Red Faction was a pleasant surprise back in the summer of 2001. The game featured a cool science fiction storyline, good character development, nice visuals and tight in-game controls. It was easily comparable to Total Recall, the classic Arnold movie directed by Paul Verhoeven. A new technology was introduced in the form of what Volition, the developer, termed Geo-Mod technology. Briefly, Geo-Mod technology allowed players to interact with the environment more intimately through the ability to blast through walls and caverns. In effect, opening up alternative paths and secrets in addition to just looking plain cool. One of my favourite moments came early in the game when I was able to take control of a turret and turn an entire floor in little pieces. It felt exhilarating to take out enemies through walls with pieces of concrete flying everywhere. Unfortunately, the same feelings did not occur in the follow up, Red Faction 2. A new story is presented which is flat and the game play has not been forwarded as expected for a sequel.
Visually, Red Faction 2 is somewhat of an improvement over the first installation. Environments use varied textures and lighting to convey different levels of intensity and realism. Character animation has been cleaned up substantially since the last game. Perhaps most noticeable are the explosion and weapon firing details which can be quite spectacular. All of the vehicles that can be commandeered also look good and are highly detailed. I guess my biggest problem is that the Geo-Mod technology does not look as good as it did in the first game. Sure, you can take chunks out of buildings and things like that but they do not have the same impact as they did before. This may be due to the fact that other games have used similar technology or that the developers here did not use the technology as creatively as they could have. The voice acting in Red Faction 2 is top quality thanks to Hollywood talent such as Lance Henrickson of Alien fame who has a very distinctive deep voice that lends itself well to any type of game. The soundtrack is very applaudable as are the sound effects, which make good use of your subwoofer if you have a 5.1 audio configuration.
In first person shooters, the game play is key to captivating the player. While the control mechanism in place is tight, the actual elements of the game seem tiresome in a time where this genre needs a major facelift. Most of the game elements are uninspired. It seems at times you go over and over the same routine to get onto another level of the game thing. As already mentioned the much-hyped Geo-Mod technology does nothing here to either enhance the game or make it even necessary to proceed throughout the journey. The A.I. is awful here, as when you restart a level after death, you will know exactly what to do to improve your chances of completing the area. The enemies are supposed to be nano enhanced, yet they do not seem to function anywhere near an advanced human because they are too predictable. Not all is lost however, thanks to excellent weapons, which are used to wreak major havoc. Another nice addition borrowed from the success of Halo is the rechargeable shield that allows players to do a little hide and shoot action if they so desire. Lastly, the multiplayer modes are great fun. Setting variables such as aggression can create bot personalities. Another neat feature in this area of the game is the ability to team up with, or against, teams of bots with friends in games such as Bagman and Death match.
Red Faction 2 was not the step forward for the genre we were hoping for, but it does offer some enjoyable moments both in the single and multiplayer games. It is a nice alternative for those bored with or finished Timesplitters 2.