It's a concept straight out of a sci-fi 'zine: Deep in the heart of Mars, a hapless miner named Parker slaves away for a dictatorial corporation called Ultor. Suddenly, the miners can't take the abuse any longer, and Parker gets swept up in an armed revolt against his inhumane employer and its legions of corrupt, heavily armed guards. You play as Parker throughout Red Faction, a good-looking first-person shooter that has a wide variety of weapons and some other notable features, as well as a mostly enjoyable single-player game and a complete multiplayer mode. Red Faction was well received when it was released for the PlayStation 2 console earlier this year. As one of the only original first-person shooters for the PlayStation 2, Red Faction impressed an audience of gamers that didn't know what to expect from a next-generation console shooter. However, the PC shooter genre is already filled with excellent games. So the PC version of Red Faction, which adds 32-player multiplayer support and a level editor, has a harder time distinguishing itself, despite its good traits.
You'll join the Red Faction in revolt against the evil Ultor corporation.
Red Faction was created by Volition, the talented studio whose earlier projects include the role-playing game Summoner and the superlative space combat simulation FreeSpace 2. Volition's latest game has much of the same visual appeal and generally high level of quality found in its previous efforts. Yet Red Faction is somewhat lacking in creativity compared with those other games, as the plot, the characters, the levels, and many of the weapons found throughout are all pretty typical of what you might find in other sci-fi-themed shooters. Red Faction's single-player game also isn't very long, and it will likely take you about 10 hours to finish, though multiple difficulty settings and the multiplayer mode do give the game some replay value.
Red Faction is clearly inspired by earlier shooters, especially Valve's groundbreaking Half-Life, and it doesn't deviate much from the formula that was refined by that game and has been reused by many others over the years. As with any recent shooter, controlling Red Faction is easy and responsive by means of a keyboard-and-mouse combination. As Parker, you're generally well protected against enemy attacks thanks to your bright red mining suit, which even lets you breathe underwater indefinitely. Parker runs quickly and jumps nice and high, and he can carry a huge arsenal of weapons--more than a dozen.
Many of these weapons are instantly recognizable archetypes found in other shooters. They're mostly well done in Red Faction, and they all have alternate firing modes or special features. You'll appreciate such details as the digital ammo readout on the side of the assault rifle, the rocket launcher's ability to detect human heat signatures through walls, and the flamethrower's detachable explosive fuel canisters. A see-through riot shield that can absorb enemy gunfire, a deadly semiautomatic sniper rifle, and a single-shot railgun that shoots through walls are some of the other highlights. Yet while Red Faction's arsenal seems extensive, it can also feel somewhat confining. Weapons such as the assault shotgun and grenade are too slow to be of much use. Your aim with either of the two different sniper rifles is completely steady even when you're looking through the magnifying scopes, which reduces some of the challenge in using them. Often, you'll have just one or two weapons in your arsenal that are best suited to your particular situation, which makes some of the gun battles in Red Faction seem predictable.
More than a dozen different weapons are available, all with special features.
This is partly because you'll be fighting the same sorts of enemy guards, only in various shapes and forms, throughout the majority of the game. Fortunately, these guards are quite competent--the tougher ones aim well, and they all do a pretty good job of dodging from side to side and hiding behind walls when they can. They also tend to flee when they take some damage or run out of ammo, but on the other hand, they aren't good at working in groups and they don't flush you out when you're hiding. And once you learn to aim for their heads--you may already be very used to doing this in other shooters--in most cases you'll be able to bring them down quickly and without much trouble. Besides all the guards, you'll take on an occasional mining robot or an experiment-gone-wrong, but these aren't very interesting and don't give the combat quite as much variety as you'd probably want.