I have a great affection towards the guys at Volition for their amazing Freespace series on the PC. It was this series that continued the space combat action that I grew up with in Wing Commander, and lasted for two great games.
But recently they decided to direct their efforts to the first person shooter genre with Red Faction, a game which has been receiving a lot of hype. Fortunately the hype is definitely worth it, as Red Faction is definitely the best single player FPS the PlayStation2 has in its library.
I was easily attracted to the main storyline, because I lived something similar to it (well, to an extent). I am pretty close to the lead character, Parker, who has the whole world handed to him on a single plate. However, he wants to find out who he is for himself, and decides a few years living on Mars would be the best solution.
He signs up with the Ultor Corporation, hoping to be able to return to an easier life on Earth. Turns out he is the one who is screwed (again, like me in my daily life). Ultor is a hellish company to work with, the living quarters are a rotting cesspool, where bunks are time-shared, and miners work forceful ten-hour shifts. The guards make sure the miners complete the shift, or face punishment by torture or death.
Mysterious reports by an individual named "Eos" start popping up all over the complex, encouraging all miners to revolt against their oppressors, and it takes one small spark to instigate a whole riot. A spark in the form of Parker.
Parker witnesses a guard abusing, and eventually murdering, a miner. Picking up the control baton that the guard drops, he strikes back at the guard and starts his journey into the Red Faction resistance movement. Along the way he will not only face the Ultor guards, but elite riot guards, indigenous Martian beasts, elite mercenaries, and even mutated replicas of his former teammates.
Parker might spend most of his time on foot, but he will also be able to commandeer various vehicles: a jeep (either as a driver or gunner), a driller, a fighter, or even a submarine. Surprisingly the game does not bog down at all when switching from vehicle to foot.
Why does the game not slow down? Maybe it could be because of a nice little invention called Geo-Mod. This new engine allows for the environment to be altered in any way possible. No longer do we have to search frantically for keys to open that specific door. Now doors can be opened the old fashion way, simply by launching a rocket or triggering a remote mine. Knock. Knock.
A convoy is coming across a bridge to get you? Don’t destroy the convoy, just nuke the bridge. It is about time that a developer add something new to the FPS genre.
The environment structure feels similar to that in Half-Life. There are no true missions, but the game environment seems continuous throughout. Only a momentary pause to load new terrain breaks up the frantic pace.
And what a pace it is. You can never tell what might be lying in wait on the other side of the door until you open it. But some of the weapons you pick up might be able to help out. My personal favorite is the Rail Driver gun. At its standard firing mode it shoots a simple rail projectile, capable of killing on contact, but as a secondary weapon, it is identical to the Farsight Rifle found in Perfect Dark. You can now scan a guard’s thermal readings and snipe them anywhere, even through a wall!
Unfortunately the enemy mercs can do the same to you, and with the tenacious AI this game has, they take a liking to it.
The single player game is definitely the heart of the game, but I beat it in only 10 hours. Maybe it’s because I went through it almost non-stop, but I was hoping it would last a bit longer. There is a multiplayer mode as well, but it’s only for up to two players with enough bots to make seven opponents. The small number of players and maps are nice, but there could have been more.
In the end, Red Faction turns out to be a very impressive (if at times excruciatingly difficult) single player experience. If only it would last longer, and there was more variety to the multiplayer game, we would be looking at a perfect rating. However, it still is enjoyable enough to warrant a 4 1/2 out of 5, and I can’t wait to see what Volition will come up with next.