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by THQ

01_31_01_01-01.jpg (5095 bytes)In the near future on the planet Mars, the Ultor Corporation made promises of adventure and easy money in order to attract workers for their Noachite mines. In reality, however, the mines are extremely dangerous. The living quarters for the miners are disgusting, and miners are forced to share beds and even environmental suits between different work shifts. As if the work and living conditions weren’t dangerous enough, a plague is spreading through the mines. The miners’ fear and discontentment grows and soon pamphlets and posters begin appearing in the mines. The posters urge the miners to take action and fight for their rights. Join the Red Faction, and it’s mysterious leader Eos, or risk being killed by guards or the plague. It isn’t a tough choice, and so Red Faction begins.

ssotw16-01.jpg (5469 bytes)It’s too bad the rest of the story isn’t as interesting as the introduction. You control Parker, a tough guy miner who seems to be the only member of the Red Faction that’s worth a damn. The story progresses as would be expected in any good sci-fi video game. The hero runs through bases, finds the cure for the plague, defeats the evil corporation, and saves the day. It is a typical sci-fi storyline, and it’s entirely forgettable.

01_31_01_02-01.jpg (7496 bytes)But all is not lost. The storyline is really the worst part of Red Faction, and seeing as how stories aren’t necessarily important in first person shooters, it is only a minor gripe. The best part of Red Faction, however, is definitely the new Geo-Mod technology designed for the game. Geo-Mod technology allows you to use explosives on the walls, ceiling, and floor to make your own path. If there is a locked door and you don’t seem to have the right key, you can simply go around or even under it. If a convoy heading your direction is crossing a bridge, take out the bridge. If guards on a tower give you trouble, blow up the legs of the tower and cause it to collapse. The Geo-Mod system is a welcome break from the typical first person shooter which requires you to find switches and keys, but it was used with a surprising amount of restraint. Not all walls can be destroyed; in fact, most of them cannot in the solo missions. There are only a few occasions where you can blast out a bridge or a tower, and very few occasions where you have to blast around a door. Of course, it is fun to just blast away at walls just to see where they may lead you. Overall, the Geo-Mod technology is very well done and allows for some innovation on how you get from point A to point B. I would have liked to of seen it used more often, but for the first game using the technology, Red Faction is a great look at what we can expect in first person shooters for the next few years.

ssotw18-01.jpg (6789 bytes)The graphics and sound, while not jaw dropping, are good. There are some very nice lighting effects and the explosions are great. The textures are a bit repetitive, and after the first few levels you will probably have seen every shade of red that exists. The character designs are rather bland and you will find that you fight the same handful of enemy designs all through the game. The game is silky smooth while running at 800x600 resolution, but it can be a bit choppy at 1024x768 even on high-end systems. The voice acting is decent, but I got tired of hearing the guards yelling the same things at me all the time. One rather odd thing that I noticed is that when you shoot the guards, they will scream, "I don’t deserve to die!" and run around the corner, only to shoot at you the moment you give chase. Or they will say, "Don’t shoot me, I’m unarmed" and then shoot at you right after they say it. The music sounds good when you actually notice it. Most of the time I was so focused on blowing holes in the wall that I didn’t notice the music. This is a good thing, however, because it doesn’t distract you.

01_31_01_10-01.jpg (6961 bytes)The solo missions in Red Faction are typical first person shooter fare. The game’s first few levels are deep within mines of Mars and are a bit boring. But once you get out of the mines and have to sneak around an Ultor office building with guards and security cameras all around, or when you get to control one of five vehicles, the game is much more interesting. The vehicles, which include a jeep, an APC, a drilling machine, a submarine, and a fighter aircraft, are all well done and the levels that feature them are very fun. The driller is perhaps the most fun because you can forge your own nice wide path through the mines, but it is not used nearly enough. The variety in missions due to the vehicles and the stealth missions makes the game less repetitive. The weaponry Parker uses on his quest to stop Ultor are traditional first person shooter boom sticks that include machine guns, pistols, and the all important rocket launcher. The weapons are very nicely detailed and look, feel, and sound just right. The "buddah, buddah, buddah" sound of the heavy machine gun firing and the beauty that is empty shells spewing out from the side of the gun are perfect. The reload animations are excellent as well, and they also add in the factor of reload time when choosing weapons. The solo missions are fun, but a bit unsatisfying because of the weak storyline. It is also rather short and can easily be passed in under 10 hours. There are multiple difficulty settings, so the solo missions will keep you busy for a little while. There is a bonus level included that is nothing but a closed room in a large house made of glass. Breaking the glass is fun, but the real fun is in tunneling through the walls around the house and seeing where you end up. I tunneled from the floor all the way up to the ceiling and then jumped down to the roof of the house. I have spent a lot of time in this bonus level just experimenting, and I’m glad that they threw it in.

ssotw19-01.jpg (7028 bytes)When you get tired of the solo missions, you can always dive into the multiplayer game. There are three different modes: deathmatch, capture the flag, and team deathmatch. These are all standard modes for any good first person shooter, but combine them with the Geo-Mod technology, and you have a brand new experience. All of the maps take advantage of the Geo-Mod technology and, depending on what you blow up, there really can be some strategy involved. On one map, there is a large bridge shaped like a "T" that connects three different passageways. With enough time and enough rockets, it is possible to take this bridge out entirely, resulting in a much, much different game than if the bridge had remained intact. Another map resembles an office building. There are multiple floors and dozens of offices on each floor. It is possible to blast a passage down through the building or straight through the offices to make your own shortcuts. These are just two examples, but multiplayer games are definitely much better when you can blow apart the environments and make each experience unique. One of the best parts about Red Faction’s multiplayer is that it is extremely competitive. By sheer luck you can join a game and win easily even if it’s your first time. Of course, by playing a lot and becoming proficient with the different weapons, you can change from merely being lucky to being a lean, mean killing machine. The kills will come remarkable easy once you master the heavy machine gun or rail driver. Multiplayer is a very enjoyable experience that newbies and veterans alike can play and be competitive at.

01_31_01_05-01.jpg (7276 bytes)Overall, Red Faction is a good game. It is the guinea pig game for Geo-Mod technology and it shows. It is not the best looking or best sounding game, and it doesn’t have the best storyline, but Red Faction does show how great fully deformable environments can be. If only for blowing the hell out of anything and everything you see, Red Faction is a solid buy.

Eric Qualls   (11/01/2001)


Ups: Geo-mod technology rules; good multiplayer; some innovative gameplay; vehicles.

Downs: Story might not satisfy; single player game too short.

Platform: PC