Red Faction! Those two words had a lot of first-person shooter fans drooling with anticipation due to the promise of fully destructive environments with its Geo-Mod technology. Whether it’s knocking a hole in a wall or bringing down a bridge, Geo-Mod was going to be the next best thing to the rocket launcher in the world of first-person shooters. Is it all cracked up to be? Well, hold tight and you’ll learn soon enough but let’s go to the game itself.In Red Faction, you’re a miner on Mars working for the Ultor Corporation, a conglomerate mining company that only cares about one thing – minerals. In this mining colony, all the workers are treated like dirt including you. So what does any red-blooded miner do when he has had it up to his hardhat in mud? He revolts and that’s when things get rolling. The storyline reminds me of the Sean Connery sci-fi movie, Outland with its futuristic vision of space mining and deadly drugs on Jupiter. Most FPS storylines are just an excuse to shoot things up which Red Faction does a great job of, but here you actually feel like you’re part of the story. Okay, it’s not Steinbeck but at least you don’t stop in the middle of the game and ask yourself, “What am I fighting for?”The action plays out much like a James Bond movie thanks to the contemporary weapons and interactive vehicles. The types of weapons initially surprised me since this is a futuristic game but yet most of the weapons seem to be straight out of today’s military. Much like Outland, it takes a gritty throwback approach to its vision of a futuristic mining colony and this carries over to the type of weapons at hand. From the staccato blasts of the Heavy Machine Gun to the blistering a*ault Rifle, Red Faction provides a no-nonsense, rapid bullet-flying approach to its combat. Just the way most hardcore action gamers want it. For the more sci-fi savvy, there’s the standby Rocket Launcher, which is the weapon of choice for putting the Geo-Mod engine through its paces. You’ll find yourself all too eager to start blasting some plaster with this bad boy. The remainder of the weapons is standard FPS fare with a shotgun, two sniper rifles, and a submachine gun. There is one unique weapon that comes in the form of a rail driver rifle. In alternate firing mode, you can spot opponents through walls and hit them with wall-piercing slugs – most effective against unsuspecting campers! There’s also a flame-thrower for toasting enemy guards but you won’t spend too much time using it due to its limited range and short flame-life. Oh, and how can I forget the mega-weapon, Fusion Rocket Launcher (similar to UT’s Redeemer) which should really be called the Big Unit since it’s takes up almost half your d** visibility when you’re toting it around. It’s actually pretty funny running around half-blinded trying to figure out where to fire this thing without blowing yourself up, which occurs quite often. You won’t find too many surprises in the weapons department but no worries since they do the trick when it comes to blasting your enemies and the surrounding structures.Gameplay is the relatively linear but the variety of action modes saves it from being your standard “running through levels” adventure. There’s a nice mixture of land, air and marine vehicles that you can jump into during certain points of the game. They are pretty simple to operate and are definitely fun to use with their a**nal of missiles and machine guns. The time you spend in these vehicles is not all that long but they do provide a nice diversion and help to give Red Faction a dash of James Bond action. It would be cool to see the use of these vehicles expanded in a future expansion pack or sequel. Besides using different vehicles, stealth is also a necessity with certain levels. It’s nothing fancy, but again it helps to mix things up. My only real criticism with the gameplay is with the enemies. The characteristics of the enemy guards are really a cut below the rest of the game. The AI isn’t bad but there seems to be too much strange-looking, evasive shuffling by the enemies and their cowering cries of “Don’t hurt me, I’m unarmed” is just plain weak, especially when they do this while they’re reloading. Throw in enemy cries like “Die, you rebel scum!” (Dark Forces, anyone?) or “It’s party time!” and I think you get the gist. This is one area they could have taken a few more cues from Half-Life.No complaints though with the graphics. The game doesn’t look quite as pretty as Q3 Arena but it’s within reach of Unreal Tournament. Besides, I’d take the ability to blow a hole in a wall rather then marveling at its texture. Speaking of blowing holes in walls, I sure wish I could do more of it. The ability to blow up stuff is there but you end up wanting to do it more often, especially in the context of using it for specific objectives. Oh sure, there are times when you need to use it to advance in a level or to take out an enemy but the frequency is still few and far between. This is really a testament to the quality of the Geo-Mod technology – it is good enough to be an integral part of the gameplay. With that said, let’s now switch over to multiplayer and you have a completely different story. The Geo-Mod technology is featured extensively in the multi-player levels as you can blow out chunks of walls, structures, and open up secret areas with the use of the Rocket Launcher. The destructive capability is one of the biggest appeals of the multiplayer game and you’ll be amazed by how much damage can be inflicted during an online match. h**, some of the levels end up looking like Swiss cheese as you can actually hop through the holes that are blown out in walls and floors. The Geo-Mod is an extremely impressive technology that easily exceeds its hype, especially in the multiplayer game. Still don’t believe me, then jump into the Glass House level in the Extras section of the game and start firing away. You’ll come away extremely impressed by what the developers at Volition have created.I strongly recommend Red Faction to any FPS fan. It has a more than adequate storyline and its varied action elements help to keep the gameplay interesting. Throw in the destructive capabilities of the Geo-Mod engine and going deep into the bowels of Red Faction ends up being well worth the trip.
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