Red Faction Hands-On Impressions

We test out an early version of the N-Gage version of this sci-fi-themed first-person shooter.

One of the early launch titles for Nokia's forthcoming N-Gage portable gaming system will be Red Faction, the hit sci-fi-themed first-person shooter originally designed for the PlayStation 2 and PC. Though previous versions of Red Faction were developed by Volition, this portable version is being handled by Monkeystone Games, a company founded by ex-id Software/ex-Ion Storm staffers John Romero and Tom Hall. Monkeystone is building an original, portable shooter experience based on the original Red Faction storyline, and though the game has a way to go, it looks like it could be fun, especially with the wireless multiplayer features that are planned.

The premise of the game puts players in the role of Parker, an oppressed worker for the Ultor Corporation and its martian mining outfit. The game begins when the proverbial last straw falls--Parker and other miners have finally had it and take up arms against the wicked corporation that's essentially enslaved them. Parker will proceed to blast his way through a series of enemy-infested levels using high-tech pistols, automatic weapons, explosives, and more.

Red Faction looks decent on the N-Gage and offers a level of graphical quality on par with the original Doom as well as the recent Game Boy Advance ports of Doom and its sequel. The game's frame rate is still being optimized and currently runs at about 15 frames per second, delivering a convincing but not altogether smooth 3D gaming experience. The game controls can still use some work. The directional pad moves the player forward and back, and turns the player side to side. Strafing left and right is done by pressing the 4 and 6 keys, respectively, on the right side of the unit, and 5 fires the player's primary weapon. Keys 1 and 3 cycle through your weapons (the original version of Red Faction features more than a dozen different weapons), and 2 is the jump button.

The way the controls are set up, it's somewhat difficult to shoot while strafing side to side, which is a common tactic in first-person shooters. No option to remap the controls is available, so this scheme will likely take some getting used to. The levels we saw looked much like the high-tech environments from previous versions of Red Faction but were sparsely populated since this is still a work in progress. Also, the Geo-Mod feature of the original versions, which allowed players to blow up parts of the environment using explosives and such, will be included in spirit more than in actuality--players will still be able to blast through certain walls, but don't expect to see real-time deformation of level geometry or any such technical wizardry. At any rate, the Geo-Mod feature of the original Red Faction didn't come into play too much to begin with. We also haven't yet had a chance to see vehicles in the game, though previous versions of Red Faction featured a number of controllable vehicles.

As mentioned, Red Faction will feature multiplayer support via Bluetooth technology, presumably allowing players to compete against each other in deathmatch-style battles. The game looks pretty early so far, but it still indicates that the N-Gage can handle a 3D first-person action game such as this, so we're hoping Monkeystone will manage to pull it off.

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