Red Faction

Key events

4th October 2001

Red Faction

13th July 2001

Red Faction

The making of Red Faction

Where there's a wall there's a way.

The Red Faction series hasn't had it easy of late. First the franchise was deemed too niche before being unofficially side-lined in 2012 by THQ; subsequently the publisher itself (and owner of developer Volition) entered financial difficulties at the end of last year, eventually yielding to bankruptcy. Despite its enduring popularity, the future of Red Faction was in serious doubt.

Red Faction

Red Faction

Review - lead the revolt in this Total Recall-inspired first person shooter, now on the PC

Volition Publisher THQ System Requirements  Pentium-II 300MHz  64Mb RAM  8Mb video card  DirectX compatible sound card The miners are revolting! When we looked at the PlayStation 2 version of Red Faction in July, our biggest concern was the control system. Playing a first person shooter using a control pad has never been my cup of tea, and wherever possible I have tried to avoid it. Another factor is visual quality. As matters stand, comfortable though it is to sit in front of my enormous television playing Generic Shooter 3 on my latest console, invariably my PC upstairs turns out sharper, higher resolution visuals with a control system friendlier to a veteran of point and shoot PC releases. With Red Faction, the situation is no different, and besides the obvious improvements in resolution, visual quality, framerate and control, the PC version also boasts those much-needed online multiplayer features. Will Volition's best game since Descent stand up to PC-based first person shooters like Return to Castle Wolfenstein this Christmas? There's only one way to find out... For those of you who are new to the game, the premise is that you are Douglas Quaid in Total Recall under a different pseudonym. There is no official connection between the Arnold Schwarzenegger blockbuster and Volition's first person shooter, but there might as well be. Your character Parker finds himself thrown into a deadly revolt on our solar system's red planet, and with guidance from members of the rebellious Red Faction you must overcome your mining supervisors and escape from a world of hurt. Unlike said movie though, Red Faction suffers from a problem familiar to Hollywood directors and movie buffs; not knowing when to end. There are several opportunities for closure in Red Faction, but the developer chooses none of them, preferring to exhaust every single gameplay and story mechanism first. The PC version is a straight copy of the PS2, so fans of the original will find nothing new in the single player game. Looks aren't everything Fans of the PlayStation 2 version may also be disappointed to learn that the visuals in the PC version are nigh on identical to those of the original. If it ain't broke don't fix it perhaps, but given the power of graphics cards like the GeForce 3 and Radeon 8500, there are plenty of opportunities for showing off. My main criticism is that everything is remarkably angular, and there seems little excuse for the lack of curves as the game runs well even on my relatively old GeForce 2 GTS system. That said, what we had to start with was fairly impressive. The mining sections are very brown, but the oft-repeated textures have a habit of blending together into a believable chasm, while the indoor areas are smartly dressed, with company insignia and Red Faction spray-paint on many surfaces. The character models are also rather good, although the facial animations seem like a step down from the three year old Half-Life at times, and characters have a stereotypical action game tendency to race at full pelt to a spot not two feet from you, then stop dead and stand motionlessly reciting their lines. Weapons are sometimes difficult to spot because they blend in with the floor of the room or lurk behind the corpse from which they fell, but when you find them the models and animations are uniformly excellent. My only disappointment was that throughout the game the weapon sound effects were rather timid. The one weapon which seems lacking on all fronts is the default pistol which, like the Quake 2 blaster; is completely useless and looks rather boring to boot. Other weapons, like the shotgun and Uzi, are at least exciting to use, and as you progress through the game you get to the real meat. The Rocket Launcher can blast holes in the scenery, while the Rail Driver can actually pierce several successive walls like a hot needle through butter, and comes with a fully infrared alternative firing mode which allows you to search for body heat in nearby rooms. Get in there Which brings me to the subject of Geo-Mod. Geometric Modification has gone nowhere since the PlayStation 2 version, but it still serves to show off Volition's clever manipulation of the physics engine. When you pick up the rocket launcher or explosive charges you are given the ability to blow things up, and as with the PS2 version this is used to varying degrees throughout the game. In one section you are faced with a locked door and a rocket launcher, and blowing a hole in the wall next to it provides a handy alternative to finding the key. In another section molten rock flows along an aqueduct, and taking a chunk out of the underside will tip the contents over anybody unlucky enough to be in the vicinity. So on, and so forth. The problem with Red Faction single player though isn't that it's repetitive, or that it has a weak array of weapons, or that its visuals are poor, its controls awful, or any of those typical first person shooter problems. In fact Red Faction is a good, by the numbers action game with a few memorable moments and some welcome additions, including driveable vehicles such as the mining drill (again lifted from Total Recall) which looks menacing enough from the outside and switches your view to a flickering green tinted viewscreen from within. The problem with Red Faction is that the developers took a great idea from an even greater film, changed a few names and numbers, ripped out the body of the conspiracy and recoloured matters for themselves. But instead of capitalizing on this they filled in the gaps with plot devices stolen from Saturday morning cartoons - you will cringe at some of the revelations you become privy to. Still, as a single player you can expect a decent adventure with some excellent gameplay, and you can have fun blasting holes in things and railing unsuspecting guards through a wall fifty metres away. Get some friends Multiplayer is an entirely different kettle of fish. The PC version of Red Faction features three different multiplayer modes: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag. Deathmatch is the most popular so far, and understandably so. With the huge array of weapons on display and a fairly random cross-section of the gaming community currently in possession of the game, numbers are reasonably high but cohesion isn't, and most players just want to shoot something without the added complication of a team objective. The Deathmatch mode can be exceptional fun, as long as weapons proliferate quickly; the default pistol is incredibly boring and the constant pistol duels that players have to put up with for the first five minutes of a round cause untold grief. Part of the problem there is that most of the levels are big and complicated, and those that aren't just have peculiar layouts. Quake-style duelling is more or less out of the question for the moment, and with guns spread unevenly throughout each arena you often have to fall back on the pistol you spawn with. A huge number of amateur level designers are using the RED Editor which shipped with the game to create their own multiplayer arenas, so this will hopefully change in the near future, but in the meantime there are only a few decent arenas. Another reason for disliking some of the arenas is the number of doors. Okay, it's fun to sit there with a Rail Driver and shoot people as they run through the doors, but then it's equally fun to find a secluded place and use the Rail Driver like the bad guys in Erazer did, bisecting nature with a single flick of the trigger. The problem with doors is that they tend to hold you up because of the lag. Latency is a big problem for Red Faction players at the moment. With more than four people on a server the pings often leap to about 300, at which point the doors become an irritation, as does the Rail Driver. In fact, the only things stopping Red Faction from being an excellent multiplayer game are the need for some network code tweaking and a few smaller arenas. Conclusion Red Faction is a solid first shooter with a few problems. Visually it has been surpassed a hundred times over on the PC, thanks to its striking angular surfaces and lack of impressive lighting effects, and it's a shame that the Geo-Mod technology isn't as relevant to your adventure as it perhaps could have been. With a bit of spit and polish the multiplayer game could be Red Faction's saviour, but if you're tempted to pick it up to try that out, I would wait for the inevitable patch, or at least make sure you have access to a well-stocked LAN. - Red Faction PlayStation 2 review 7

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Red Faction

Red Faction

Review - the console first person shooter genre gets a new flagship game, courtesy of Volition

Bearing more than a passing resemblance to Total Recall, Red Faction puts you in the role of Parker, a Douglas Quaid-like nobody mining a few square feet of rock beneath the surface of Mars. Like your fellow workers, you don't exactly view this as a dream occupation, and the cramped work and living quarters do little to keep you happy. Enter the eponymous Red Faction, a rebellious uprising of your mining colleagues led by the mysterious Eos which seeks to usurp power from the evil corporation that enslaves the miners, from the Cohaagen-like figures at the top right down to the security staff. Once you've broken free of your shackles you take part in the uprising, arming yourself to the teeth and fighting for your freedom. As you advance so does the plot, in a round about way, and rather like Half-Life steady sequences of action are punctuated by impressive encounters with larger entities. Volition deserves some kudos here for not simply tailing things off with a marginal boss encounter, since there is plenty of longevity in here and a fair amount of nail-biting combat sequences. Volition Publisher THQ The Story So Far Unlike Half-Life though (and certainly unlike Total Recall) this red planet adventure grips you only sporadically, and as you progress there are a lot of occasions when you think "this must be it", only to discover that there is a huge chunk of the game still to be played. Red Faction isn't the sort of game where you're looking for an excuse to put it down though. If you aren't gripped by the story 100% of the time, the action will fill in the blanks. Breakthrough The much vaunted Geo-Mod technology is an excellent addition to the formula, and really does mean that virtually every wall is destructible in some way. Put simply, Geometric Modification (or Geo-Mod to its friends) means that things get wrecked in real time. Everything you have ever wanted to do in a first person shooter is now possible. You can shoot the root of a lonely stalactite and watch it crash menacingly to the ground, you can shoot holes in an aquaduct carrying molten rock and let it pour down dynamically, engulfing a pair of guards, or you can simply blows holes in things to reveal shortcuts, secret items or little camp-worthy cubby holes. Geo-Mod also gives players a choice in their adventures. There are some "find the key, open the door" type puzzles, but a less painstaking Parker can simply whip out his rocket launcher (with thermal imaging target system) and blow a hole in the wall right next to it. This is particularly entertaining when you get hold of the Rail Driver, which boasts an infra-red zoom rather like the railgun seen in another Arnie film, Erazer. Using the enhanced sights you can pick out an enemy on the other side of a wall and put a piece of supersonic metal through him. Quite compelling. Another set of toys you will want to get acquainted with is the selection of vehicles strewn around Red Faction. Things like a hoverpad, a drilling machine, a jeep with an independently controlled machinegun turret, and even a submarine pop up along the way, and players will get the chance to try them all out. They're great fun to fight against, but even more amusing to direct against your enemies. Control Freak As you approach the latter stages of the game though, precision becomes just as important as power, and your remote charges and other tools become vital. Which unfortunately highlights one of the games flaws, which is the control system. Using the Dual Shock controller is tricky, my main issue being the juggling of two analogue sticks as you try to remember what they both do. Binding R1 to fire is useful since it's like a trigger, but it doesn't come all that intuitively for some reason. The bottom line is that although it is perfectly possible to complete Red Faction using the controller, you know as an experienced PC games player that things would be much easier if you had used a keyboard and a mouse. Sadly Volition hasn't even included the option to introduce a keyboard and mouse to the proceedings. Inexcusable? Nearly. This does at least mean that there is something of a level playing field in the game's multiplayer mode though. Speaking of which, multiplayer is a bit of a mixed bag - more exciting than TimeSplitters multiplayer, but with its own ups and downs. The weapons selection is a bit too top heavy, and someone with a rail driver is always going to beat the bloke with a shotgun, because he doesn't even have to be in the same room to kill him… This certainly leads to some interesting matches, because as you gormlessly prance about, desperate to avoid the attentions of your mate in the rail driver room, he can scratch that itch on his head while he dispatches you one-handed without so much as getting behind cover. Heavy Duties Despite its drawbacks and the lack of a three or four player mode though, Red Faction multiplayer is a delicate soufflé of action with some astounding attention to detail. The bots boast impressive path-finding AI and are quite a challenge on the medium difficulty levels, and the deathmatch maps are actually very good. Geo-Mod can be brought into play and makes a big difference, particularly in manned battles, giving you the chance to do things like blowing a chunk out of a platform which your opponent is racing across. Meanwhile secret rooms usually harbour the rail driver or another particularly vicious implement of mass destruction, and camping is never an option, since you know full well that a little thermal imaging from your opponent can reduce you to toast! Visually, Red Faction is a perfect demonstration of the PS2 hardware. I've never seen so many shades of red in a single environment before - the textures and interiors of the various locations are wonderfully vivid. And Red Faction has the enviable honour of being the first console game in a long while not to just paste, repeat, paste, repeat ad nauseam when it comes to colouring a corridor, doing a remarkable job of staving off that "another bloody tunnel" feeling which I suspected it would propagate. The computer generated movie sequences that fit in between action segments are also well animated and, although I wouldn't describe them as perfect, the character models and animations are quite nicely done, even if their faces are rather elongated. Conclusion Ironically though, the biggest problem Red Faction faces is its big brother, the PC version of the game. When it eventually hits the streets (some time in September according to THQ), it will boast everything we have seen here coupled with a PC control system. This defeats one of the key purposes of a killer app; to sell whatever system the game is delivered on. If Red Faction for the PC can do everything here with a proper control system and online multiplayer, who's going to care about the PS2 version? Potential buyers only need to ask themselves one question, can they put up with a Dual Shock driven control system? If the answer to that is yes, then Red Faction is an absolute must-have. Otherwise, you might want to wait for the PC version in September. Either way, Volition's shooter is arguably the best first person shooter to grace console screens ever. - Red Faction PC Preview Eye Candy 9

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