Review by asherdeus
"A great gimmick used only once or twice is a wasted gimmick."
Sometimes I start playing a game and it isn't until I'm half-done with it that I realize I just don't like it. At that point, I have to beat the game because I've gotten so far in it. I would feel like I wasted my time if I didn't and that was pretty much my entire reason for playing through Red Faction. I picked up the game used recently because I loved playing through its sequel and I was left wanting more. As you can probably guess, the experience wasn't nearly the same.
Red Faction opens up with an introduction to our hero, Parker, a miner on Mars who's arrived at the red planet to seek fame and fortune. Of course, when he got there he quickly discovered that the mine operators are a ruthless corporation that control every aspect of the miner's lives and require them to live on rigid schedules. Soon an explosion kicks off a rebellion, and Parker's humdrum mining life is instantly transformed: in a matter of minutes he goes from Parker the miner to Parker the revolutionary who can out-shoot anyone.
Of course, that's not why most people bought this game. The storyline, which is just more of your typical FPS fare, is pretty inconsequential. Most of the time you aren't even really sure of what you're supposed to be doing or where you're supposed to be going; you just happen to get to your destinations because the game is so linear. No, most people bought this game because it features complete environmental destruction. For the first time in an FPS, when you shoot a rocket or toss a grenade at a wall, the wall will blow up. A tech-demo included with the game actually challenges you just to blow the biggest hole you can in a wall. In the actual game, this sometimes reveals a shortcut that allows you to bypass a locked door.
Most of the time, it does nothing and is useless.
When the main selling point of a game is that you can blow gigantic holes into walls, there should be some actual use for it. On a few rare occasions you do need to utilize the feature, but they're so obvious (including an early one that actually has the spots you need to blow up highlighted) that they're not even that entertaining. I expected this mode to reveal a lot more hidden areas with extra items or opportunities for surprise attacks but that only happened once or twice and ultimately wasn't worth the effort.
Since this mode is lacking, the weight of the game falls on the actual gameplay which is sadly just standard FPS stuff that we've seen everywhere. Each room that you go into is nearly the same, with only a few differently placed objects and a few varying guards. The areas in the game are massive but their nearly empty except for a few pointless objects and maybe some braindead guards. The game takes place in the future colony of Mars, but all the weaponry save a railgun and a fusion rocket launcher is standard stuff. Even worse, I beat the game in less than four hours and I somehow managed to be bored by it.
But it's not all bad. There are some really cool vehicle portions in the game, including one where you drive a nearly invincible tank through a canyon, blasting away at enemy forces that crumple under treads of the tank. Another segment sees you piloting a futuristic hovercraft through a tight corridor. The final part of the game, the diffusion of a giant bomb, requires you to enter a segment through the arrow keys as it counts down. Finishing it four seconds before the bomb was going to blow up was actually, dare I say, thrilling. These parts really spiced up the gameplay.
Somehow the game's graphics engine has managed to hold up over all this time. A lot of the explosions look really good and the smoke effects rival those of some current games. The character models haven't held up very well and their lip-syncing isn't quiet right but they do a good enough job. It's just unfortunate that the game attached to this engine is Red Faction. The voice-overs are nothing really special; most of the characters including Parker seem less than thrilled and are certainly lacking even compared to the limited voice work found in titles released around the same time.
Red Faction is dirt-cheap now, which might serve as justification for picking it up. If you see it for sale, keep in mind that the gameplay is a far cry from greatness. If you can, I recommend actually skipping past this game and trying instead to find a copy of Red Faction 2. It's really a much more refined game and there's really no connection between the two games at all so you won't miss a thing. If you're looking for a great Mars experience, I suggest picking up Total Recall starring Arnie instead of bothering with this failed FPS.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 09/06/05, Updated 09/12/05
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