11th of May 2000 at the E3 expo, Los Angeles - Volition reveals their new foray into the first person shooter genre with "Red Faction". EuroGamer's Mat Bettinson investigates...
Plus Ca Change
Volition are the company behind the Descent and Freespace series of games, so there's no shortage of expertise here. When the game's publisher THQ invited us to the unveiling behind closed doors, it was the least we could do to see what, if anything, Volition could bring to the stymied first person genre. We weren't disappointed...
Volition kicked off development on Red Faction themselves, which is no great surprise since it seems unlikely any publisher would want to get into the highly competitive first person shooter market. However, with a passion for multiplayer action games with full-featured 3D engines, Volition secretly produced a demo that impressed THQ enough to sign it on the spot.
The basic style of the game resembles the rest of the shooter pack. The player runs around with big guns and despatches bad guys, and even the plot is vaguely familiar - set on Mars, the poor hard-done by miners are on the verge of rebellion against the evil mining company.
Of course, there must be some unique new elements if we're to take such a game seriously. And luckily there are.
The big one is the fully deformable game geometry. You can now blast the hell out of the landscape, just about all of it. There were some impressive examples demonstrated, such an enemy guard manning a gun turret. The player could hide behind cover .. but only until that cover was blasted away by repeated shell strikes.
Another example was a sniper guard in a tower. We could snipe him back, or we could blow away the base of the tower with a big-ass rocket launcher and watch it, complete with guard, topple to the ground. It's all very impressive.
It should be said that the game is a good year away yet but already there's some superb technology being demonstrated. At one point the Volition demo crew blasted the side of a crucible carrying liquid metal off somewhere. The molten metal trickled out of the hole that was blasted, bouncing along the floor with some advanced use of particles.
Volition cite their biggest problem now as finding 'mega cool' applications for this sort of freedom in the game.
Already drivable vehicles are in the game, which offer some protection against small arms as well as featuring weaponry of their own.
Volition are clearly no strangers to rendering a cockpit-eye view after the Descent series, and the lavish way that the instrumentation reflected in the glass and haloed lighting and spotlights certainly aid the visual style.
Yet for all that, the effort is going into cool things the player can do with vehicles - the best bit drew 'wow' and 'no way' comments from the audience. It is possible to drive a tank into a building, and then vacate the vehicle and storm inside. Oh boy.
At this point Volition started to wax about the multiplayer possibilities, kicking off with the idea that such a vehicle could be used in a capture the flag game variant to storm the enemy base.
They also pointed out that their deformable terrain opens up all sots of tactical possibilities, such as blasting a hole in the wall and camping there in the dark. Already they appear to have spared some thought for game balance, since the work-in-progress uber-weapon is a form of rocket launcher with a heat scope, just the ticket for flushing out these devilish camping fiends.
On the multiplayer front, the future for Red Faction looks very good indeed. Volition have now had years of experience in coding proper client-server technology, and are great fans of multiplayer first person shooters themselves. This wont be a game wrecked by stupid peer-to-peer networking or exclusive online gaming provider deals. Doesn't that make you feel all warm inside?
Much is also being made of the AI, although it wasn't demonstrated to any degree. Due to the dynamic nature of the game geometry, the AI has to make sophisticated decisions about where it can and can't go.
Volition also hinted at squad based AI mentality, and pointed out that the aim is that the game can be played in both a gung ho guns-blazing fashion or a more subtle sneak-and-snipe approach.
Red Faction is still a long way off yet, but it's gratifying to know that at last some more-than-cosmetic technology enhancements are on the way for the tried and tested first person shooter genre. Hooray!