"Multiplayer deathfest, singleplayer boretrauma"

Geo-mod? Just in case anybody still wonders what this is: this is the thing that was supposed to sell Red Faction 1 a few years ago. Geo-mod was non other then the newest ground shaking achievement in programming history that made players able to truly rip the environment apart piece by piece and with that, create traps and doorways of their own.

However, when Red Faction finally hit the shelves, many people were disappointed. It turned out the Geo-mod engine was only used in a small section of the game and after the first few hours of play, gamers once again found themselves surrounded buy the magic indestructible granite walls like so many other games are cursed with.

Now, Red Faction returns. Is it once again buried under it's own false promises, or does it kick back, and take revenge on people thinking this is just a boring predecessor?

Gameplay

As soon as you start up the singleplayer, you're thirst thought will probably be: "O my god, what kind of crap have I come home with?" Perfectly understandable seeing as the first singleplayer level you are faced with let's itself be summed up in one word: trash! It looks horrid and for a moment you might think about returning this game. Don't! cause the leveldesign soon get's better, and although the leveldesign still has it's ups and downs every now and then, most levels look fairly decent. It's just to bad the quality between levels differs so much. It feels as if every level was made by another member of the development team and then some were made by people they found lying on the street, giving the campaign a strange incoherent feel to it.

The campaign also isn't very long and will take you one short afternoon to beat. However, each level has objectives. (sort of Goldeneye-ish) and each of the three selectable difficulties throws more or less objectives at you to complete. The harder the difficulty, the more objectives you get. On top of that, there are bonus objectives, which are not in your objectives list and you'll just have to stumble upon yourself. This ads some replay value to the somewhat shallow singleplayer experience. Another thing adding to this, is that you can replay levels in any order you want, in contrast with Red Faction's singleplayer, which was one long level, Red Faction 2 is split up in multiple levels, each containing sub-levels.

The AI of your enemies is fairly decent. Although nothing special, your foes will dodge, strafe and retreat if wounded. Sadly most of them, except for the few end of level bosses, don't pose a serious threat and can be dealt with with just a few bullets. Also, the hit detection is absolutely horrid in this game. A bullet to the foot sometimes kills an enemy faster then a bullet to his head? Oh my!

Fortunately the controls are perfect. Sure it starts becoming a cliche: Halo's controls having been copied once again, but who cares? Better to copy a perfect setup then creating a horrible one yourself right? The controls respond nicely, the autoaim is perfect, not making the game to easy, and the aiming itself feels smooth.

Also the 14 weapons this game features are great. It's all more or less shooter standard stuff including pistols, different kinds of machineguns, rocket launchers and sniper rifles, but most guns feel like they really do a lot of damage, which is a good feeling. On top of that most guns have an alt firemode.
A nice feature is that you can carry dual pistols or machineguns and fire them independently. Sadly though, you'll soon find this to be a slightly pointless feature altogether.

So the singleplayer is shallow, how's the multiplayer? Can we really throw some interesting fragfests here? Short answer: Yes, hell yes! Featuring 8 gamemodes, many different customisable options and a completely dazzling amount of maps, this is one genuine little charmer. The modes range from deathmatch, to capture the flag, to arena in which each player only has one life and the game is split up into rounds a la Counterstrike. Also, the game features a 5 bots maximum botsupport, so even the lonesome player can join in on the multiplayer funfare. The game doesn't support system link, nor Xbox Live, and the max for splitscreen is a mere 4-people, but it's still a lot of fun.

Although the somewhat meager occupation of 6 fraggers (from one player and five bots all the way up to four people and two bots), the arena's rarely feel empty. This is largely thanks to the fact that most of the arena's are relatively small, but even on the larger maps the bots know to find you perfectly. However, despite the insane number of maps forehand, a lot of maps fall in the category 'in how many ways can we puzzle four pieces together?" Don't get me wrong: there are some real intuitive maps here, but lots of them feel like they were quickly bodged together. It's also to bad the bots only have 3 standard difficulties, but the game comes with a very smart little extra feature.

You see, you can create and fully customise your own bots! However, this is not just a matter of sliding some things around and flipping some switches. The only way to increase a bot's strength is by using it in battle. You start by creating a bot, selecting a default skin, creating a name, cunstomising his weapons preferences and designating a number of 'points' to specific qualities, like speed, damage and accuracy. However, the only way to gain more points, thus being able to make the bot better, is by using him as ally/ enemy in battle. After every battle, he get's more points which you can then designate to the already named area's, and the further you get, the more points each area starts to cost, thus dramatically increasing the replay value. It's just so cool creating your own team of bots with which to trash the other team in teamgames. Besides this, you can also use this method to fully fine tune bots to your personal liking. Want a real challenge? Why not train the bot until all his qualities are maxed out? (warning: this is absolute suicide, but if that's your thing...)

In other words: the singleplayer is hardly worthwhile, but the immense number of maps, options and 'create a bot' make the multiplayer a very complete, challenging and fun experience.

Gameplay: 8/10

Graphics

Well, the visual quality, as already stated before, differs depending on the level you're playing. Some look decent, others look horrid. However, the overall quality is not all to good. This really feels like a direct port of a PS2 game, which is disappointing. In no way does this game use the Xbox full potential. All levels are relatively small, the environments look somewhat stale and you see a lot of textures re-used time and time again to a point close to the endless depth of irritation. No impressive lighting effets, realistic shadows, or any other fancy crap developers seem to throw at us these days, just somewhat simple, yet effective graphics. On top of that the lip-sinck in most cutscenes is so bad it's hilarious. The characters, when they talk, look like a bunch of baboons bobbing for air like fishes for christ sake!

Graphics: 6/10

Sound

The guards in the original Red Faction had me grind my teeth every now and then thanks to their incredibly small vocabulary. Hearing guards shout "Hey you, stop!" 200 times a minute isn't exactly my idea of a swell time.

Luckily, Red Faction 2 does a much better job. The sound is alright and thank god your enemies have expanded on their vocabulary in the past few years. The weapon effects contribute to the feel that they do a lot of damage I described earlier and the music playing in the background never grows to the point of irritation either.

Sound: 8/10

Overall, this is a decent game, flawed by it's shallow singleplayer and unpolished graphics. However, the frantic multiplayer blast-a-thon ads great replay value, even if you have no victims around to play against.

Buy/ rent?

If you're done with Halo and looking for another great campaign to try, look further. If you're fed up with Timesplitters 2 and are looking for a great multiplayer experience, this might be for you. Especially for a budget price, this is quite the little charmer!

Overall: 7/10


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 07/25/04


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