ECTS: Red Faction

We take a hands-on look at Volition's upcoming first-person shooter.

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While at the THQ booth, we had a chance to play an early build of Volition's upcoming first-person shooter, Red Faction. Visually, the game has progressed considerably since its debut at E3. Alan Lawrence, the game's lead designer, explained that the company had implemented 32-bit color depth and resolutions beyond 800x600 in this latest build - features that were missing from the E3 demo. We played the game for half an hour and were impressed by the new technology Volition had implemented in the game.

By now, it's been made clear that the game's most notable feature is the "Geo-Mod" engine, the technology that enables complete deformation of your surroundings within each level. Lawrence admits that there's the potential for a complete level-design headache, since the Geo-Mod lets you punch holes through walls, structures, and just about any other solid object. To compensate, Volition only made certain parts of each stage deformable, which in essence limits the player's ability to make his own exits. Watching the Geo-Mod technology firsthand is really quite impressive, especially in the caverns, where your weapons can blow right through sheets of ice and frozen lakes.

Red Faction will have six vehicles in all, three of which were playable in this build. The first is a heavily armored drilling machine, reminiscent of the ones in the movie Total Recall. The drill makes full use of the game's Geo-Mod engine, and can create tunnels in just about any area. The second vehicle is a small submarine that's equipped with torpedoes. While piloting this vehicle, we encountered another sub, and a brief torpedo war ensued. The effect of the enemy sub's hull cracking and imploding under pressure of the water is amazing - Lawrence said that the designers spent three days nonstop perfecting that single effect. The last vehicle we saw was the fighter, which features a nose-mounted gattling gun and an attack that launches a salvo of unguided rockets. This hovercraft flies a lot like Descent's Pyro-GX, only without the ability to rotate.

We also spent a good deal of time testing some of the weapons. While the final game will have a lot more, the build we played had only five: satchel charges, a pistol, a sniper rifle, an assault rifle, and a rocket launcher. The charge, pistol, and sniper rifle are fairly typical of first-person shooters. The assault rifle's primary mode of fire is a triple burst, while the secondary is fully automatic. The rocket launcher's ammo actually arcs after traveling in the air for a while, so it's not all that useful for long-distance combat unless you use the secondary mode of fire, which gives the rockets the ability to home in on their targets.

Red Faction certainly impressed us, and if Volition speeds up the gameplay and streamlines the control, then the game could certainly end up as one of the best shooters of 2001. The PC version of Red Faction is scheduled for release around April of next year.

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