PC Review - 'Red Faction II'

by Tristan on May 13, 2003 @ 2:14 a.m. PDT

For 15 years, Chancellor Victor Sopot has oppressed the people of the Commonwealth. His corrupt rule and a relentless war of unification with the United Republic has left the Commonwealth bloodied and impoverished. As distant battles rage, sewage taints Sopot City's rivers, pollution smudges the sky, and wretched citizens huddle in crumbling ruins. The Public Information Building, built by the dictator as a tribute to himself, broadcasts lies about Sopot's bravery and the Commonwealth's military victories.

Genre: Sci-Fi First Person Shooter
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Outrage Games
Date: 01-Apr-2003

The first person shooter (FPS) genre has changed over the years into one of the driving forces behind computer games. With the diversity that comes with first person shooters, they deserve there own sub-genre’s. Of these sub-genre’s would be tactical shooters, basic shoot’em up, fantasy shooters, and the most important of all, sci-fi shooters.

Although, the FPS genre has seen many great titles come and go under all of these sub-genres, the titles that have left their mark have always been from the sci-fi sub-genre. Over the years this sub-genre has been blessed with titles such as Doom, Quake, Half-life, Dues Ex, Unreal and Red Faction. All revolutionary in their own way, these games have left a lasting impression on the gaming community as a whole. Each game or series, not only followed intricate storylines, but also brought about new technologies and new game engines. Volition joined this elite group of sci-fi FPS’s with the release of Red Faction. A shooter based on Mars, where a miners rebellion was about to take place. It was not the involved story alone that made the game so popular, but the introduction of Geo-mod technology. This technology allowed players to alter their surroundings using explosives, making doors where there were none and such.

The success of Red Faction lead to Volition trying to improve upon the few mistakes they made in the first game and look to create a successful sequel. This sequel came in the form of Red Faction II. Red Faction II, is the product of much revision, improved graphics, tweaks to the Geo-mod technology, and a new, involved story line, or so Volition said.

After hearing mixed reviews about Volition’s sequel, it was time to install and take a look. The install was a rather length one as the “Compact” option resulted in an installation of over a gigabyte. Once installed however the game was quite easy to get up and running. Character creation and control setup was not a problem, and the system analyzer set the display settings to run the game perfectly. Right off the bat, Red Faction II was looking much better than the original. The lack of a tutorial could hinder the level of fun some gamers have, but even for someone new to the genre, the game is pretty simple to pick up.

With the configuration finished, the time came to try the game out. The user takes up the role of “Alias”, a demolitions expert on a team of six “super soldiers” that have recently been disowned by their leader “Sopot”. These soldiers were abandoned to develop newer and stronger soldiers. The entire game is based around this team of six working with the Red Faction, a rebel group, to basically kill Sopot. Along the way, the player is given various objectives to accomplish before the final objective, Sopot.

The potential of this game was crushed by the length of it. The game took a little over 5 hours to complete. Volition crammed what could have been an amazing use of Geo-mod and storyline into 5 hours, and in doing so sacrificed much of the game’s potential. What made the original game so great was the fact that it went on forever, there was well over 10 hours of gameplay, which is crucial in today’s gaming industry. Due to the length of the game, the story suffered as well. It started out quite strong and involving, but after about an hour, it went downhill to the point where it was just kill everything.

As revolutionary as it was, Geo-mod wasn’t used nearly enough in Red Faction II, in fact, the game suffered because of its lack of use. In order to truly produce an amazing sequel, Volition would have and should have made every region in the game with the exception of steel and such, destructible. It is just plain fun to be able to blow chunks out of walls and make your own doors; the lack of utilization of Geo-mod really hurt Red Faction II.

Another area that Red Faction II fell apart in was the diversity in enemy player models and game environments. The whole game is set in a war ravaged city, so in areas there are collapsed buildings and highways. Other than the city, there is a laboratory, and a mansion and that is about it. With a short game like Red Faction II, developers cannot afford to use minimal environments. This game could have been saved by a little more diversity in the environments.

Just as the original Half-life suffered for its lack of scientist and enemy models, Red Faction II suffers, as much if not more. With the exception of the super soldiers who were bred to look alike, enemy grunts and such shouldn’t all look the same, there should be at least five or six different models for one type of enemy. The lack in enemy player models isn’t a very big deal, however, all of the little things end up being pretty big.

Regardless of the games downsides, there are still many pluses to the game. Although a brand new game, it will run on older systems running anything better than a GeForce2 MX. Although the system requirements are very low, the game still looks great at higher detail levels. Even though the game is a sci-fi shooter, there is a tactical shooter feel at times which is nice. It’s always a plus when there are controllable vehicles in a game, and this game is no exception. The ability to be a gunner in both the tank and the Aesir fighter (jet-like), and the pilot of the submersible is quite fun.

The graphics in Red Faction II, weren’t quite revolutionary, but were still very nice to say the least. The weapon models were excellently crafted to show off Red Faction II’s visual potential. Although there was a lack in their diversity, the player models were very well done, with modeled eyes, not textured ones. The city was well designed to give an urban feel, which was nice. As nice as the visuals were, they were still quite dated; not many improvements were made over the first game.

The cut-scenes are quite nice, again nothing revolutionary, but still quite nice. The cut-scenes are something to look forward to at the end of every level. All of the cut-scene’s show some action, so it’s like a little action movie reward for completing every level.

The sound was nothing spectacular, environmental sounds were mediocre, and weapon sounds were relatively nice. On a higher note though, the voices were quite well cast, showing emotion where emotion was needed and a coldhearted tone when needed. The explosions took advantage of bass, which was nice; too often there are explosions in games that rely mostly on treble frequencies which is just bad.

As far as multiplayer is concerned, it was quite disappointing to find out that there was no multiplayer. The closest Red Faction II comes to multiplayer is bot match, which is moderately entertaining. The original game was great because the player could play with his/her friends over the internet, which is not the case this time. However, there are quite a few maps in bot match which is nice if the player wants to just do some mindless killing.

Overall, Red Faction II was rather disappointing, riding too much on the success of the original, the game will make money, but at the same time it will disappoint. People will buy this game and be quite impressed until they find out how short is. The length of the game along with the dated graphics and lack of Geo-mod killed the potential that the game had. Even to a die hard Red Faction II fan, this was a half hearted effort by Volition. Hopefully Volition will try to redeem themselves, and create a strong sequel to this. Until then, the Red Faction series has come to an end on a low note.

Score: 7.5 / 10

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