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GraphSim Entertainment
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Red Faction
September 20, 2001 | Michael Eilers

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[Due to the increased sensitivity towards violence in light of the September 11th terrorist attack on the United States, we feel obligated to warn readers that this article, its screen shots and movies deal with the realistic depiction of violence, death and destruction of property]

Let’s face it – no “hardcore” gaming genre is as long in the tooth, so to speak, as the first-person shooter. Called the “ego shooter” by wags that aren’t a fan of this adrenaline-fueled genre, these titles have taken us everywhere, from the grimy halls of an abandoned space outpost to the gritty future streets of Paris. We’ve ventilated Yetis, shotgunned pigs from outer space, sliced ninjas in half and even played a little pool within this much-loved – and much-mocked – style of gaming. And the sad truth is, Mac gamers have only played perhaps a quarter (at most) of these titles produced by the game industry. The jaded gamer cries out for variety, for innovation – for the Next Big Thing.

Volition’s first-person shooter Red Faction doesn’t promise to be the ultimate shooter, nor does it claim to revolutionize the genre. In fact in many ways it is a traditional FPS that will be instantly familiar to any fan of the crosshairs. More Deus Ex than Quake III Arena, the game features a long, complex and varied solo game driven by a story arc and the player’s own ingenuity. With a mix of great visuals and sound and what promises to be killer online multiplayer, this title has a lot to offer even the most jaded hardcore player.

This preview is based on a very recent beta of Mac Red Faction, on loan from GraphSim. Unfortunately the screen shots are much darker than they actually appear in the game, and show evidence of color banding that also doesn't exist in the game itself -- this appears to be a bug with Apple's OpenGL implementation, as we have seen this problem with screen shots of other OpenGL-based games. All the images and movie footage are from a game still in development, and do not reflect the quality of the final, finished product.

Geo-Mod in the House
Much has been made of Red Faction’s innovative Geo-Mod engine, and as you can see from the screen shots and movie clip that accompany this preview, it is indeed worthy of all the fuss. The ability to actually modify the game’s geometry (hence Geo-Mod) in realtime during gameplay makes a simple shooter into a more complex and subtle form of combat – and frankly, it is pretty amazing to watch as well.

How many times have you come across a stubborn door you couldn’t find the key card for, or a wall that stood between you and the bad guys? How many times have you ducked an explosive rocket, only to see it left nothing but a tiny burn mark on the wall? No longer.

Throughout the solo and multiplayer game, certain areas of the game environment can be blown to bits at will, allowing you to find secret passages, work your way around obstacles and generally wreak havoc on the mines of Ultor. Along the way you will discover an increasingly powerful arsenal of weapons, face an impressive array of enemy guards and armed vehicles, and commandeer subs, jeeps, assault aircraft and mining equipment in your quest for freedom from the clutches of the evil Ultor mining corporation.

Oh yeah, did I mention there was a plot?

What is it With Volition and Mines?
First, a little background: Red Faction was developed by Volition, the same team that made the Descent series. For some reason this crew has a serious problem with mining corporations, because they seem to cast them as the bad guys over and over again.

Leaving that aside for now, let’s summarize the plot: You are Parker, a young idealist who came to Mars to work the mines of Ultor Corporation. Lured by promises of wealth and luxury, Parker finds himself a virtual prisoner of this faceless corporation that seems obsessed with squeezing every last bit of labor out of the hapless miners. Adding to this misery is a mysterious plague that seems to be killing (or worse, mutating) many of the Miners, bringing tensions between Corporation guards and the lackey miners to a boiling point. A seemingly random incident of meaningless violence becomes the catalyst for armed revolution, as Parker acts out to defend a fellow miner and discovers that a cell of opposition has been building all this time. He has become part of the Red Faction, and must defeat Ultor and discover the secret of the mysterious plague if he ever wants to get off Mars alive.

Along the way you will meet a large cast of characters, including the rebel leader Eos, a helpful communications officer known as Hendrix, and a hapless executive known as Gryphon – yes, for some reason no one has a first name. You will also face a host of vicious enemies, from lightly armed guards to brutal mercenaries with high-tech killing tools. Killer sentry robots, armored fighting vehicles and mutated Mars life will come at you from every direction, eager to shoot holes in your envirosuit and leave you exposed to the deadly Mars atmosphere.


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