bhlaab's Red Faction II (PC) review

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Short But Sloppy

Red Faction 2 is kind of like if Halo had a more Quake-like focus on explosives. You (more or less) start the game with a grenade launcher that can hold 30 rounds, and you can hold 30 hand grenades on top of that. Hitscan weapons like double uzis, assault rifles, and sniper rifles exist but are either extremely underpowered or take too long between shots. The grenade launcher should be your go-to in most situations. It makes for a more instant-gratification take on Halo-style gameplay and that take is welcome at first.

Unfortunately, in spite of the campaign only being a few hours long, this game is padded like crazy and sloppily put together. Aside from on-rails turret sequences, it's difficult for me to recall any challenges in this game that didn't involve infinitely spawning waves of enemies. Enemies will continue to pile in as you waste ammo, even in areas that are meant to be linear corridor crawl. It's so ridiculous that the game barely makes an effort to mask it. Take out an enemy solider perched off in the distance, and he'll be almost immediately replaced by a new grunt with the same weapon who will take the same position. The few challenges that aren't built around infinite waves of enemies are instead built around finite waves of enemies. Turret sections become comical as you mow down grunt after grunt as they run through the same doorway one at a time. The padding continues as each section lasts roughly twice as long as it ought to. I can't confirm it or anything, but this feels like a game where the developers were in a full-on panic mode to reach deadlines.

Your progress is only saved at the beginning of each segment, so death can send you back quite a ways. All in-engine cutscenes are completely unskippable and the combination of these two factors makes boss fights specifically interminable. The bosses soak up so much damage and almost every boss is backed up by waves of infinitely spawning mooks.

The health system is weird. You have 3 medkits. When your health bar goes to 0 you lose a medkit. Your health bar will regenerate after a delay, but medkits will stay gone unless you pick up a new one off the ground. It works, I suppose, a bit like Halo 1. The problem is that the delay for the regeneration to kick in is so long that the regen might as well not exist at all. The frenetic, explosives-laden gameplay with infinitely spawning guards does not offer many good opportunities to park yourself behind cover and wait for a recharge. It's the worst of both worlds-- you're either far too invincible for the normal course of events, or too short on HP and hand-placed medkit pickups for boss fights and the like.

The game's really short. I beat it in two sittings. I kind of liked it in a garbage B-game kind of way through the first half and utterly hated it during the second. And it was certainly a console-to-PC port made in 2003, because the PC version is bad. The mouse feels like crap, the FOV is low, and there are zero video options. It's the kind of port where you have to count yourself lucky that keys can be rebound.

TL;DR
Red Faction 2 is a mildly enjoyable FPS to begin with, but its penchant for cheaply padding levels with waves and waves of enemy spawns becomes irritating before too long. A lack of checkpoints and the inclusion of unskippable cutscenes make repeating sections obnoxious.

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