Red Faction 13 Years-Later Review
Reviewed by: Guest_Jim_*
Reviewed on: May 6, 2014
Thirteen years ago, the original Red Faction title was released, which is likely causing you to wonder why I am reviewing it. While I could explain the reason in a single sentence, I do not want this introduction to look too short.
Last year THQ declared bankruptcy, and part of those proceedings involved the selling of assets, including game franchises. Some of these franchises were still having games made, but others had seen their end. The Red Faction franchise fell into the latter category, but the new owner, Nordic Games, may change that. To help it decide, it will be releasing collections of the franchise for the PlayStation 3 and Windows PCs. As that will bring all of the games in the franchise into the realm of current gaming news, there may be new interest in the games, and therefore in reviews of the games. That is why I do these Years-Later reviews, so here is the first.
Red Faction is a first-person shooter that has you rise from being a miner on Mars to hero of the Red Faction. It uses the Geo-Mod engine that allows for real-time, arbitrary geometry modification, which translates to explosions that can cause realistic damage to structures and objects. This is among the earliest games with such unscripted destruction.
At the time it was released, Red Faction earned itself an M rating for violence, blood and gore. Now, I am not sure if its content would earn it that rating today, but that is its rating and I shall repeat my warning again, if such content is not suitable for you, this review likely is not either.
Thirteen years later, is Red Faction still a game to play, or should it be left in the past? Time to find out.
Thirteen years is a long time, so there is some necessity to forgive the graphics of Red Faction, but of course there is also a limit to that forgiveness.
The first graphical point I want to bring up is one that comes up before entering the game. Some of the graphical options are set via a launcher, including the game's resolution. Sadly this game employs a whitelist of resolutions with the maximum being 1280x1024 and no widescreen options. Get ready for some pillar boxing.
To be fair, this resolution issue is not all that surprising to me and is also not something that I am going to hold against the game. I do wish the available resolutions were not limited like this, but this is how it is.
Something that I am more willing to hold against the game would be the textures it uses. I am not sure how well it comes across in the included screenshots, but many of these textures are blurred from being stretched, completely destroying what detail I want to see. On its own, that could probably be forgiven, but some textures also appear to have compression artifacts in them. I am not certain about what exactly the causes of the artifacts are, but it looks like the difference between 16-bit and 32-bit color palettes. No matter the cause though, it is not pretty, and for my eyes, it jumps out. It can get really bad in some places after exploding part of a wall.
The ability to arbitrarily destroy a large amount of the world is definitely pretty cool. You can use this to find hidden caches, get around locked doors, and get around enemies you would rather avoid. It is not all that good looking though, due to a rather low polygon limit compared to modern games. The explosions also are not particularly good looking, as the flash looks as stretched as the textures on the walls. Those are fair to forgive, if you are willing to.
I am not going to give my computer's specs because I doubt that is necessary. The game's performance was superb at its maximum settings, and I doubt anyone reading this review games on a computer that lacks the hardware to replicate my experience.
Unfortunately my experience was not without bugs. One was a rather serious audio bug, where some of the audio simply stopped during a specific level. Only the music could be heard; neither speech nor gunfire emanated from my speakers. This is somewhat annoying as that leaves you unaware of enemies firing at you until they actually hit you.
The other bug was equally annoying, but appeared to be even more confined. Somehow two enemies became immortal. No matter how many times I shot them, they were simply unaffected. Only after multiple reloads and leaving the area would they finally take damage. At least this issue fixed itself by leaving and returning, but the audio bug appeared to persist through the level, though it did change some when reloading a save. Sometimes I could hear speech or gunfire and sometimes I could not. No idea why it varied as it did, but it eventually stopped.
Overall, the graphics of Red Faction are what you would and should expect of a thirteen-year-old game. Actually they may be a little worse when you consider the issues I mentioned with the textures. That would depend on what the cause of them is. The performance was great, though that audio bug can really break you out of the gameplay. Simply put, this is not a game to play if you want the best graphics experience.
Red Faction begins with your character, Parker, working in mines on Mars for the Ultor company. Because of Ultor's treatment of the miners and a mysterious plague, a miner rebellion called the Red Faction has formed, needing only a spark to start the fire. As you can expect, the spark happens just in front of you as a fellow miner and security guard get into a fight, and another guard shoots and kills the miner. By luck and/or skill, you are the only miner that manages to survive and escape that particular mine, which sets you on the path to become a hero to the rebellion.
For quite a bit of the game, you actually do not see others in the Red Faction, though some of its members do communicate with you. They assist you when you need it, but also give you orders, such as tracking down a particular executive who can answer questions about the plague. Eventually you will also hunt down a scientist and then have to face off against an army of mercenaries, who kill security and miners indiscriminately.
That is about all I can say without running into spoilers, and even if the game is thirteen years old, I would prefer to avoid them. After all, it may be new to a number of gamers. What I will say is that the story is somewhat predictable as it follows a formula you can find in many other games. It does fill out in its own ways nicely though, and sustains interest in it and the game as it takes you to a variety of locations. Coupled with the action of the gameplay, I found myself wanting to continue playing to reach the end. I suspect it will affect many of you the same way.
While Red Faction can appear to be a straightforward, linear FPS, there is more to it than that. In many areas you can use stealth to avoid dangers instead of just jumping in, guns blazing. In other areas you can find alternative paths to advance, or make your own if you have enough explosives. That ability to reshape the world is required in some places, but is otherwise just integrated in the game. What I mean by that is that there was never a time I felt like the only way to advance was to exploit the destructibility of the world. (Except for those few times I was told to, but that is a different circumstance.) Honestly, that is how I want it to be because that feels natural. Do not force me to blow holes in walls, but let me do it when I want to.
As you advance through the game, you will pick up a variety of weapons, and each one distinguishes itself in one way or another. The assault rifle does not feel like the submachine gun, and the precision of it and sniper rifles also are separate weapons. Before long you will find yourself preferring certain guns over others, but you should try to be comfortable with them all. There is always the threat of running out of ammo, but you can also lose the weapons you have, as part of the game. This last part is somewhat interesting as the weapons are the only way your character directly improves. When you suddenly lose them all, it feels like you just started the game again, but the enemies are no longer that easy.
I do want to talk about one weapon in particular. The rail driver is one of the weapons you get close to the end of the game, which makes sense because of how very powerful it is. With this weapon you can shoot through walls and one hit enemies. To help you with that, its scope will highlight enemies behind barriers. It is easily among the most powerful weapons in the game, and that is true for both you and your enemies. Whenever there is an enemy with one of these, either start jumping around a lot or focus on that enemy, or both because one hit will kill you. Those enemies may also know how to use the scope, so be careful and expect to die a few times to this.
You can expect to die a few times more at certain points in the game. Specifically, the two boss fights and one rather annoying timed section. Both bosses have shields, which will go down eventually, but also they have very powerful attacks that can kill you in one or two hits quite easily. This other section may not be frustrating for other players, depending on their situation. At one point you will be racing to beat a timer and enter a facility with multiple well-armored enemies with rather large guns. When I got there I was in the unfortunate position of having low health and armor, making it quite impossible to continue. This led me to find the invincibility cheat to get through the area, but once I had done that, I turned off god mode and continued playing as normal. At no other time was something so difficult as to make cheating feel necessary.
There are multiple vehicle segments to the game, where you get to drive around in a jeep, a submarine, and even a fighter craft. These sections can be pretty fun, considering the amount of firepower they have. Be a little wary of the submarine, though. There are times when enemies surround the area where you need to exit the sub, and the sub cannot help you with that. Its torpedoes explode when they reach the surface of the water, and apparently do no damage above the surface. Just something I found annoying as those enemies can get a number of shots into you before you have a chance to kill them.
Altogether I found the game to be action filled, driving me onward and never really giving the player a break. That is not to say there are no segments that you can put away your gun; there are plenty of areas without enemies to shoot. In those areas I found myself wanting to search everywhere, find and do what I could, before getting back to the shooting.
The only real negative about the gameplay experience of Red Faction is that it only lasts about four hours. That is really short, but it did not feel like it was over too quick. Still, once done I must admit I feel no cause to replay the game, except maybe with cheats. Unlimited explosives and every weapon in the game from the beginning sounds like a fun way to keep playing.
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After thirteen years, how does Red Faction stand up? I would say it stands up well as an experience, but this is not exactly a game you are going to be dying to play. It is fun, enjoyable, and well designed, so definitely play it if you have it. There are certainly some modern games that are less enjoyable than this, but that is the limit of its staying power.
Red Faction is still a quality game, and that will always stand the test of time, but its age is showing. The artifacting of the graphics, the limited resolution options, and the short playtime all hurt it some, but if you are looking for a classic game that did gameplay right, this may be exactly what you are looking for.