SummaryA day late and a dollar short. Extremely disappointed.
The GoodRed Faction promises a much more diverse experience than typical first-person shooters inspired by Half-Life, and that promise is worth half the purchase price alone: Many weapons new to the FPS genre; drivable vehicles, some with weapons; and geo-mod technology, which allows explosives to deform the game world and affect gameplay.
On these particular hopes, Red Faction delivers. Some of the weapons are inspired: An "accurate rifle" allows you to zoom in and deliver several shots as fast as you can pull them off. The sniper rifle has a crazy zoom that can traverse a kilometer. Your melee weapon can be used to either bludgeon or shock. The best weapon is unarguably the "rail gun": One-shot kills, deadly accurate, and the viewfinder can see people through walls (which is good because the rail gun can kill them through walls).
The vehicles, while used sparsely, are effective. A truck can be used to get past enemies quickly (or mow them down). The submarine makes it possible to get past some enemies in the water. The flyer providers hot metal death from above. And so on.
Geo-Mod, the most distinctive aspect of the 3-D engine truly does make many surfaces deformable. And the deformations are legitimate, not just texture decals: Ground that has been peppered with craters is hard to navigate in a vehicle, for example, and some areas of the game require blowing the crap out of walls to get past doors that won't open.
The BadIt is with a heavy heart that I write this section. I didn't want to do it. Red Faction is a new effort from Volition, half of the team that made the original Descent series the awesome landmark that it was. They tried to introduce new features to the genre -- heck, they created a new title in an already-crowded genre. That takes some pretty big cajones.
That being said, there are just simply way, way too many things wrong with the game for me to recommend it. One of the most major issues is that the story is overlooked. Granted, FPS games don't need a deep involving story, and the absence of one isn't a crime. But when an involving storyline is hinted at and then later neglected, it is a crime. Too many times there were "significant emotional events" in the voice messages and cutscenes, but without any proper setup or explanation they all sounded cliched.
Another big problem was the sometimes-repetitive level design. It is unavoidable that a game that takes place in the mines of Mars is going to look mostly the same (brown rock tunnels, brown rock caverns, etc.), and the designers try to alleviate that with a kidnapping mission inside the mining administrative offices, battling company guards in the armory, and even sabotaging a space station in orbit above Mars. But barring appearance, the repetitive level design itself cannot be excused:
More overall problems that affect gameplay lie with the enhancements (weapons, Geo-Mod) themselves:
Even the cutscenes had problems: The beginning and end cutscenes are rendered. For rendered cutscenes, they look terrible; polygons are blocky, for the most part. This isn't really that significant until you realize that they were rendered with the output from the game engine itself. If they used the game engine for rendering the beginning and end cutscenes, why didn't they just use the game engine itself? Why waste 200MB of disk space in video files that could have been just played with the in-game engine just like all the other cutscenes?
But the most irritating thing about the game was its inconsistency and general lack of polish. This is expected for what is inevitably a clone of Half-Life, but it is inexcusable for a clone that came out nearly four years after Half-Life did! What follows is a list of some of the things that really, really irked me during the entire course of the game (this is long, get a cup of coffee):
The Bottom LineI really wanted to like Red Faction, honest! It had the potential to be reminiscent of the current FPS bar of excellence Half-Life by infusing new elements into the genre. But the multitude of nagging problems noted above detracted from the overall experience so much that I just couldn't enjoy it. I was really disappointed.
The 100% user-mod-gone-retail Gunman Chronicles is worth buying for $9... but I cannot recommend even that much for Red Faction.