The Revolution of Yesterday
With all the turmoil in the world today, it is kind of hard to fathom that so much has been the cause by those in power. Dictators, totalitarianism movements, capitalists, communists, fascists, every –ist under the sun practically can be attributed to some atrocity that has occurred in the past. Enter revolutions, revolts of organized resistance that occur against oppressing powers of varying success.
While this is pretty much an ebb and flow in the real world. In the realm of video games few stories actually follow this plot. One notable exception is “Red Faction” the brainchild of Violition Inc, the creators of games such as “Saint’s Row.” “Red Faction” has you star as a miner named Parker, who after moving to the new colony of Mars as an employer of the Ultor Corporation, is thrusted into the savage corporate dealings and mistreatment of employees that all evil corporations do, bastards like no other to pull at the players emotions. After a full scale revolt happens, you are thrusted into the resistance movement known as the “Red Faction,” led by Eos, a freedom fighter who wants to take power away from the evil Ultor Empire.
While much of the game is bland and uninspired in todays terms of graphical prowess and storyline structure, what makes it stand out is the fact that it had well done production values for an early PS2 games. The world was fairly seamless, the levels had a degree of exploration that you can follow, and the concept was pretty fresh. What kills it though was early attempts at a strong control scheme.
First person shooters in 2001 weren’t really in vogue yet, which is ironic if you look at the market now. The controls were sticky, turning was slow, and you had to hold buttons to run, change weapons, crawl, and the like. Another problem was that the autolock sometimes messed up where you were aiming, which is thankfully rectified by changing the control scheme to match your play style. Still, the stiffness of the controls hinders the game, and since First person shooters need some quick reflexes at times, it becomes a hindrance in the long run.
And while the premise is very clever, the way the story is told is very flat. Most of your interactions are with your enemies, as you get instructions by various NPC characters through communications in your ear, be it specific objectives or directions to escape a certain part of the level. At times you see friendly NPC’s, but most of the time they are crushed by the foes you fight. It is also upsetting to see very little variety in your enemies. You have security guards, officers, commando’s and robots , plus a random tank battle here and there, but not much else.
The games biggest problem is that it seems like the story is happening AROUND you, rather than you participating actively in the entire resistance movement. While Violition get’s closer to achieving this feat in later games, here it is more of you just trying to survive, at least initially, over trying to destroy the Ultor Corporation. Later levels try to rectify that, but by then the entire idea of sparking a revolution is almost a lost cause.It also doesn’t help that the game also has trouble keeping the story coherent, throwing in a mutant virus sub-plot and corporate espionage that have little or no bearing to the main story, unless if you count the new enemies or reasons for revolution to be a plot device.
The game was at the time graphically a powerhouse. Every character had stiff movement, like in Goldeneye, but they also had weight and a degree of detail on them. The environments are somewhat inspired, although a ton of the levels have you navigate the underbelly of mars rather than the corporate offices. One of the gimmicks the game had was a geo-mod technology, which let you put craters and such into the landscape. While cool and fresh at the time, in hindsight it was really only useful once or twice in the game.
The music is all standard as well. Everything is generic, from the blasting of guns to the groans of your enemies. A lot of archaic practices from FPS’s seep into the game, but this was before Halo was a hit, remember. One thing that annoyed me was the voice acting. It was ok for the main cast, but the generic grunts and even your Red Faction allies all sounded the same, right down to their death groans. It becomes grating after a while to hear the same three sound bytes as you blast enemies away.
Overall through, “Red Faction” was a good attempt at making something new, taking advantage of the technology that the Playstation 2 had at the time. While it is totally outdated by today's standards, it was cutting edge and fresh, despite some minor annoyances with the controls and sounds. This revolution is likely to be conquered in the future, but it was strong enough to get a good start at least, and in retrospect it put Violiation on the map as a competent, if still journeymen, development team. All I can say is the revolution will come, but this will have to do for now.
Final Score- B