The original Red Faction was a first-person shooter for the PlayStation 2 whose most novel feature allowed you to destroy support columns, blow holes in walls, and otherwise "modify" parts of the game's environment. Though this was a pretty original trick, in execution it ended up being merely a gimmick that was tacked onto what was otherwise a pretty average shooter. Red Faction II appeared on the PlayStation 2 last fall and provided a tighter integration of the world-destruction feature with more-condensed, action-packed combat sequences and less of the corridor crawling that made the first game a little tedious at times. Now Red Faction II is being brought to the GameCube, and the new version for Nintendo's console will provide the same intense action as the original and a few graphical upgrades to go with it.
Red Faction II loosely continues the story line set forth in the original Red Faction. In the first game, you played as Parker, a disgruntled miner on Mars revolting against an unscrupulous mining corporation. Parker joined up with the Red Faction, a liberation front attempting to defeat the corporate oppressors. Red Faction II is set five years later on Earth, and it places you in the shoes of a super soldier code-named Alias. Alias and his five nanotech-enhanced cohorts are collaborating with the Red Faction in their fight to remove the corrupt Chancellor Sopot from power and topple his regime. Alias is a demolitions expert, and each member of his team has a specialty, such as vehicles, stealth, or heavy weapons.
Red Faction II is mostly about straight run-and-gun action. The game's action scenes are tightly packed with firefights, scripted events, and vehicle combat. And of course, since this is a Red Faction game, the destruction of the environment comes heavily into play. The last game made this feature mostly optional, but Red Faction II does a much better job of making the world-destroying ability key to success. You're often required to use your head and your heavy weaponry to find a way around a dead end or approach an obstacle from a different angle. The game actually makes you rethink the way you play first-person shooters, since a wall is no longer an immovable barrier. If you can't find a door to exit through, often you can simply make your own.
With all these enemies to kill and walls to blow up, you'll need a hefty armament, and fortunately Red Faction II doesn't skimp in this department. The game provides you with 15 weapons, which run the gamut from the standard pistol, submachine gun, and assault rifle to a handheld grenade launcher and the first game's famous rail driver. As a demo expert, Alias will have control of a slew of explosives that you can use to carve a path through the game's environments. In addition to the ground combat, Red Faction II features occasional vehicular interludes that help spice up the action on foot. The first game's personal submarine makes a return here, along with a tank and a hover flyer in which you get to act as gunner. Finally, you'll eventually get a mech-like suit of powered armor that lets you mow down huge numbers of troops with ease. The basic combat is nicely done on its own, but the variety provided by these vehicles is a welcome touch.
The content of Red Faction II really hasn't changed in its transition to the GameCube. The single-player campaign is identical in terms of content and length, and the multiplayer maps and modes are the same as well. Thankfully, the graphics in Red Faction II for the GameCube are noticeably better than those found in the original game. Probably the biggest visual failings of the PS2 version were the low resolution and the rather inconsistent frame rate, but the graphics in the GameCube edition somewhat alleviate these problems. Everything looks a bit brighter and cleaner overall, and though the frame rate isn't perfect, it's certainly higher than that of the original. THQ says the GameCube version of Red Faction II features "custom animations," and indeed the characters do seem to animate more smoothly and seamlessly than they did on the PS2. The game also does a fairly good job of adapting its control scheme to the somewhat quirky GameCube controller, though it may take a little longer to get used to than in the original.
Red Faction II for the GameCube is shaping up to be a solid and well-made action game. It features some pretty good voice talent, such as Jason Statham, who appeared in Snatch and The Transporter, and Lance Henriksen, who is best known as the android Bishop from Aliens. Pro voice talent has become a big deal in games lately, and here it really adds to the feel of the game. The GameCube's first-person shooter lineup could always use a boost, and Red Faction II will give it exactly that when it's released toward the end of March.