Guns. Lots of Guns.Speaking of shooting holes in things, let’s get to the hardware. The arsenal of Red Faction is more Deus Ex than Quake 3 Arena, with an emphasis on realism and a touch of high tech (as you might expect). From the puny 12mm pistol and riot prod (think big stick with a built-in Tazer) you start out with, you graduate to rocket launchers, automatic shotguns, a wicked assault rifle and even a Fusion Rocket Launcher that will blow a gaping hole in Ultor’s future. Various vehicles come with appropriate weapons as well, and these can be used to decimate (or just run over) the opposition – but beware, the enemy has access to these vehicles too, and they aren’t afraid to use them.
Make no mistake, this is an exceedingly violent game, and the people you shoot do flop around in a very realistic manner. The animation itself is superb, with a true skeletal animation system that is used to full effect. From flying bodies to in-game cut scenes, the movement of the enemy troops is smooth and realistic, and they can assume various positions such as crouching or looking up, lean around corners and watch their targets in an uncanny manner.
The enemy AI is also quite sophisticated, and many behaviors can be observed in just a few minutes of play. Not only do enemy troops crouch to fire and use cover effectively, they tend to collect in groups and back each other up. They will even run when wounded, and then charge you the second they think your guard is down, the tricky bastards. And the enemy troops can also use the full arsenal of weapons available, from the handy rocket launcher to the deadly Precision Sniper Rifle – even experienced FPS players can expect to find themselves full of holes on occasion.
Did Someone Say Holes?Blowing holes in stuff looks pretty, but does it really make a difference in gameplay? In a word, yes. Not only does wielding (and facing) weapons that are literally earth-shattering give a visceral thrill to combat you might never have experienced, it also allows a tactical element to come into play. Is your enemy hiding behind cover? Blow it up! Does the infrared scope on your rocket launcher show a bunch of troops hiding around the corner? You know what to do. Is there a secret passage behind that mysterious symbol painted on the wall? Grab a mining charge and blow a hole, it only takes a second.
Not only can you blow holes in the floor, walls and ceilings of some areas, you can also collapse columns and even entire buildings to a limited extent. Debris from the explosion scatters around realistically, and will even be thrown around again by a second explosion.
Volition must have realized early on in the development of the Geo-Mod technology that it does have a serious drawback, from the point of view of a level designer: why make all these pretty corridors and rooms if the player is just going to blow a path straight through them? Thus the use of actual “geo-modding” is limited to certain areas of the game, and the ammo you need to blow giant, gaping holes in things (rockets or explosive charges) is limited at times. Thus geo-mod does not become the focus of the game, but rather an added bonus that makes for greater realism. Where geo-mod tactics really reveal themselves is during multiplayer combat.
Multiplayer MayhemRed Faction supports multiplayer combat with up to 60 players online in arenas of various sizes. While it lacks more complex player modes such as Domination or Last Man Standing, the typical deathmatching still provides a thrilling experience. On many maps the proliferation of rocket launchers and explosive charges means the whole gameplay field will be turned to Swiss cheese in minutes. Both the rocket launcher and the railgun have sighting scopes that allow you to see through walls, making “camping” a worthless tactic.
Actually modifying the environment to get a better shot at your opponents – or finding your cover blown away in a puff of smoke – adds an entirely new element to online play that we’re sure is only beginning to be exploited to the full extent.