Our Revolt began years ago! Where were these guys?
It’s official: next generation gaming is here and in full swing. Hopefully
that swing will get a great deal higher with the release of the NVIDIA powered
Xbox and the ATI powered GameCube.
So far, the next-gen road has been paved with good intentions, but has turned
out more than a few potholes.
Indeed, the Playstation 2 thus far hasn’t exactly won the hearts of gamers
the way Sony would have liked. The general lack of amazing software hasn’t done
much to bolster Sony’s reputation, and the few first person shooters we’ve seen
haven’t impressed us much at all. Would Red Faction?
Well, sort of. Red Faction is a good looking, well-designed FPS that
is teeming with bits of great fun and ballistic exhilaration. But ultimately,
the formulaic enemy AI, odd exclusion of mouse and keyboard support, frustrating
control and incessant platform-style jumping lead to a game that just isn’t
the mindblower you may have hoped for.
The story of Red Faction, which has been hyped heavily in its advertisements,
is frankly nothing really new or inspired. In the future, a mining facility
on Mars (run by ominous mega-corporation Ultor) has enlisted a small compliment
of Earth’s inhabitants as “indentured servants.” 40 acres and a mule
ring any bells? Yeah, well nearly the same thing happens on Mars. Disrespect
and brutality become the norm as guards and mine officials become indifferent
and callous towards the hard working miners. The tension rises and eventually
a riot breaks out, leading directly to a massive revolution.
Enter your character: Parker. Parker witnesses the malicious attack on a fellow
worker by an Ultor guard and decides to take action. Again, the story’s decent
but nothing inspired.
As tough-guy Parker, you will trek through the games 20 levels, dispatching
wave after wave of Ultor guards with a multitude of cool weaponry at your disposal.
At times you will be required to occasionally put on a disguise and sneak around
or escort allies to safety. There are also 5 different vehicles, which will
require your piloting and driving skills. The tasks are well rounded but fairly
traditional for an FPS.
Red Faction’s big selling point comes in the form of developer Volition’s
brilliant terrain deforming technology, Geo-Mod. Is your Spider-sense
tingling? Do you sense an enemy beyond that wall? Well, just pull out your all-purpose
rocket launcher and see how porous that wall can be. BOOM! There you go, a nice
sized hole big enough for Parker to walk right through.
The Geo-Mod engine is very cool! Ever want to blow the floor right out
from under the baddies? Geo-Mod says go nuts! This feature also opens up a whole
new world for finding and aquiring secret areas and goodies for those of you
with a little Lara Croft
in your blood. Deforming the level and making your own passageways kicks very
much ass and will hopefully be utitlized in more upcoming shooters.
Although to be perfectly honest, ‘redesigning’ the handsomely designed levels
in Red Faction is somewhat akin to tearing away beautiful gift-wrapping
just to get to the Christmas present lying beneath. Sometimes you just don’t
want to mess up the scenery, and in Red Faction, the level design is
almost too good to ruin. You really feel like you’re down in a mine that’s in
the midst of some sort of industrial molestation. There are canals through rock
that are obviously man-made.. And you’ll see huge subterranean structures with
architecture straight out of sci-fi movie. Very immersive.
However, the frustration that comes from excessive platform jumping, balancing
on slender ledges and stupid gun-fights on ladders can really try a geek’s ability
to suspend his disbelief. First-person platform jumping has never been much
fun, and Red Faction does little to change that.
Fortunately, the programmers put a little more effort into enemy AI…but just
a little. The AI can be smart at times, with enemies taking cover and crouching
behind solid objects to shoot or call for backup. But then they’ll do something
inane and inexcusable, like running up on a shotgun-toting Parker while clumsily
swinging a stun baton. Guess who wins that on. Or how about the guards not brushing
off plastic explosive that have been attached to them? They’ll just keep running
around screaming indefinitely until you press the shiny red button on your detonator
to end their misery. Cool feature, dumb AI.
But once you hear the CHICK-CHAK of the USA-10 Ultor Automatic Combat Shotgun
reloading, you’ll understand why the enemies are screaming. This holds true
for the entire Red Faction artillery. Parker is armed with 14 weapons
of pleasurable destruction, including various machine guns, assault rifles,
a riot shield and of course a rocket launcher that lets you see through the
many deformable walls.
just wish I could see more of my character than his left arm, though if the
rest of Parker looks like the rest of Red Faction, then I know I’m not
missing too much. Graphics are definitely good but not stunning. Character skins
are less than interesting and absent of any impressive texture detail. But buildings,
structures and people blow-up nicely and when blood splatters on walls, it actually
stays there. Just don’t expect any reflective shiny metallic or liquid surfaces.
What does shine is Red Faction’s multiplayer. While not as involving
as an Unreal deathmatch, Red Faction
does offer some wild ballistic action with a friend. Oddly, the split-screen
is passable and unobtrusive. You can play against a buddy and up to 4 bots or
it can be just you with up to 6 bots. This is pretty enjoyable with the right
amount of alcohol and the right friends.
But what pulls this experience down is the heavy learning curve for the control.
The PS2 analog sticks make first-person shooting a pain. You can hardwire your
brain to appropriately instruct your fingers, but you never feel exceptionally
proficient or comfortable with the control. With the way the levels are structured
and the ability to drive vehicles, the game screams for a third person perspective,
at least as an option. Sadly, it’s first-person all the way…which isn’t great
if you’re used to mouse and keyboard.
This would actually be okay if the game took advantage of the built-in USB
ports on the PS2, allowing you to just attach a mouse and keyboard and frag
away in comfort. But alas, there is no USB support, so you better get used to
those little sticks. Too bad.
The vehicles are a great addition, even if only for specific instances in the
game. The five vehicles include a mini submarine, a giant drilling machine on
treads, a fighter type aircraft, an all-terrain jeep and an APC. But the first-person
perspective with a control pad for the jeep and the sub are constantly hindering
the control and, in turn, the overall enjoyment.
In the end, Red Faction is a montage of innovation and disappointment.
It brings to the table a mixed feast generously laced with Geo-Mod fun and decent
gameplay, but the difficult control and platform jumping makes it harder to
swallow. Still, this is one of few genuinely fun and exhilarating shooters out
for the PS2 and is worth a good look.