Review: Red Faction II (Playstation 2)

In this review, we take on Sopot in the Playstation 2 game Red Faction II. We find out if this FPS game is worth playing.

This game was released in 2002. It is the sequel to Red Faction which we also reviewed. That game got an OK score, so we thought we’d try the sequel to see if this game improves on things.

In this game, you play the character Alias. You are one of six soldiers infused with nanotechnology. As such, you are ultimately a super-soldier. You have joined forces with military leader Molov in an effort to lead an attack with the Red Faction to defeat dictator Sopot for free and fair elections on Earth.

You start the game off with some basic weaponry as well as full health. The health system is a bit of a hybrid between that classic item pickup system found in older FPS games such as Duke Nukem 3D and more modern games like Call of Duty. You have a general health bar. As you take damage, that health bar shrinks. However, if you wait around in a quiet area, eventually, your health will fill back up.

If, however, you run out of health, you’ll use one of up to three health packs you can carry around. A health pack will automatically trigger once you run out of health. While this does replenish your health bar completely, you’ll lose the health pack. You can simply hope that you find another health pack to replenish the supply. If you run out of health packs and you lose all of your health, you’ll die and respawn at the last save point.

One final note about the health packs. If you have all three slots filled, you can fully replenish your health bar by collecting a fourth. Full health means you don’t collect any more.

As with a number of other FPS games out there, you get a large arsenal of weapons. The game will select the most powerful weapon in your inventory by default, however, you can cycle through all of them to find a weapon you want to use in a given area. The priority of your weapons can be customized, though, so you can select the order in which you want the game to prioritize your weapons.

This game also follows along a number of other older games and contains random item drops from enemies. Sometimes it is ammo, other times it is health packs. There’s also a very good chance you won’t get anything at all from an enemy, so there is random help available in this game.

The weapons you get are actually fairly expansive. Sometimes, you get machine guns. Sometimes, you get a grenade launcher. floating around in the game is a futuristic shotgun. There are also sub machine guns and pistols as well. Of course, there is also some special weapons available after defeating various bosses. Each weapon has a secondary firing system for you to use.

In addition to this, there are grenades you can throw. There’s a fairly expansive list of grenades available to you. There are grenade satchels that you can either toss onto the ground just ahead of your or attach to a wall. This is great if you intend on taking down various kinds of infrastructure. There’s the classic grenade that you throw and wait for it to blow up. A grenade is available that allows you to set enemies on fire. Another grenade allows you to confuse enemies. So, quite the assortment of explosives are available.

One thing that is a big selling feature of this game is the geo mod. When the first Red Faction came around, the game boasted a feature called geo mod. This feature was labelled as innovative because in most games previous, if ground is getting modified due to explosions, it usually follows along a certain amount of scripting. There is a before state, a trigger, then an after state in a certain location. Those states are more or less fixed.

With the geo mod, however, the ground or walls can be modified more like what you would see in Worms Armageddon. A blast has a certain radius of destruction and it leaves a permanent hole. Only, of course, in this case, it is done in a 3D environment. So the concept is fairly novel with only a very small handful of other games having this feature. The only other game series that comes to mind for me that did anything close to this is Vigilante 8 with a special move. Even then, the holes gradually filled back in anyway. Here, the changes are permanent.

This sequel does bring this back, though a vast majority of the excavation that you do involve blasting the odd wall or grate here and there. There’s not a lot done with this feature and a lot of the walls in this game are fixed anyway.

Along the way, you’ll face off with an assortment of enemies. There are traditional foot soldiers and security guards armed with a small assortment of weapons ready to take you on. There are also special forces that carry more advanced weapon like sniper rifles and automatic weapons. As you get deeper in the game, you’ll also face off with tougher opponents where even a simple head shot isn’t enough to kill them. Sometimes, multiple blows to the head are required for the fastest kill.

Like a number of other games out there by this point in time, players can jump into a limited number of vehicles. A large majority of these vehicles are little more than rail gunner sequences, but there are a few that you control yourself. This includes a submarine the battle armour. The controls are somewhat modified from the standard controls. An example is that the jump button becomes a third weapon (rocket launcher).

As is the case with a lot of other games of this genre, you’ll also face off against various bosses as well. Bosses generally have a cut scene to go along with them. They all, however, have a health bar that floats above them. The bar itself appears depending on your proximity to him or her. Be aware that some boss fights also have an unlimited number of regular enemies fighting you at the same time, so the challenge is much greater.

Players also get access to night vision goggles. These goggles are largely only useful in darkened areas. Note that they cannot be used under water. If you have your goggles activated and you fall into a pool of water, they will automatically switch off.

A final feature in this game is the objectives you get to complete on each mission. These objectives need to be completed to move on. These objectives are pretty simplistic. The most complicate ones generally involve players planting explosives on devices.

At the end of the game, you’ll get to experience one of a small assortment of endings. The ending you get depends on your “heroics” meter. This meter fills up as you complete various bonus objectives. Also, you can lose a bit by killing civilians.

When going into this game, I actually wasn’t expecting a whole lot. I never heard a whole lot about the series to begin with. As such, I never heard much about this sequel. As such, this game wound up meeting those expectations.

The level design is definitely a sore spot. You wouldn’t expect level design to be a weakness in a game with a relatively innovative feature, but this game simply didn’t boast the worlds greatest levels. I constantly found myself stuck in areas trying to figure out how to advance to another location. The solutions wound up being things like activating a wheel switch, blasting a specific wall, or finding a well hidden tunnel. Some of the exits are so well hidden, they would qualify as being hidden enough to be secret bonus areas in other games.

On a related weakness, the games length does leave a fair bit to be desired. I really didn’t put in that many hours into this game and, even then, was able to get through a vast majority of the content. You could spend three or four evenings just casually spending an hour or two each evening and you’ll beat the game without a problem. So, I’ll agree with some of the other criticisms out there that the games length leaves a fair bit to be desired.

Additionally, the games difficulty is certainly all over the map. I played this game on the medium difficulty. Sometimes, blasting a few enemies, then racing to the end wound up being the only strategy I could employ to get to the next area. In other areas, I had no problem completing the objectives and breezed through the area with little resistance.

An example of sporadic difficulty is the first two levels. In the opening area, you face off against four gun towers and an automatic rocket launcher in a somewhat confined area. While doable, this took me a couple tries to get through. The next area with the hallways features seemingly unlimited enemies flooding in. Even with use of grenades, this area was very challenging. Yet, when I got to the bridge level, I found the task of beating the level trivial and a good primer to some of the features.

Another example is the Quill boss was frustratingly difficult. It turns out, the battle is all about positioning. Still, even with an ideal position located, it is very difficult for me. It took me so many attempts, I nearly quit the game on that boss fight. However, taking on another boss fight later on in the underwater base with the glowing white aura was extremely easy. It was so easy, I nearly just stood still and held down the trigger button to defeat him. I don’t know if the boss AI glitched, but he stood behind some console and I drained a chunk of his health with the rail gun and grenades.

That’s not to say there aren’t positives to this game. For one, the duel use of each weapon is a nice feature to see. The duel wielding is also a nice classic feature that makes a comeback here.

While the arsenal itself isn’t exactly innovative (A lot of the weapons I found here could be found in Perfect Dark such as the Farsight vs Rail Gun), but the variety is actually quite nice to see. This made it possible to explore a wide variety of fighting styles and see quite a bit of depth.

The grenades certainly had some nice things going for them. The wide variety of them and the different features for each works quite well.

Still, the writing is seemingly only loosely related to the first game. It even takes a few levels to figure out what is even going on in the first place. While a reasonable picture does eventually unfold, it takes a lot of time for the basic premise to become comprehendible. As such, the writing is a bit on the weak side.

The vagueness of the game also loops back to the level design. The game sometimes half assumes you know exactly what you are doing even though you really don’t. In one level, I found myself in an “L” with no doors. With your partner badgering you to do something, I already felt like an idiot playing the game simply because I couldn’t figure out how to escape this small area. It took several blasts of the walls before I finally found the weak one to continue. The occasional hint here and there would’ve been nice, but the game only gives those up sparingly – and when you don’t need them half the time.

Generally speaking, this game does little to build on the previous game. While the geomod is a nice feature to see, the use in this game winds up being largely limited to blowing up a few weak walls – something pre-programmed scripting could’ve easily handled. The levels are, at times, confusing, frustrating, and somehow manages to be short all at the same time. The wide arsenal of weapons as well as duel wielding and secondary use were nice things to see. Even the grenades have some variety going for it. Still, that only winds up making the game tolerable more than anything else. The weak writing and vague objectives only serve to frustrate the experience. As such, this game winds up being a pretty big missed opportunity.

Graphically, this game features limited rigging for the models to at least give them a small amount of life. The textures and lighting are a bit hit and miss. The effects of the night vision is pretty interesting. The effects are OK, but a lot of them could have easily been executed on previous generation console games. While they do an OK job, there is not a lot to get excited over.

As far as audio is concerned, it’s nothing amazing. The voice acting is decent enough. The sound effects are alright. While the music does provide some half decent atmosphere, it isn’t all that memorable to me. It can be enjoyable to hear from time to time throughout the game, it isn’t anything to get excited over.

Overall, this sequel represents quite a missed opportunity to help get this series off the ground. While the geomod is a great concept, it isn’t really well represented because all you end up doing is taking out a few walls as you race through the game. The difficulty is sporadic and unpredictable. Meanwhile, the story is a bit vague as is how to progress through certain areas. The level designs are pretty hit and miss and the game itself is a bit on the short side for me. The graphics are OK and the audio is pretty hit and miss. So, a pretty mediocre game. If you didn’t play this game, you really didn’t miss much.

Furthest point in game: Died on the second phase of the final boss fight.

General gameplay: 17/25
Replay value: 6/10
Graphics: 6/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 64%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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