Red Faction is something special to me.
It's a really weird franchise in the sense that the developers seemed to not know what entirely to do with it basically every single time they made a game. Including the original. Apparently, the first Red Faction game was intended to be the next game in Volition's Descent series, but that got canceled, probably because they decided maybe it was high time to start a new IP instead of trying to breathe life into a dying one.
I first came across Red Faction at Blockbuster in 2002. I saw that hand holding up a pickax against that grim, gritty red background and grabbed the case. Flipping it over told me that it was a first person shooter on Mars.
How could I say no to that?
I got it, brought it home, and played the fuck out of it. I pretty much immediately fell in love with the game.
So what's it about?
Red Faction came in 2001 for the PS2. Set in the year 2075, it's a miserable story of a corporation exploiting thousands of people who were lied to on Earth and lured to Mars with promises of a year of simple work and a lot of easy cash. In reality, the corporation, Ultor, basically enslaved everyone the moment they arrived on the red planet.
This has been going on for years. Miners are routinely beaten by sadistic guards for the slightest infraction, they are worked to death in the mines, malnourished and forced to live in close quarters, sharing bunks and suits. To top it all off, there's a plague going around that only seems to affect miners and kills them off left and right.
Naturally, there's a rebellion organizing. The Red Faction. They have been inciting incidents against the guards, stealing weapons and supplies, preparing for a revolution.
You play Parker, a rich kid sick of his parents running his life, so he ran off to Mars because it was the last thing they'd expect or want. He's been enslaved ever since arriving. One day after finishing a shift, he happens to be in a mine where one miner has had enough and fights back against the guards.
And this sparks the revolution everyone has been waiting for.
So what was so special about Red Faction? That synopsis sounds cool but synopsis doesn't mean as much if your game falls flat and fails to deliver.
That's what they called it. Red Faction was, in the public's eyes, the first big FPS that offered destructible environments. Their initial ambition was to make the whole game destructible, but that proved to be unrealistic. Even still, they did a pretty good job. Lots of the walls, floors, and ceilings can be destroyed, or at least liberally reshaped with an explosive charge or a rocket launcher. And you can dig pretty deep holes in the red rock walls of the mines.
Also, if you see a bridge, there's a good chance that if you put enough effort in, you can destroy both ends and watch the middle fall down into an abyss. And if people are standing on that bridge, you can blast a hole out from under them and watch them plummet. There's a lot of opportunity for fun, especially in the multiplayer portion.
Now, time for the character lineup.
First, you've got Parker, the protagonist.
He's kind of whiny and definitely impulsive, based off the little story and dialogue he gets in the game. Also, despite being like 18 and living a rich boy life, he can apparently fire all guns with pretty good accuracy, including rocket launchers, and he can drive all vehicles he comes across, including areal assault vehicles and submarines.
Also, good lord the graphics are unforgiving. He makes the stupidest faces in the cutscenes.
Next up is Eos.
I never learned her original name. I'm not sure they even gave her one. She's pretty tough, very no bullshit, and the leader of the Red Faction. She wears that partial mask because she was one of the first hit by the Plague, according to the info given about her.
She is voice of the Red Faction and is smart and driven.
He is a technician, an an ally to the Red Faction. I imagine that
without his help, they'd be fucked. He's embedded pretty deep in the Ultor Corporation and has access to a lot of highly classified and secure systems.
He also feels pretty guilty because he's been living the high life as a tech who actually willingly lives on Mars, is paid a real salary, and isn't beaten by guards all the time, nor lives under constant threat of the Plague or starvation or being worked to death.
He's an interesting character and meeting him for the first time after hours of hearing his voice as he guides you through the bowels of Mars was a neat touch.
This old bastard is Capek.
If anyone runs the Ultor Corporation's interest on Mars, it's him. He's basically a Nazi. He's obsessed with experimentation on the miners, with creating nightmarish horrors, and with nanotechnology.
He's a real bastard.
There are a few other honorable mentions of smaller characters. Like Gryphon, a turncoat administrator. Orion, Eos's second in command in the RF. And Masako, an insane, vicious mercenary leader. She becomes a bigger problem later in the game. Other than that, you'll run into a shitload of miners who refuse to go with you (my orders are to stay here!), guards who want to kill you, technicians who run and scream when you show up, (and sometimes call for guards like assholes), and medics who refuse to take sides and will help anyone needing it, including you.
So it's got a half-decent cast for an FPS in 2001.
The gameplay is pretty solid, although honestly it looks, runs, and controls a lot better on a computer than it does on a PS2. I learned that after I grabbed a copy through Steam. There's a nice, wide array of guns that you can carry all on your person DOOM-style, since Halo wasn't out yet and hadn't reset the standard of two weapons at a time. And there's some pretty kickass guns, including a seriously powerful fusion rocket launcher, an unfair see-through-walls one-hit-kill rail driver, a heavy machine gun that packs 99 rounds per magazine, and the Precision Rifle.
Seriously, once you get the Precision Rifle, you probably won't use anything but. It comes later in the game, is absurdly accurate and powerful, and kind of makes everything else in the game obsolete.
The music is awesome. Just check out the theme song. (It starts at about 1:30 in.) All in all, it's a pretty good soundtrack. I wish there was more, as it sounds fairly unique and it suits the game really well.
The multiplayer was fun, though I honestly didn't play much of it. It had bots, which was nice. Mainly I was just interested in the campaign. I'm not even sure if it had online capabilities, but it did have split-screen at least, so that was something.
One thing that stood out was the diverse environments. You can explore vast, underground mining complexes and sparse, utilitarian barracks. You'll sneak through pristine, well lit administration offices, navigate underwater sections, and investigate high-tech science laboratories. You even head up to a space station at one point. That was a cool level.
I can sadly say that the game didn't quite hold up as well as I remembered. After something like probably a decade, when I finally bought it on Steam and played through it again, I distinctly remember feeling a bit disappointed by the end of the game. I seem to remember it as this epic, sweeping, sprawling twenty five hour campaign, when in reality it was a fairly linear six or seven hour experience. Still good, still a classic, just clearly distorted in my mind. (Also, for the record, I'm fine with linear games. I think people need to stop turning that word into a bad one.)
It's a game worth buying if you like first person shooters and remember the PS2 era fondly. It's a good game with some character to it and an interesting universe.
Oh yeah, there's one thing about it that bugs me, even though it's stupidly unreasonable to be bugged by it. If you shoot the guards enough, they'll start running away and beg you not to hurt them or claim they're unarmed when they are clearly holding a fucking gun and were JUST shooting at you. And then, within seconds, they will immediately resume trying to kill you!
I get that it's more realistic that people will panic under those conditions, and it's nice to have that in the game just because it was interesting. Plus, I'm not sure what else they could've done. Have a guard honestly surrendering every five minutes? See, totally unreasonable to complain about.
It's just like those people who yield in Skyrim, but there's no way to accept the yield! It still pisses me off that literally every person who fucking yields is just lying and will immediately start attacking you again. In that scenario, however, Bethesda had the option to just let you accept the yield. Dunno why they bothered to put that in there without following through.
Anyway, this is where I'd normally wrap up the review, but considering I'm not going to give Red Faction 2 a full review, I might as well tell you about it below.
Red Faction 2 pissed me off.
Now, to be fair, it was a decently solid game and it came out barely a year later. It's got an interesting atmosphere and storyline, with decent characters and weapons, from what I remember. Granted, it's been over ten years since I played it.
The story picks up 5 years after Red Faction. The nanotech that Capek was working on has since fallen into bad hands back on Earth and a dictator, Sopot, has risen to power. You are Alias, a demo expert and member of an elite squad of freedom fighters bent on toppling Sopot. A lot more happens and there's a lot of betrayal, but that's the gist of it. The Red Faction in this context are rebels on Earth also fighting for their freedom.
I mainly didn't like it because I asked the question "What the fuck does this have to do with Red Faction?" Besides that little mention of Capek and Mars and nanotech, and the fact that there is a group calling themselves Red Faction...NOTHING.
This is my guess, although I have no evidence to back it up. I'm guessing that in the same way Red Faction was a re-purposed game, Descent 4 being turned into something original, Red Faction 2 was the same thing, only kind of reversed. I'm guessing that they had some idea they'd been working on that was a futuristic sci-fi shooter and suddenly they realized that Red Faction was actually selling really well, so in a desperate attempt to capitalize on it, they simply repurposed this game that had fucking nothing to do with Red Faction, threw in a few references, and just called it Red Faction II.
That's just my guess.
Anyway, I dunno, I remember it being a decent and interesting game. It probably would have been a middle-of-the-road shooter that would've flown under the radar and not gotten such ire if it hadn't been called Red Faction II.
So there you, quickie review.