Review: Red Faction (Playstation 2)

In this review, we dig through the FPS game Red Faction to find out how good it was.

This game was released in 2001 and would kick off a small series.

The plot follows Parker, a person who has decided to work for Ultor Corporation as a miner on Mars. After he begins work, he finds that working conditions are terrible. To make matters worse, a mysterious plague is spreading throughout the camps, killing numerous miners. Someone by the name of Eos is starting a group amongst the miners called the Red Faction. One day, the miners who are a part of the Red Faction rose up and rebelled against the armed guards. Rumor has it that the Ultor Corporation manufactured the plague and they also have the cure. Even though Parker wears a red outfit, this game has nothing to do with Spiderman.

You start off in the mines armed with nothing. The first weapon you get access to is a taser-like baton. This is obtained after another miner attacks a guard. From there, you are able to defend yourself and gradually obtain bigger and better weapons.

The weapons you can obtain varies greatly from the pistol to the assault shotgun to a semi-automatic rifle. As you progress, you’ll obtain more powerful weapons like a grenade launcher, heavy machine gun, sniper rifle, precision sniper rifle, and even a rail gun. Suffice to say, there’s certainly an arsenal of weapons you can get throughout the game.

Also aiding you are two kinds of item pickups. There are envirosuit pickups which increases your armor. Sometimes they replenish your armor completely while other times, they give you 50 additional armor points for a maximum of 100. The same goes for health items where some are 50 while others completely replenish your health.

At two points in the game, you can get a disguise so it’s possible to go through the stealth areas of the game without getting fired on. I personally found that the disguise is never that good because sometimes, if you catch so much as a glimpse of a guard, everyone will recognize you and start fighting you. At one point, I saw the corner of a guards foot while trying to navigate around a corner and it was game over for the cover. So, for me, these items only serve to remove all of your weaponry and ammo stores more than anything else. You can still advance in the game for the most part with your cover blown, but there’ll be more enemies firing at you in the process.

Stopping you along the way are various enemies. At first, they are just guards with basic weaponry. Later on, you’ll briefly encounter a set of mutated enemies. Arguably, this is probably the hardest part in the game mainly because weapons and item drops are so few and far between. Towards the last portion of the game, you’ll have “mercs” (Mercenaries) with the heavier weaponry. They’ll also be better armored, so heavier weaponry is practically essential for taking them down in an effective manner.

The level design did leave a fair bit to be desired. For at least 75% of the game, all you need to do is just follow the hallway or corridor. Sometimes, the path splits, but it will almost always rejoin somewhere along the line. There’s very few points where you are finding rooms off to the side that contain special items or weapons. As a result, the level design, at times, border on tedious.

You will get the odd puzzle thrown at you here and there such as a ladder that happens to be a bit out of the way or you needing to blow up some vaguely described device, but the only real puzzle you get thrown at you is at the very end of the game – and that puzzle ends up being a randomly generated trial and error puzzle.

One great and often touted feature of this game is the geo-modding. If you have an explosive weapon or bomb, you can actually affect rock terrain with these blasts. In games like Duke Nukem 3D, there are only pre-defined sectors that can be modified through a blast (sector effectors). In this game, in certain areas, you can destroy sections of a level and create holes pretty much anywhere. Typically, these are rocky areas, but there are a few rooms that allow you to blast through walls. While this is a very intriguing bit of technology in the game, it affects very little in the overall gameplay outside of a locked blast door. More could have been done with this technology, but it ends up being something to jazz up the special effects in the game. A minor interesting feature in the grand scheme of things.

A great feature I liked was the ability to save anywhere you like in the game. All you had to do was pick up where you left off whenever you needed a break or you were worried that there was going to be something difficult ahead (i.e. mercs armed with one hit kill rail guns). Saving frequently definitely becomes a necessity later on in the game. While it’s great to see this feature, the big downside is that if you do die, your only options are to either load where you last saved or start over at the very beginning. I would have really liked to see the ability to regenerate at the last loading point, but unfortunately, there isn’t even that. As a result, the saving system can be a bit convoluted and annoying at times.

Another thing that would have been nice to have are more clearly defined objectives. In this game, all you get is Hendrix giving you instructions. You can activate a sub-menu and scroll through the messages, but I think it would have been better to have a short list of active objectives that you need to complete. I also thought a few more puzzles to make things interesting would have been nice because I thought this game needed something more than the occasional message automatically being sent to you, but all you get is an escort mission, a destruction mission or two, and a couple of switch pulling missions with the remainder of the game simply being running through corridors. In a game that can take you well over 7 hours to play in the first run through, that’s a lot of doing the same thing over and over again.

The premise of the game was pretty good at the beginning of the game. It was unfortunate that the storyline just seemed to crumble after you start the game. All you really have are messages given to you for plot. With little more than this, I thought that the plot was a bit thin for my tastes. For what little you see of other characters, I thought they were fairly well realized, but Parker, the main character, had a character development that was, at best, messy. It’s a bit disappointing to see a storyline start off on a strong foot and just go downhill throughout the entire game. there is some pickup at the end, but the large gap between opening cutscene and ending makes the experience seem a bit empty.

It was nice to see a few bosses along the way. I thought that made the game a little more interesting. I’m a bit split on whether or not there were enough bosses or if the game could have benefited from an additional boss battle or two.

Another positive aspect is that the length of the game was well done. This game kept me busy for quite some time which was nice to see. Even if the play was repetitive at times, at least there was plenty of ground to cover.

I think one thing that is holding this game back is the fact that it resembles Quake II a bit too much. It should have focused on carving out its own identity by looking at Quake II and saying “what can we do differently?” I don’t think there was enough of that.

Generally, the gameplay was decent enough. The geo-modding did add a little something and the boss battles were good. The length is definitely good. The variety of enemies was sufficient. The number of weapons was great. The items were basic, but there. I thought the few objectives that were in it could have been clearer or better implemented. The gameplay was rather repetitive in that you’re simply following one long corridor for large portions of the game. The writing starts off strong, but falls apart as the game progresses. Some of the other characters were fairly well developed, but the main character just wasn’t that well realized. So, this game has its hits and misses.

The graphics had its strength and weaknesses. The atmospherics were there, the weapons fire was good and the explosions were nicely detailed. Unfortunately, the basic lens flares is where the great special effects really end as far as graphics were concerned. The models were OK, but nothing special. The textures were nicely varied as the game progresses. I would have liked to see more special effects in this game. It is, after all, a sci-fi environment, so there was the excuse to really flex some special effects muscle, but I thought the game just falls back on neutral on that front. I think a game like Perfect Dark had far better concepts on this front. It takes more than camera shake and fade to black to impress me, though.

The sound effects were decent enough. The enemies could have used a few more lines, but it doesn’t get too repetitive. The music implementation was great in that not everything in this game was backed by music. The silent areas were actually effective in this case, but the splashes of music that actually do appear never go beyond somewhat interesting. I think part of that was the over-reliance of orchestral elements. Since this is so heavily sci-fi, I think a more synthetic sound would have gone a long way in making this a great game.

Overall, this is definitely a game with strengths and weaknesses. Geo-modding was a strength, but it just wasn’t realized as much as it could have been. The length was good. The level design did leave a bit to be desired since most of it was running through long corridors. There was some puzzle elements, but not enough to really break the gameplay up to keep things interesting. The boss fights were good, though I’m divided as to whether or not the game needed one or two more. Some of the characters were well realized, but the main character was a bit of a miss for me. The plot starts off strong, but falters after the start. There was a good variety of weapons and the items were simply basic. So, at the end of the day, I would say this game is good enough for a single playthrough, but I’m not sure how much more I want to play after that single playthrough.

Furthest point in game: Beat the game on easy.

General gameplay: 18/25
Replay value: 6/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 68%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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