesnt quite meet the latest FPS bar standard, I now have describe the things it has pulling for it. Is the aforementioned American dream a good start? Okay, well, you dont exactly get to kill your employers. You get to kill the employers and idiot co-workers of some Harvard preppie named Parker, although you could probably let off some stress if you imagined your bosses faces on Parkers enemies. Theres also the setting, which will bring flashes of the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Total Recall real quickly. The game takes place on an impressive Martian landscape that interchanges with labs, storage houses, subways and a million other places. Then theres that warm, fuzzy feeling you get from knowing youre a part of something important. A revolution to shut down this giant, faceless and very evil mega conglomerate? Where do I sign up? We have a unique game design, which doesnt have levels of any sort. The game is basically just one giant area that you run through. Finally, theres this highly touted new technology called Geo-Mod (geography modification), which makes the environment destructable, which will appeal to the aspiring demolitionists out there.
As my Epinions and Netjak brother-in-arms Rock On once pointed out (it WAS you Rocky, wasnt it? Correct me if Im wrong), there are seemingly two different types of first-person shooters out there. The first is the kind that was introduced in games like Wolfenstein and Doom, where you play the sole surviving soldier who runs through endless corridors, blasting his way to the exit. These are the ones you normally think of when you think of a great stress reliever, because you can just run around blasting everything without a second thought. The second kind is the kind that has a more developed story, real characters and level objectives that will end your game if you blow up the wrong person or item. This mold was perfected by games like Goldeneye 007, Perfect Dark and Deus Ex: The Conspiracy. Although these games also involve plenty of running and gunning, the action is liable to let up every once in awhile to make room for some logical thinking and doing non-shooting related stuff. Oh, its still fun to shoot the baddies full of holes, but these kinds generally make poor stress relievers because if youre still angry when the action lets up, you might as well chuck the 25 dollars youll be spending on a new controller out the window.
In the very deep sea of FPS games, Red Faction stands out as one of the latter kinds. The buildup of the story is very impressive, given that the whole revolution begins with what would probably be considered a minor scuffle between a miner and a guard. From there it just keeps building and building until it turns into this whole big deal involving a mad scientist and a virus. Although for such a terrific plot, the characters dont do a whole lot to endear you to them. The main character, Parker, turned down a Harvard scholarship in order to find himself working in the Martian mines for Ultor, and he wants us to feel bad for him? Sorry, but I dont care so much about overqualified preppies who feel they have to expose themselves to roughneck tasks to search for themselves. Parkers defiant attitude is there to make him look like a real rebel, a guy whos fed up, but at times he seems a little TOO defiant and comes off looking like a selfish prick along the lines of Cloud Strife or Squall Leonheart (from Final Fantasies 7 and 8, respectively). Parkers associates, Eos and Hendrix, both claim to have reasons for going against Ultor, but even well past the games last quarter they still havent revealed their motives. Everyone outside of them works for Ultor, so youre not supposed to like them. Be that as it is, the most sympathy youll feel toward anyone is when the injured guards shout I dont deserve to die!-just before they turn around and shoot at you again.
Well, its an FPS. A good story is but a mere convinience, not a necessity. The real bread and butter of these games is the action and weapons. And theres plenty of both in Red Faction. The game takes place on Mars in the future, so you can expect to use plenty of futuristic weapons. Since Red Faction is also an FPS and buckets of blood seem to be required in all these games, you also have a wide pick of ancient Earth weapons like your basic handguns, assault rifles, rocket launchers and, yes, the trusty old shotgun is still an option. On the more futuristic side, you have fusion rocket launchers (the REALLY FREAKIN POWERFUL rocket launchers) and rail drivers, which send metal slugs through walls and enemies guts at ultra-high velocity. One of the more fun aspects of the weapons is that theres a secondary mode of fire for each one of them, even though the secondary mode is usually nothing more than something to make you ask yourself Now, how do I want to kill YOU?. To sweeten things up a bit, you occaisionally get to hop into one of five vehicles to wreak havoc on Ultors front lines.
Good thing for the weapons too, because youll be facing off against an AI that can be staggeringly brilliant at times. Especially near the end of the game, when you often find yourself surrounded by mercenaries, youll be shooting so erratically just to keep the bad guys off your back that you may not realize just how close you are to running out of ammo. On the other hand, the AI is also that stupid at times. Many bad guys run off for fear of dying. Then they turn right back around and fire away as if they had never run off screaming like a sissy in the first place. Its amusing the first few times, but after that you start to wish they really ould run off so you could conserve some ammunition. And when things start to heat up, dont expect your fellow freedom fighters to come flying in to save your sorry hide either. Although Red Faction desperately wants you to think that youre just one pillar of many holding up the ceiling that is the revolution, Parker is pretty much on his own. The only times when other Faction members show up to help you are in a few plot points. Even then I use the word help loosely because when they dont show up in cutscenes, theyre only there for the sole purpose of getting killed so you dont feel alone. No Halo-style shootouts between legions of Ultor mercenaries and Faction members. Sorry.
Since the main selling point for Red Faction was its Geo-Mod engine, I feel I should tell you all something about that. The purpose of the Geo-Mod engine was to give off more of a sense of realism by allowing you to blow holes in the walls, through doors, and possibly crush Ultor mercs under ceiling rubble that fell when you launched a rocket up there. Youre going to buy this game with visions of furious shootouts dancing in your head. Shootouts where you need to escape fast, so you blow a hole in the wall and escape to the next room, where perhaps another enemy awaits. Youre right about the shootouts. As for Geo-Mod, I hate to disappoint, but its not like that. Remember, much of the game takes place in mines. So you get to snuff out your enemies hiding in self-carved caves. Thats right, no rooms. Caves are made of SOLID ROCK, so there are very few points, other than a few plot points, where you can catch enemies off guard by bursting in at the other end of a room. Other than the rock walls, the engine has little or no effect. I find it remarkable that I can launch a rocket at an indoor wall and have it do nothing.
Red Faction has a kind of layout Ive never seen before. Instead of the usual level-by-level layout, you play through what is basically one giant area. This means that you can backtrack to a certain extent, although some areas get blocked off after you pass through them. You wouldnt be able to backtrack while flying through space, now would you? You cant backtrack through locked doors, you dont WANT to backtrack through the ventilation shaft area. But under most circumstances, you can go back to an area you already completed if you have the patience. The only indication you get that youre advancing through the game are loading times that appear every so often.
The graphics in Red Faction wont win any points for technological achievment. In fact, theyre more likely to be a showcase for the PS2s lack of technological capability compared to the Gamecube or Xbox. Ill give credit to the people who designed the eerily beautiful Martian landscape, but then Ill take it right back for the vast number of flat, drab interior environments. That isnt to say the indoor environments dont look realistic. They look realistic enough, but I just dont imagine the lunchrooms of the future looking like my grammer school cafeteria. Although keeping the plot of the game in mind, it makes perfect sense. My problem here is simply the lack of imagination.
Looking at the characters, you would never tell that this is a PS2 game if someone didnt tell you. The characters are designed much like the characters in the Nintendo 64s Perfect Dark, except without the framerate slowdown. No, wait, the designs are closer to something you might see on the Dreamcast. Theyre lanky as any of the players in any of Sega Sports DC games, complete with the expessionless faces. The only difference is that the sports uniforms were exchanged for some red space suits. They dont even move very smoothly.
The sounds are well done for the most part. The music may be poor and unmemorable, but the actual sounds do quite a bit in the way of compensating for it. Every weapon has its own unique firing sound, and ultimately the weapons are the only things youll remember hearing. As for the rest, you hear Martian animals making whatever you want to call their sounds. Guards taunt you, but their selection of taunts is a bit limited. You hear a handfull of expressions ending with the word miner and a few pleads for mercy-all in the same voice. The actual voice acting done by the characters is mostly lifeless, but then again, so are the characters. So it works. The only exception is Capek.
The controls will take a bit of getting used to. Instead of doing all the moving with just one joystick, you do the basic moving with one and the looking with the other. It takes some time before it becomes second nature, but once youve got it, youll wonder how you ever did so well playing FPSs without it. Outside of this, there are a lot of actions to remember, and the default layout is still extremely awkward. For example, you shoot by pressing R1, while the triangle button reloads your weapon of choice. Meanwhile, you activate your weapons secondary fire by pressing R2. You jump by pressing L1 and crouch by pressing L2. In-game items and switches are accessed by pressing the X button, and circle and square are used to cycle through your weapons. This may not sound so bad, but all four directional buttons are also used to perform functions. You only need to perform these functions on rare occaisions, but the very nightmare of the d-pad functions lies in their rarity-during an intense firefight, its difficult to remember what direction does what. Left holsters your weapon, which youll often want to avoid doing in these situations. Holding the up button allows you to look through crosshairs so you have a better chance of making a shot to the head. The message log on the right button serves no purpose other than reminding you of how the plot got to where it is now. Its just a log of everything youve heard from Hendrix and Eos, and although you can get an occaisional hint at what youre supposed to do looking through it, its not important. The center view accessed by pressing down is probably the most useless function in the game.
It may take practice to remember all that, but once you get it all down, thats it. Youre set to go, because controlling Parker is as easy as simply pushing one of the buttons. Nothing is unecessarily delayed, theres no slowdown and Parker moves exceptionally smoothly no matter the terrain.
I believe (although Im not sure) hat Ive seen Red Faction in the stores recently with the Greatest Hits title slapped on it. That means even the newest copies of the game will be shipping for 20 dollars. Good news for you! Even better, that means the used copies of the game can be bought for even less. Getting a game as good as Red Faction for that price is almost like stealing. Although playing Red Faction is not a great way to relieve stress, it has an engrossing storyline and killer gameplay. When all is said and done, though, the Xbox owners will be the happier FPS bunch, as Red Faction wont quelch the yearning for Halo that will motivate you to purchase it.
Pros: Great action and destroyable terrain. Cons: Dated Graphics The Bottom Line: While not the most cutting edge graphics, the game was pure fun and the best shooter in ages. My system P 3 450 128 MB Geforce 2 64MB SB Live Win ME 3D shooters have long been a staple of the gaming industry. Classics such as Doom, Quake, Half Life, and Unreal … more