Red Faction

Workers of Mars, Unite!

21It’s the future and Mars was a prime destination for would-be fortune seekers. Or at least that’s what the poor miners who ended up working for Ultor Corporation thought. It didn’t take very long for people to figure out they’d made a mistake. Working in the mines on Mars was pretty much hell, and the place was teaming with overzealous guards eager to make sure that you spent every minute of your shift blasting rock. To make things worse, miners were dying by the dozens from an unknown plague. Tensions were high, and revolution was in the air.

This is the epic dystopian future imagined in Red Faction, a novel first-person shooter that will take you through 20 levels around Mars as you fight for freedom. Every quality shooter needs a special sales pitch, and Red Faction has that in the form of its Gen-Mod technology. Thanks to Geo-Mod, you can dish out damage to the game world like a wrecking ball. Bridges collapse, holes get punched in walls, and glass shatters into a million tiny pieces. All this destruction is calculated on the fly, and it’s immensely satisfying.

Sadly, the developers don’t take full advantage of the ace in their hand. The Geo-Mod engine opens up endless new possibilities, but there are few times when you absolutely need to use the abilities of the engine: it’s often easier to shoot enemies directly rather than open holes beneath them. Where are the moments when opponents blast though the wall to get at me? Why can’t I bring down the roof on a group of bad guys and crush them? Missed opportunities. It seems like a lot of time was put into the engine, but there’s not enough level design that truly takes advantage of it.

On the positive note, Red Faction has a cool and very large armory comprised of 15 weapons. You’ll find a nice mix of futuristic and conventional weapons, including sniper rifles and flamethrowers. Every firearm has a very immediate and satisfying feel. The screen shakes with the rattle from the heavy machine gun, tracers arch out like angry hornets, and bullets bounce off steel around corners.

15But while Red Faction is indeed fun, it ends too soon, and the final boss isn’t satisfying enough. Also, a few bugs have managed to make it past the game testers. On more than a couple occasions, I missed key voice-over information because I walked into the next part of the level too soon and triggered a load screen. There were also a few times when I stepped out of a vehicle only to find myself trapped in rock, or even empty air. But the bugs don’t ruin the experience, nor appear often enough to be frustrating.

Multiplayer fans will find plenty to like in Red Faction. It seems the designers were hit with a moment of divine inspiration and created levels that do take advantage of the Geo-Mod engine. Many multiplayer maps have hidden areas to blast into and rooms that can be demolished. However, I must point out that the Geo-Mod engine does have its limits. You can only do so much damage to the environment before the engine stops rendering the destruction. But it takes a long time to hit this limit.

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Red Faction was never meant to be a revolutionary shooter, to be on par with giants like Half-Life or Quake. But it definitely does offer a great shooting experience that is only occasionally mired by frustration or tedium (there’s only so much variety you can have on Mars). The destructible terrain, while being a nice feature, is more of a ‘wow’ factor than any real game-changer. But in all, you do get enough action for your buck here.

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

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