Red Faction Preview

 Gamestyle Archive intro: here’s a blast from the past with a preview of the first Red Faction title a month before it was released in June 2001. There was some expectation and generally the game met  the hopes of gamers providing a fun romp. Writer JJ.

Developer: Volition

Publisher: THQ

Genre: First Person

Accessories: Memory

Release: June 22nd

Link: www.redfaction.com

 _-Red-Faction-PS2-_

This year could be seen as the PS2’s last chance to attract gamers with quality software before the Xbox & Gamecube arrive.   The summer is shaping up nicely and with titles such as GT3, Ring Of Red and Onimusha Warlords being released over the next few months’ things are looking up for disgruntled PS2 owners.   Red Faction has certainly been receiving plenty of hype from the press here and in America – where the game has just been released.   Gamestyle thought it was about time to take a closer look at Red Faction to see if the Perfect Dark/Half Life/Deus Ex comparisons are justified or whether its another PS2 let down.   Can it take the best from those games and forge its own identity?

You are Parker (no not the chauffeur) and you are a very influential union leader on Mars.   Due to the high number of fatalities resulting from poor practice in the Ultor Corporation’s mines action needs to be taken.   Jobs are few are far between in the world of Red Faction, if not a military career then you often have the choice of jobs where humans just shouldn’t be.   Working conditions in the mines are terrible, suits and workers share bunks and drug abuse is rife.   When miners on a daily basis collapse and die from an unknown virus this proves to be the final straw.   This future society hasn’t become all peace and love, instead of negotiation the workers decide to rise up and revolt with you as the figurehead.   As Black Flag said “rise above we’re gonna rise above!”  The usual influences on the design and concept are pretty obvious and I won’t need to mention them, just think Blade Runner, Total Recall or Twelve Monkeys.   Just give me one game set in the future that doesn’t involve an evil corporation for a nice refreshing change!  Yet Red Faction isn’t setting out to be a mindless blaster like Timesplitters or Doom, instead Volition have created what they hope will be an engrossing storyline full of interesting characters.  Over the 20 levels we are promised the usual twists and shocks in the plot, we’ll see.

It could be said that Red Faction represents the first in the second generation of PS2 titles, ones that hopefully will show what the machine is capable of.   Volition is very proud of the game engine, which has been dubbed Geo-Mod (Geometric Modification).   This innovative engine is capable of remembering damage to the surroundings in real-time.  For instance on the opening section that I played I managed deliberately damage every pillar and wall, leave the room and return to see the damage still in place.   It certainly does add to the realism and concentrates your aim more effectively especially on the spaceship levels.   Yet it doesn’t represent the breakthrough the PR would have you believe, most damage is very similar and only in certain sweet spots does it prove of any use.  We’re still waiting for the Blast Corps of first person shooters and you still can’t shoot out the lights!

There is plenty of scope for the control system as its fully customisable and even with the set up similar to Timesplitters this game would really excel with a mouse and keyboard set up.   Even with the sensitivity adjusted I still found the control method to be sluggish but perhaps that’s due to the frame rate.   Every button on the Dual Shock Pad is used in Red Faction but I think the inclusion of USB support should have been considered as the controls are firmly entrenched in PC land.  Too many options isn’t a good thing sometimes.

Remember the promises that games not running under 60fps were gone for good?  Not here, Red Faction struggles in places to maintain a steady 30fps and the games suffers.  The action at times feels as if it’s from the slow motion Matrix scenes, just not fast or fluid enough and that’s something the games in the introduction could do.   The animation of the characters is good enough but the AI is very predictable, go through a door into a room and the guards won’t follow and will kindly wait till you go back outside.  Other little flaws noticed were after killing a colleague early in the demo (place a mine on them and see what happens!) he turns up 5 minutes later to offer advice!

The graphics in Red Faction are impressive yet not up to the standard offered by the latest PC titles.   Textures and lighting effects are employed exceptionally well and all edges are smooth for a change!   Everyone runs around in protective suits so the character designs are very basic and indistinctive.   Red Faction also allows you the opportunity to drive 5 land, sea and air vehicles through the game.   You will need to master each one in order to progress to the next area.   The game only offers 15 weapons, which is small compared to other similar games but as in Perfect Dark several offer a secondary mode.  While the loading times aren’t bad the fact is that during a level at certain points the game will have to load the next stage.  Not good.

Red Faction while conceived very much as a single player game offers a two-player death match mode.   While the number of human players is a disappointment (surely 4 is standard now?) you can include up to 5 bots in the matches.   Specialist levels have been included for this mode and the developers have spent sometime trying to create an enjoyable alternative.   Yet the fact is, Red Faction is a single player experience and should be bought as such.  Shame the PC level editor couldn’t have been included in the PS2 version.

Gamestyle will have a review at the end of June when the game is released in full and then we’ll be able to judge whether it successfully creates is own identity or relies to much on previous games.

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