Review by daredevil30

"Very good, not exceptional."

Gameplay - 8 - The core of the Red Faction is running around shooting people who are shooting at you and its very well done. Red Faction nails the important points: framerate, good weapons, nice environments, and the right amount of difficulty (adjustable).

On top they add two scoops of serious gravy: 1) GeoMod, which allows you to blow up walls, floors, rocks and 2) different vehicles and fixed guns to mix up the gameplay.

The GeoMod is nice but frankly it just doesn't really affect the gameplay, so much as it increases the realism and immersion factor of shooting off big explosives. After a big firefight its nice to see the big holes in the walls/floors you just created. Its just not as ground-shaking (pun intended) as it was touted to be. A large part of the problem is actually the underpowered explosive weapons. You can blow up a stone platform a guy is standing on without killing him. That's weird. Plus there's just not enough rocket ammo lying around to shoot it like crazy. If they wanted to showcase GeoMod, they would have altered the weapon balance by providing more rockets/grenades, increasing splash damage, put more enemies behind destructible obstacles, and added more rocket launching enemies. As it is, GeoMod is an occasional clever distraction from pretty standard (albeit well executed) run and gun action.

The assortment of vehicles and fixed guns helps Red Faction's gameplay more than anything else. There's 5 vehicles and a couple types of mounted guns that appear frequently, every 2 or 3 levels, keeping the gameplay quite varied. In fact, its the variety of gameplay modes, environments, and weapons, layered on top of the rock solid basic gameplay that makes Red Faction so much fun. Not all of it works equally well, but you always know there's something new right around the corner. Its that ''just one more level'' kind of game where you can't wait to find out what's coming up next. The game ''objectives'' themselves are useless but do not get in the way of the killing and blowing up of stuff.

My major gripes are the control and the enemies.

The control is handled pretty well but its still sorta sketchy. I like to play shooters with ''auto-aim'' turned off and use precise crosshair aiming when needed (a la Goldeneye/Perfect Dark or Medal of Honor), but in Red Faction, playing without auto-aim is guaranteed death and frustration. This isn't a problem with Red Faction per se, but with the PS2 controller. Is it just my rose colored glasses, or was the N64 analog stick a whole lot looser, smoother and more finely modulated than the PS2 sticks? Given the PS2's wooden, retardo sticks, Volition has done a good job with the auto-aim that makes the game not only playable but fun, but its still a kludgy shortcut and it still feels like cheating. I have 4 words for you: ''U,'' ''S,'' ''B,'' and ''mouse.''

Second major gripe is the enemies. First, their behavior is totally one-dimensional, well maybe three-dimensional if you count running, shooting, and running-and-shooting as three separate dimensions. No cover, no jumping or rolling, no flanking, no teamwork. I thought video game lifeforms had evolved a bit further. Lack of variety in behavior wouldn't be as so if there were a greater variety of enemies in the first place. 90% of the enemies are either guys with little guns who die from 1 bullet, guys with medium guns who die from 2 bullets, or guys with big guns who die from a bunch of bullets. You don't need different strategies or weapons to deal with them. And that is the point of varied enemies and enemy behavior - it forces you to vary what you do, which is challenging and fun. Its only against the final set of bad guys who are armed with a variety of kickass weapons that you need to prioritize targets, use range and cover, and mix up your weapon usage to be successful.

Another minor gripe I have is the interactivity of the indoor environments, or lack thereof which is a bit puzzling considering the GeoMod. Sure, I can blow Martian granite into dust, but tables and cabinets shrug off fusion explosions. Sure. Heck, even Goldeneye let gamers engage in gratutious furniture breakage. Not a gamebreaker, just inconsistent and annoying. Seems like the developers spent all their time playing with GeoMod and then slapped on some indoor levels.

The multiplayer is limited to 2 players and very few levels and options. It works more as a showcase for GeoMod than anything else. A nice bonus, but definitely not a reason to play this game.

Overall, the gameplay is very good, which is why I gave it an 8, but I have to be honest, this is not the FPS holy grail that many people think it is. Its a comment on the lack of good PS2 shooters that this game is being hailed so far and wide. If Red Faction had gone all ass on the GeoMod, provided USB mouse support, or had better enemies I would have given it a 9 or 10.

Story - 4 - I was more interested in progressing to get bigger weapons and reach the cool environments than anything to do with the story. I appreciate the lack of discrete levels and objectives from a flow perspective, but your individual actions become pretty disconnected from the story and there's remarkably little sense of accomplishment when you hit button A to open door B to get to button C to trigger cutscene D. Your only real motivation is to continually move forward and not die.

Graphics - 8 - The outdoor environments, cavernous interiors, and industrial mining areas are big and sweet. Fog is minimal and looks appropriate and great. Sniping in on a guy's head many hundreds of yards away across a giant canyon is pure gaming goodness. The graphics engine really delivers in this respect. The rock textures are not the most varied but adequate; its a Martian mining colony. On the other hand, the indoor environments are plain and cartoony looking and flatly lit. Nothing wrong with them, just not at all exciting, especially compared to the great rocky areas. Again, it feels like Volition spent all their time playing with GeoMod in the rocks and glossed over the indoor levels.

The weapon animations are quite nice. Best thing on a console since Turok.

Gripes? Well, the fire and explosion effects were unimpressive. The character models/animation are effective for the gameplay but aren't exceptional. That's okay, I'd rather have the huge open spaces and flying geo-mod rock shards than high polygon, motion captured enemies. They're just going to end up dead anyway :-) But the cut scenes are laughably bad, with blocky people, mutant lego faces, and goofy animation. But hey, that's not what the game is about is it? Seriously, I would have preferred in game sequences (like the first shuttle launch) instead of the lame cut scenes.

Audio - 7 - Audio is a mixed bag. Plenty of voice acting, but uneven quality. I wanted to slap Eos and Parker for their whiny overacting. Sound FX are great. All the weapon sounds are distinctive and impressive. Music is effective but unexceptional. MY BIG GRIPE: If there's supposed to be surround sound, its definitely lacking. The directional stereo is good, but I didn't hear much from the rear speakers except for bass from big explosions. Compare to Star Wars Starfighter and the difference is obvious. Even PS1 Medal of Honor had better surround sound.

Replayability - 6 - There isn't any replayability per se, i.e. no codes, upgrades, or multiple endings. However, there are different ways to get through many levels, e.g. stealth/sniping vs. run-and-gun, vehicle vs. on-foot, or using back entrances into bases (sometimes only accessible via geo-mod), but even without that, the game is fun enough to play through again.

The multiplayer is certainly a lot of fun but is severely limited. Its a nice bonus but it will not be replacing Timesplitters or Quake anytime soon.

Buy or rent? Good question. If you're a skip classes/work and stay-up-all-night killing machine, you can burn through this game in a couple of days. On the other hand, even a single playing is plenty long and the game is fun enough to bear a couple of play throughs, so I don't think you'll feel cheated from spending $50 on this game.

Overall - 7 - This is a very good FPS and a welcome addition to the PS2 lineup. The core gameplay is well done, varied, and fun. While there's no big negatives there's also no huge positives. Its like the development team made sure every aspect of the game was very good, but no one was said, ''We must have the very best story/control/enemies/graphics/whatever.'' I guess they succeeded - this game is very good but its not great, which is why I really enjoyed it but did not fall in love with it.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 06/21/01, Updated 06/21/01

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