Review by SRusher

"An endless list of shortfalls add up to ruin this high-potential game"

At first glance, Red Faction appears to be a decent first person shooter in the vein of Half-Life, only set on Mars, employing several revolutionary new pieces of technology to enhance its gameplay experience. After playing for a while, I ended up feeling that those most of these ''revolutionary'' new toys were underused to the point where they were just plain gimicky.

Almost anyone who talks about this game will immediately delve into the world of ''Geo-Mod'', Volition's fancy term for terrain you can destroy and alter in real time. They're favorite catch-phrase for it is ''can't find the key? make your own door.'' Also, there's ''don't stop the convoy, blow up the bridge!'' It's a shame, really, because those rules only seem to apply to the first level, where you can blow holes in the walls with remote charges and you can knock a bunch of re-inforcements out by blowing up the bridge they're on. Blowing up the bridge also results in you getting shot more and wasting more ammo. In fact, the number of times Geo-Mod is actually needed to progress through a level, or even makes the level easier for that matter, hovers around 3. The truth is that Geo-Mod is simply a gimmick that has very little actual relevance to the gameplay, except for select scenarios where the makers quite obviously want you to use it.

Then there's the AI. The AI gets startled when it sees a dead body lying in a hallway, a much-promoted fact in the Red Faction marketting campaign. First off, I only remember two scenarios where that even mattered, and second, the AI aside from that is quite dumb. It runs at you and attacks, when you shoot it, it runs away for a while then turns around and shoots you again. The only good thing about the AI is that it's rather perceptive about you aiming at it with a turret or scoped weapon.

Red Faction also has quite a few vehicles, which for the most part just move. In the case of two particular vehicles, you can also fire missiles and bullets. Vehicle sequences not nearly frequent enough for me to even consider a ''gameplay feature.''

The final piece of technology plugged so heavily by Volition is the Rail Driver, a weapon which fires a metal spike at supersonic speeds through walls, kills whatever it hits, and even has an infared scope. The catch is that it takes 2 seconds to reload and only holds 11 rounds. By the time you get that gun, you can be assured that you will not face a single challenging moment from that point on. Almost every situation from that point on can be resolved by just shooting EVERYONE through the walls. Ammo crisis? No, because guys will be dropping ammo for it left and right. Suspicious AI? Not a chance. The AI does not seem very perceptive to the fact that the person right next to them just dropped dead after being impaled by a bright blue beam that came out of the wall.

The final insult comes from the lack of variety of enemies in Red Faction. 95% of the game is be spent fighting no more than three varieties of enemies, which vary only in health, weaponry, and maneuvering.

The story of Red Faction takes place on Mars, where the evil Ultor mining corporation is treating its employees like absolute scum. There's also a plague floating around killing miners left and right. A group called the Red Faction wants to strike back at Ultor and hopefully escape back to Earth. The story is quite good, a refreshing change from the ordinary. The dialog, on the other hand, seems quite cheesy. Red Faction is rated M, and given the circumstances, I would have expected the dialog to be a bit more rough. I don't mean rough to the extent of the gratuitous cuss-fest of Kingpin, but at least enough so that I wouldn't have to snicker to dumb lines spoken via Parker's nerdy accent like ''I'm not carrying your sorry butt any more!''

Red Faction's graphics are a strange blend of cutting-edge and total crap. On one hand, there's a good amount of ''modern technology'' in use to create things like particle systems, flares, procedural textures, real-time shading, an excellent ''breaking glass'' effect, and skeletal animation, but on the other there are a lot of things that seem like they were left unfinished for no reason. My favorite example are the mirrors, which you can see in any bathroom in the game. Mirrors are old technology in the 3D gaming realm and have been employed at least as long as Unreal has existed, and Unreal handled them quite well. Why then do Red Faction's mirrors consist of a fixed image of whatever's behind it, along with an extremely low-resolution (blocky) image of you? It does not look like a mirror, but more like a painting of a bathroom with you standing in front of it.

Characters' teeth and eyes are also lit at full brightness almost all of the time, which makes them look like they're glowing on the faces of whoever's talking. The character faces are also poorly-done, generally being pale and ugly.

To contrast this, the character bodies, vehicles, weaponry, and decals look excellent. The particle system was done quite well, especially the fire. Just ignite one of the enemies to see what I mean.

I can't say the music for this game was particularly memorable, but I can say that the rest of the sound effects (excluding the voice acting) were done quite well. The assault rifle, rocket launcher, auto-shotgun, and sub-machinegun in particular have rather impressive sound effects to go with them.

Do not even bother. The weapon balance is absolutely awful, especially in Capture the Flag. I can summarize how to win in Red Faction multiplayer as follows: Pick up a heavy machine gun, aim in the general direction of your target, and pull the trigger. If you die, find the HMG again, and repeat the cycle until the game ends. Multiplayer levels are either gigantic or tiny, meaning your life expectency should hover around 5 seconds or 5 minutes, depending on the level.

The final 45 seconds of this game were about as anti-climactic and unneeded as it gets, leaving me with a rather negative impression of this game. It was fun enough the first time through to earn a 6/10 overall score, but I am probably never going to play all the way through it again. The lack of variety in enemies and challenge in single player, along with the major problems of balance and map size in multiplayer, combine to make Red Faction's replay value a little above zero.

It only took me one day to beat this game. Really. Since it's good for about one run through, I'd recommend buying this game used, which shouldn't be too hard as I'm sure there are other people as disappointed as I was. My copy is already on eBay accumulating bids.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 10/28/01, Updated 10/28/01

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