Review by Gruel

"For the commonwealth, Dammit!"

When the first Red Faction landed on the PS2 a couple years back it introduced some new elements of gameplay into the FPS genre such as the well-received Geo-Mod technology. It allowed blowing up walls for shortcuts through levels, or access to many hidden rooms to find those important weapon and health pick-ups. Now Red Faction 2 (RF2) has arrived and made its way on the Xbox where it has to compete with the likes of best sellers such as Halo and Unreal Championship.

The story of RF2 revolves around Chancellor Sopot using nano-technology to turn ordinary humans into cyber enhanced soldiers that were far superior to any others out there. He then realized that they might form a coalition against him and declared them enemies of the state. You control Alias, and lead a squad of five other nano-enhanced soldiers that assist you throughout your journey to bring down Sopot. It’s actually a pretty decent and innovative storyline for FPS titles nowadays; however, there is this one annoying part during gameplay where the cast keeps on repeating “we must do this for the commonwealth.” By the sixth level I was on the verge of muting the sound due to that annoying phrase.

Thanks to the FPS-friendly S Controller, getting adapted to the controls in RF2 is a breeze. Use both thumb-sticks to move and strafe around like you would in Halo. The triggers allow for the primary and secondary fires of the weapons. The four main face buttons are used to select weapons, and for chucking grenades. This default setup is slightly different from most other FPS’s on the Xbox, but the controls are totally customizable so can get edit them to your liking. Speaking of weapons there is an abundance of them (17 in all) to come across with many variations of sniper rifles, pistols, machine guns, and grenade launchers to frag away with.

The main story mode is actually quite fun to play through. Each of your five squad members specializes in certain fields such as stealth, demolitions, and close combat. Usually one of them is tagging along with you throughout most of the levels. Besides doing the standard run-and-gun action that most FPS titles involve, there are some interesting vehicle parts of gameplay that are a blast to play such as manning the gunner position of a tank, and controlling a fully decked out battle armor (the equivalent of a mech). Probably the best part of gameplay is making use of that geo-mod technology to find hidden rooms for all the weapon pick-ups.

For good measure, the developers at Volition threw in some multiplayer options to keep us hooked. It’s almost up to quality with the extensive multiplayer found in Timesplitters 2. There are several ways of playing competitively aside from your standard deathmatch and capture the flag modes. There’s an interesting “Bagman” option where the player has to find a bag and gets points for each second they hold it without getting killed. Then there is an arena mode, which can either be a free for all or team based. The team based option is best described as an FPS version of SOCOM where each player only has one life and the first team to win a selectable amount of rounds first is the victor. The weapon sets are totally customizable down to which one you want to start out with, and best of all there is support for up to four computer controlled bots to go up against. Additionally, profiles can be saved so tallies can be kept on all the head shots and kills you garnered up.

RF2 disappointingly looks just a hair above average when stacked up against the competition. The explosions are the main highlight of the graphics that look like they came right out of a movie, this goes especially for the spiffy cut scenes in between stages. The character models for your squad teammates are fairly good as they consist of most of the detail among the other character models. The lip synching for the characters whenever voice acting occurs is so horrible it’s funny. It’s obvious that very little effort was involved in that aspect.

The designs for the enemy soldiers look like they belong in a game a few generations behind like Half-Life. The same can be said about the level design. All the sewers, subways, and bases I waged war in look decent, but nothing really stood out about them that made me say ‘wow’ like the luscious environments in Halo and Serious Sam did. This is all probably due to RF2 being ported over from the PS2, and suffering from the developers not taking any time to capitalize on the hardware power of the Xbox. The only good thing about the lack of eye candy in RF2 is that it keeps the game running at a consistent frame rate with no drops of frame-rate being apparent.

During gameplay in the story mode you will notice there isn’t any background music going on for the most part, but when the action is about to heat up a thunderous tune starts up much like the same way in Halo. The background tunes themselves are fairly decent tunes for the most part, and while they may not be earth shattering good like the ones in Halo they get the job done and set the tone for gameplay. All the audio effects for gunfire, the many explosions, and everything else sounds like you expect it to, and if you played any other FPS on the Xbox, then you’re not missing out on anything here. The quality of the voice acting is surprisingly good for video game standards, as the dialogue has a convincing tone to it. It also has a little charm to it as I got a chuckle whenever I felled off a ledge into oblivion as my character screamed the “S” explicit as he plummeted to his death.

There is actually a quite a bit of stuff to unlock in RF2. The bulk of it is 462 pieces of concept art that are all right to take a look at for a quick second, but that’s about it. Also whenever you run across a cut-scene the game saves it so you can look back at it anytime. There are also descriptions of all the weapons and enemies you run across to unlock, and a new multiplayer mode too. The split screen multiplayer can be played with up to four players, an improvement of just the original two that was supported from the original. However, I’m disappointed that RF2 has no system link or Xbox Live online play support. Seeing how a majority of recent shooters like Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Soldier of Fortune 2 have online support on Xbox it is a shame to see RF2 not include it.

RATINGS

Graphics: 7.0
Sound: 8.4
Gameplay: 8.8
Replay Value: 7.7

Overall: 7.9

There have been a lot of FPS’s to land on the Xbox as of late, and RF2 is another welcomed addition to the genre. RF2 has a fantastic single player game with an epic storyline, and some solid multi player modes but it lacks the online play that is a big factor in many FPS’s today. If online play is what you dig the most, then you might want to hunt down a copy of Return to Castle Wolfenstein or Soldier of Fortune 2 on the Xbox instead. But if you happen to not have Xbox Live just yet, and are just in it for the game itself, than Red Faction 2 should suit you just fine.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/23/03, Updated 06/23/03


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