Red Faction II

Quit Stalin and give us a better sequel already!

This continuation to Red Faction is entertaining enough to distract you on lazy afternoon, but the console port vibe is a bit too strong to not leave a bad taste afterwards. Furthermore, the developers at Volition have rejected any hint of plot development in favor of an action-movie mood where anything that doesn’t blow up or die ain’t worth a damn.

23As a result, Red Faction 2’s key selling point is that it scores huge in the Mayhem Department. You can indulge in destructive delights right off the bat armed with a grenade launcher, a machine gun, and a cannon called the WASP, which fires armor-piercing rockets. I was firing anti-personnel bombs and a railgun a couple of hours after starting play. Immediately ratcheting up the carnage makes the first level here seem like the fourth or fifth level in another shooter, in that you go in guns blazing like you’re Neo visiting an airport terminal.

The story of Red Faction briefly reappears, but the plot never gets more complex than chasing Chancellor Sopot and pretending to interact with a six-man squad of genetically enhanced super-soldiers. You play demolition man Alias for the entire game, and comrades like heavy gunner Repta and sniper Quill are mere window dressing for level objectives. This teamwork usually involves them laying down covering fire while you complete a goal, as in the third level when I had to plant bombs on a bridge while Quill watched my back.

Otherwise, level design is standard issue. Brown sewers, Half-Life 2-ish European cities, crate-strewn warehouses, and many sterile military bases. At least the soldiers, zombies, and robots that you fight are colorful, and even smart enough to take cover and use flanking maneuvers. Further breaking up the steady progress are sequences where you shoot up apartment buildings and planes from a helicopter gunship, and demolish city blocks with a tank. At one point you even get to wear a battlemech suit and shred foes with quad cannons and a rocket launcher. These sections generally run on rails, although the target practice was so fast-paced, and the mayhem of the destructible terrain so satisfying, that I didn’t care.

9But the main problem of the game is the same mentioned at the start of this review. Try as it may, the game looks ported straight off the PlayStation 2, with washed out textures and bite-sized levels. It was originally developed for the PS2 without multiplayer support, so the PC version has bot matches in place of online and LAN capabilities. The graphics and sound seem even more primitive than those from the first game. Even with more destructible terrain, the game simply isn’t as interesting as the slower-paced and more varied first Red Faction game.

But maybe that’s not such a terrible thing. Considering this is a budget release (originally going for a mere $30 in stores), one can’t help but keep their expectations low. Red Faction 2 is fun and is not without its fast-paced, wanton carnage, but somewhere along development it seemed to have lost its soul.

System Requirements: Pentium III 500 MHz, 128 MB RAM, Win95

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