Review by BloodGod65

"This once-great game doesn't stand up to modern scrutiny"

After an extended hiatus, Red Faction made an impressive comeback on the PS3 and Xbox 360 with Red Faction: Guerilla, an open-world game that carried on the tradition of wholesale environmental destruction. That game brought back many fond memories I had of the first title, and so I decided to revisit it. Unfortunately, Red Faction has not aged well.

The game revolves around a miner named Parker and his struggles alongside the rebel group, Red Faction, as they fight to overthrow the oppressive Ultor corporation. Parker comes to Mars in an attempt to get away from life on Earth, but instead finds that the life of a Martian miner is a harsh one. Ultor runs the planet with an iron fist, subjecting its employees to horrid conditions. Even worse, a mysterious plague is wreaking havoc on the miners and Ultor isn't doing anything to stop it. A group of rebels, known as Red Faction, is working behind the scenes to destabilize Ultor, but are having a hard time in jumpstarting the revolution. It isn't until the tension boils over in the mines that the workers revolt and Parker gets caught up in the struggle.

Red Faction plays out like your typical post-Half Life first person shooter. You go through levels (which tend to blend into each other, with only load times to break them up), witness a variety of scripted events, find wild weapons and gun down anyone who gets in the way. Unfortunately, some of the most crucial aspects of the game have not aged gracefully, making the game feel quite outdated.

For instance, the biggest problem is the controls. First person shooters of the last generation – at least those prior to Halo – were widely considered to be inferior to their PC brethren. And rightly so, given their inability to provide the same fluid action of a mouse and keyboard. Part of this is can be attributed to the PS2 controller itself, as the analog sticks just can't provide the necessary fluidity to make shooting intuitive. Trying to get a bead on targets is a hassle because the analog sticks aren't capable of fine movement. However, it's not solely a problem of hardware because no matter how much I fiddled with the sensitivity controls I was never able to make the shooting any easier.

Thankfully, the game does have an auto-aim function which helps keep the targeting reticule locked on to an enemy. While this isn't the ideal solution – auto-aim is anathema to any self-respecting gamer – it works well enough most of the time. However there are a few instances, which I'll discuss momentarily, where it doesn't help in the least.

Another issue is the enemy AI. While it is impressive in some instances – enemies take cover, retreat and perform minor flanking maneuvers – it is generally bothersome. Enemies are constantly moving, and not always for a reason. Often they'll just run in circles out in the open, and they seem to have a sixth sense that tells them when a gun is aimed their way, even if they have their back turned, in which case they'll dart out of the way as soon as the targeting reticule gets near them. It's as blatant a case of a cheating computer as I've ever seen.

Stealth sequences also create a stumbling block for Red Faction. These sections take away Parker's weapons and enviro-suit (basically his armor), leaving him with only half his health. All he is left with is a measly silenced pistol. Then you're forced to trek through a level while avoiding security patrols and cameras. Alert someone to your presence and the guards will swarm. Needless to say, the least of the game's weapons just isn't up to the challenge. It's also where the auto-aim problem comes in – if you can't get a headshot, it takes about twenty rounds to kill an enemy. Considering that auto-aim always locks onto the torso, this is a real issue. Doubly so, since there are a few areas that pit Parker against several well armed enemies with no way to sneak around them. These sections are so infuriating that after dying some twenty-five times during the second stealth mission I quit playing and never came back.

Stealth is also a problem because of inconsistent damage application. On the off chance that you can tame the sloppy controls and land a headshot, it still isn't a guaranteed kill. I once shot an enemy in the face four times, at point-blank range, and he didn't die.

The one interesting thing Red Faction has going for it is the Geomod engine, which allows the player to destroy the environment. Naturally it pales in comparison to what was recently seen in Guerilla, but it is still unique given that few modern shooters allow you to tear up the very environment. Still, it is a bit limited. You can't do anything major aside from blowing holes in walls and floors. This allows for some unique paths through environments and creative solutions – instead of walking into a heavily fortified room, I blasted out the floor to a maintenance tunnel, and then blew out the back of a bunker. But, Geomod isn't applied to everything. There are areas where you try to blow up the ground or a wall and nothing happens. It's very clear that Volition only allowed damage in certain areas, so as to funnel the player down a set path.

Both the graphics and audio are lackluster, even for an older game. Given that much of the game takes place in Martian mines, expect to see lots of bland, rocky environments. When you aren't in the mines, you'll be trekking through lifeless, sterile lab areas. The character models are also bland, poorly animated and crude overall.

The game's voice acting is pretty monotonous, but I do like the soundtrack. The songs, highly reminiscent of those in classic sci-fi movies such as Total Recall, set the tone of the game perfectly.

Prior to playing Red Faction again, I had fond memories of it. But it's true that the first person shooter genre ages worse than others, and time hasn't been kind to this once amazing game. If you have fond memories of Red Faction, as I did, it's best not to despoil them by revisiting it. I know it sounds sappy, but remember it as it was – not as it is. If you have never played Red Faction, it's best not to go back.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.0 - Poor

Originally Posted: 08/19/10

Game Release: Red Faction (US, 05/22/01)

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