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Red Faction is a first-person shooter I missed when it was in its prime but I ended up playing it for the first time a few years back. The first game in the series I played was actually Red Faction: Guerilla. I enjoyed it for the most part but it definitely had some issues. The series is known for destructible environments and I think this type of destruction was an even bigger deal back when the first game released. Developed by Volition and published by THQ, Red Faction was released for the PlayStation 2 in May, 2001 and PC in September of that same year. I actually played this game using the Pure Faction 3.0d patch which allows the game to run on modern systems, contains tons of bug fixes, an updated level editor, and a bunch of new stuff for multiplayer. At first, the game wouldn’t launch for me and it might have something to do with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update because after I installed the Pure Faction Addon 2.0j BETA, it launched and ran fine. This addon also adds tons of new features, many of which are for multiplayer.
The game takes place on the planet Mars in the distant future. The Ultor Corporation runs the mining operation on Mars but it’s not exactly the best place to work. Apparently life in the mines hell. The Ultor guards are brutal, there’s a disease known as the “Plague” killing miners left and right and nobody knows how to cure it. A woman named Eos is the leader of a resistance group known as the Red Faction and as soon as the game starts, the revolt begins. Red Faction members begin attacking Ultor guards, bullets start flying, and bodies start dropping. You play as Parker, a man who came to Mars looking for an escape from Earth and, obviously, he arrived at the wrong time. He ends up getting involved with the Red Faction and sets out to stop Ultor and their corrupt operation. During the game, you’ll primarily be in contact with a man named Hendrix whose some kind of mole inside Ultor and works with the resistance. The game’s voice acting is atrocious but the dialogue shouted by NPC’s during gameplay can be quite hilarious. The story, itself, is okay. I like the premise and the whole science fiction theme of it all. In fact, it kind of reminds me of Total Recall which is a good thing. Great movie.
The destructible environments is the highlight of the game but, unfortunately, it’s not utilized as often as you’d think. Yeah, you can blow up walls and structures but only in areas the game dictates. For example, there’s only a few areas where you absolutely need to blow your way through a wall or around a door. Most of the time you’re pressing buttons and navigating through doors. You can always just fire rockets or plant remote charges on random walls and structures to try and blow through them but, normally, that just ends up wasting ammo. Red Faction is mostly a linear game and it’s just a shame that the level of destruction is as limited as it is. A few areas let you stray down alternate paths, and most of the time you don’t have to blow anything up to get there, and these normally lead to sections with ammo or health pickups. I will say that the destruction, itself, is pretty cool, especially for it’s time. Blowing your way through or creating your own opening in a wall with an explosion is very satisfying and glass will shatter from gunfire in a somewhat realistic fashion.
Parker can run, climb, crouch, jump, and interact with things in the environments when necessary. This is a first-person shooter at heart and you’re given plenty of firepower. You can beat enemies or electrocute them with the control baton. You get the pistol early on and this can also be equipped with a silencer. Eventually you’ll acquire an automatic shotgun, an assault rifle, a flamethrower, sniper rifle, submachine gun, precision rifle, heavy machine gun, a rocket launcher, a fusion rocket launcher which does massive damage, and a rail driver which can fire through walls, making it one of the most useful weapons late in the game. All of the weapons do feel great and satisfying to shoot and have alternate fire modes. Burning enemies alive is always fun and it’s funny watching them run around on fire, screaming in pain. You can also acquire a riot shield which can deflect bullets, great for a specific battle against a giant robot that needs to be lured into a furnace to be killed. Every now and then you’ll come across turrets that you can use against enemies. Most of the time Parker is wearing his Enviro-Suit which I guess is what the miners wear when they work but also provides you with armor in combat. If you take damage you can restore your health and armor by finding medpacks and suit repair kits throughout the environments, including from fallen enemies and in cabinets and containers. You can even interact with medics who will heal you if you’re low on health. Many containers actually have some kind of animation to indicate they’re opening but there’s a few areas where I found medpacks in containers that do not visibly open which is both good and bad. It’s good because I needed health and it saved my life but it’s bad because these don’t resemble the standard containers you’re use to seeing and there’s no way to know they’re storing health items. They look more like random props in the environment.
Red Faction includes four difficulty modes – Easy, Medium, Hard, and Impossible and I played through it on Medium. Even on Medium, the game can prove to be quite a challenge, especially late in the game. Although, I did have an easier time this time around compared to my first playthrough several years back. It seems that enemy accuracy fluctuates. One minute they can’t hit shit right in front of their face and the next minute they can shoot the wings off a fly. You can be killed very quickly if you’re not careful and many of the later sections in the game can turn into frustrating cases of trial and error. The beginning of the game has you primarily fending off Ultor guards but eventually you’ll have to deal with turrets, giant robot mech things with machine guns, alien mutant creatures, and the end-game has you battling mercenaries with heavy firepower. There’s a lot of entering rooms and getting blown away, there’s a lot of getting shot from enemies you didn’t know were nearby, and there’s a lot of popping your head out to get a shot off and hoping you don’t get hit. There are two real boss battles that seem to play out exactly the same. Don’t get too close or you’ll probably die. Both of these bosses can fly or hover around and are surrounded by a shield that must be destroyed before they can be killed.
Most of the time you’re running and gunning but there’s a couple of sections that basically try to force you to use stealth. You can go in guns blazing and that’s eventually what I resorted to doing after a while. If you choose stealth, you’re normally stripped of your Enviro-Suit and provided the pistol with a silencer and need to navigate past guards to your objectives. If you get too close to guards, they’ll identify you and these sections are terrible. If they sound an alarm or start firing, all of the enemies are on your ass and I would highly recommend quicksaving often. If you manage to kill an enemy without being detected, you can pick up their body and hide them. These stealth sections are easily the worst parts of the entire game. Most objectives have you going from A to B usually to activate something, among other things. At one point you’ll have to escort an NPC but, luckily, he never becomes a problem. Every now and then you’ll meet up with a resistance fighter that provides information or is supposed to lead you somewhere. I say supposed to because they always die. I don’t know if it’s for dramatic effect, comical effect, or the game just wants you to do everything, but they always die and it’s obvious the resistance would be nothing without you. You’ll traverse through the mines, ice caves, a secret underground facility, and you’ll even end up on a space station at one point. The environments are varied for the most part and they all give off that sci-fi feel. In some ways, Red Faction kind of reminds me of Half-Life in it’s level design, except there’s no real puzzle solving here. The areas are broken up by brief loading points and you’re always on the move. There’s several areas where you get to pilot a ship, vehicle, or submarine of some kind. The ships and submarines are equipped with machineguns and missile launchers and you’ll have to take on other aircraft and subs and these sequences are actually kind of fun. They’re usually brief but controlling the vehicle or aircraft is easy and smooth and it’s just fun plowing through enemies. The environments are actually packed with plenty of details like posters and graffiti on the walls, dead bodies, NPC’s running around in fear, and even little drones flying around.
I guess this game looked pretty good in 2001 but it clearly looks dated now. The textures are a bit blurry, character models are blocky, the lip syncing was off in several cut scenes, and the animations are stiff. All death animations are scripted and many times you can see enemies not really walking or running, but gliding around, at least when viewed from a distance. The draw distance isn’t very far which becomes noticeable in any open areas. When it comes to the audio, the music actually isn’t bad. It seems to be filled with electronic and/or techno songs. Some songs sounded weird as in I couldn’t tell if it was an actual song or some kind of glitch with the audio. Either way there are a few memorable tunes here that got stuck in my head. The sound effects are actually really good. The weapons sound powerful, explosions sound booming, and there’s nothing more satisfying that listening to the sound of your gunfire followed by enemies screaming in agony before dying. The entire audiovisual presentation kind of gives off this 80’s vibe and the developers actually did a pretty good job with the world building and atmosphere. On the technical side, the only issue I encountered was frequent frame rate stuttering. However, I did limit the frame rate to sixty for recording purposes so maybe that had something to do with it, I’m not sure.
Red Faction is an action-packed sci-fi experience and a fun one at that. There are far better first-person shooters out there, even around the time this came out and its one highlighted aspect, destructible environments, is not utilized as often as it should be. It’s a shame because if they just opened up the environments a little more, giving you more options to navigate, specifically letting you blow through anything you wanted to get around, it would have been so much more fun. As is, it feels like a standard, yet fun, first-person shooter that could have been a bit better. Believe it or not, out of all the games in this series, I would say this has the best story and atmosphere. It was hard for me not to think of the movie Total Recall when playing this and it kind of mirrors Half-Life in both level design and even story-wise with the whole resistance versus evil theme. However, I would say Half-Life is a bit more polished. You can see the developers went out of their way with the world building and managed to create a somewhat unique atmosphere that I haven’t experienced in any other game. So that’s something.
In the end, I would recommend Red Faction. I have it for PlayStation 2 and PC and I would recommend either version. I know there are mods for the PC version, even a multiplayer scene if that appeals to you. Red Faction is fun, action-packed, contains underutilized destructible environments, and, ultimately, it’s a solid shooter that could have been better. However, I thought it was fun and that’s the most important thing. It’s not a bad game by any means but it’s also not without faults. If you enjoy first-person shooters, give Red Faction a shot. You can get it for pretty cheap now, too. And if you get it for PC, I would highly recommend you play it using the Pure Faction patch.