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Red Faction II

First Impressions - Tom liberates the final game

You've heard a lot from us about Volition's Red Faction II. You know it's a PlayStation 2 exclusive first person shooter with a heavy-duty story-driven single player game. You know it has a weighty collection of multiplayer modes to back that up, and, Volition hopes, to rival TimeSplitters 2. You also know that we've played it, and that we rather like it. Well, now we have the final game, and just to reiterate; it's wall crunching, bone shattering, grenade popping good. What follows is a detailed account of our first hour with the full single player game.

Alias clears out the first level corridors

Demolition Man

Red Faction II begins with the player (a demolitions expert by the name of Alias) landing with fellow troops outside a well-defended mini-fortress, with the object to get in and steal nano-technology from the fortress core for our boss, Chancellor Sopot. This is easier said than done. After watching our comrades fall in a shower of gunfire, we blast our way through the nearest wall using the standard-issue grenade launcher, and into the fortress we go.

Sadly, our dramatic entrance has aroused the guards, and so the next few moments are spent ducking and diving through the courtyard, trying to avoid exploding barrels as they fly two hundred feet into the air, trying not to get shot too much by the myriad enemy soldiers, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other armaments, and in turn clobbering enough of them for Shrike - the vehicles expert - to cruise in and blast a hole in the door.

Once inside, it's just a question of negotiating vents, corridors full of enemy forces - all armed to the teeth - and the central core chamber, which is overflowing with them. With the nano-technology stolen, the cinematics kick in and we sit back, prologue polished off, ready to soak up the real game.

You are Alias, we're told. You and five others are the last surviving members of an elite special force genetically engineered by Chancellor Sopot, Earth's vicious Stalin-esque dictator. Sopot is keen to see you all exterminated - he's already killed the best part of 2,000 of you - because having built you from scratch he's worried that you're a bit too hard.

Instead of sitting back and waiting for a lump of lead to the head though, your team of six - with skills ranging from vehicles, demolition and heavy weapons to sniping and stealthy incursions - has joined up with the rebellious Red Faction of the first game to eliminate Sopot once and for all. So, in a roundabout way, the dictatorial bafoon has signed his own death warrant in an attempt to expunge it. Clever.

Your first mission on the wrong side of the law is a direct assassination attempt. Starting on the ground floor of a television centre, you have to work your way through the lobby, up the lifts and stairs and disrupt the Chancellor's broadcast, before dispatching him efficiently. As matters unfold, you're separated from your squad leader, and meet up instead with Tangier (stealth) and Repta (heavy weapons) along the way, before breaking off from them after wrecking up the TV studio. All the while you're enjoying cover from your fearsome female sniper comrade, Quill, and taking cover as gunships strafe the building. It's not too much to worry about though - after all, it's just you, a rooftop's worth of suppression forces and a twilight/night-vision pursuit of Sopot. But do you get him? Well, what do you think? No.

Heading outside for some gunnery action

New threads

Red Faction II's single player is so far removed from the original game's that it beggars belief. Instead of fighting a lonely one-man-and-his-radio-allies war against the tyrannical forces of a rocky Total Recall-inspired Mars, you're an elite, renegade commando backed up by genuinely useful allies on a whistle-stop tour of all the Chancellor's favourite hiding spots.

And just when you think you're bored of clambering around skyscrapers, you hitch a ride with Shrike onboard the gunship, acting as gunner while he swoops through the nearby streets in pursuit of Sopot, Sopot's forces and in the hope of liberating holed up Red Faction members.

Instead of a totally linear race from A to B, you can often take short detours, opt for different routes and blow up entirely different things - opt to blast your rockets at a few fuel tanks atop a low-roofed building, for instance, and you'll complete a bonus objective. And, cleverly, bonus objectives and sterling behaviour - which is measured via the heroics meter, something which directly contributes to the game's end sequence - are rewarded by previously locked extras, like movies, trailers, dodgy development clips and other perks.

Red Faction II draws closer with every twist of the sniper scope

Liberate your PS2?

Playing through the final version of Red Faction II, the only thing that caused us a few moments of consternation was the graphics engine. Although for the most part highly detailed, highly destructible and downright good-looking, there is a slight question mark hanging over the enemy animation and character modelling. Your squad mates have enjoyed the lion's share of the detail, leaving some of the enemies looking rather inorganic and slender beneath their almost impenetrable metal armour. That's another slight issue - enemies don't react particularly pre-death. You can shoot holes in a guy and he won't take a visible hit until he falls to the floor in one of a number of ways. Sometimes in pieces. This is slightly dissatisfying after the likes of Medal of Honor: Frontline.

That said, it's a small point and the only other questionable issue in the final game so far has been the Dual Shock control. We don't really think anybody has mastered Dual Shock FPS control yet, although Free Radical has come pretty close with TimeSplitters 2. Fortunately, Red Faction II offers you the chance to hook up a USB keyboard and mouse, which we did, and it honestly feels like you're playing a high-end PC first person shooter as a result.

Having sunk our teeth into both TimeSplitters 2 and Red Faction II to a limited degree, it's clear that for single players, RFII offers the best blend of narrative and intense action. However, only a proper dissection of both games will tell us which stands proud over the other's mangled corpse, and we hope to bring you that verdict very soon, with TS2 out this week and Red Faction II scheduled for November 15th.

Red Faction II hands-on preview

Red Faction II screenshots

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