Red Faction Hands-On

Red Faction is the shooter that allows you to use explosives to deform terrain. We recently had a chance to sit down with the game.

Red Faction--Volition's upcoming first-person shooter--seems to be in full working order. THQ, the game's publisher, recently brought the game to our offices for a short demo, and we were thoroughly impressed with its graphical sheen and inventive gameplay.

Everyone is already familiar with Red Faction's most notable addition to the genre--it allows players to shoot (and damage) the walls. Not only the walls, but also the ground, the ceiling, and most any other nonmetal surface you'll encounter. Aside from being quite novel and satisfying, this feature--"geomoding" as the developer calls it--lends the game a level of strategy not found in other FPS's. Walls can be burrowed into for the purposes of creating cover, stalactites can be shot down onto oncoming foes, and locked doors can be blown out of your way. And it all worked, during our demo of the game--in one instance, we were able to blast the side of a wall with a rocket launcher and create a tunnel at least 50 feet deep. The environments deform in real time, creating realistic-looking damage that is unique in each occurrence, despite its scripted-looking appearance. The effect is very convincing, and it has to be experienced first-hand to be truly appreciated.

THQ showed us several of the game's levels during the demo. They seem to be heavily scripted, and the game at large seems very story-driven; the company's representatives likened it to Half-Life and said that the developers were focusing on creating an engaging single-player experience. The first few levels take place on the Martian mining facility in which the game begins. True to the theme of revolution that Volition seems to be concentrating on, there were several scenes of Martian cops beating on revolting miners with vicious cattle prods. Heavily scripted and totally interactive, the scenes did much to urge us into action; gun in hand, we were eager to aid the abused miners and get the action started in earnest. Another level in the demo took place within a minisub of sorts. Prior to starting it, we had to destroy a layer of hard ice around it in order to allow it to submerge. Once under, we were able to control the sub via the same scheme we used to control the character, and it worked quite well. Further, we encountered a hostile enemy sub that fired a barrage of torpedoes our way. Though we ended up getting our sub blasted to bits, we were able to swim away and reach our ultimate destination.

During the demo of the game's levels, we were able to get a good feel for the game's weapons. None of them are truly unusual; the selection consists of your standard assortment of assault rifles, automatic weapons, handguns, shotguns, and heavy weapons. Every weapon--from the automatic shotgun to the BFG--offered a secondary firing option, which slightly alters the strategy associated with each weapon.

Visually, the game seemed to be in good shape. The textures were as gritty as you'd expect from a Martian industrial complex, and the character models were in keeping with that theme. There were some performance issues with the build THQ had on display, but we were assured that Volition is working nonstop to settle them before the game's release. We were told that the final version of the game will consistently move at a minimum of 30 fps, with higher speeds being very common.

We're very excited about Red Faction, and we're expecting an update very soon. The game will be available this March.

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