Red Faction II Review
Red Faction II is one of the year's best console shooters, and it's sure to please fans of the first game.
Filled with the sort of over-the-top violence and cheeky futuristic propaganda seen in Paul Verhoeven's popular sci-fi films Robocop, Total Recall, and Starship Troopers, Red Faction II is a successful sequel to last year's popular PS2 first-person shooter. It's got all the stuff that made the previous game a hit: lots of powerful weapons, lots of enemy fodder, a number of vehicles you can ride in, and some good multiplayer features. Red Faction II doesn't stray far from the first game's formula, but it improves upon the original while presenting a new storyline with a new cast of characters. And while the single-player campaign is pretty short, and the multiplayer portion has limitations of its own, Red Faction II is still one of the year's best console shooters, and it's sure to please fans of the first game.
Red Faction II takes place in the same universe as the first game: the 22nd century, where humankind is ruled by an evil dictatorship, and only the freedom fighters who call themselves the Red Faction are able to stand in its way. Parker, the hero of the first game, is nowhere to be found here. Instead, this sequel introduces a nanotech-enhanced soldier called Alias, whom you'll play as during the course of the single-player campaign. Alias is part of an elite squad developed to suppress insurgents like the Red Faction--but the squad has turned coats and now seeks to rid the world of Chancellor Sopot, the man at the root of the Commonwealth's strife and poverty. The plot is pretty thin, and the twist that's thrown in about halfway through seems ridiculous, but at least the story doesn't get in the way of the action. In your mission to assassinate Sopot, and then quell an even greater threat, you'll travel by air, sea, and land while taking on droves of enemies and numerous challenging situations in a diverse and tightly paced series of levels.
Most single-player first-person shooters aren't very long, and Red Faction II is no exception. Even though you'll run into several tough boss battles when playing through the game at the normal difficulty setting, expect to get through the campaign in approximately seven hours. As if to make up for the relatively short length of the campaign, the designers made sure that there's never a dull moment in it. The very first mission has Alias blowing an enemy base to bits using a weapon that fires both rockets and grenades, and things never really let up from there. The flow of the action does slow down on a couple of occasions, such as when you'll be forced to outwit enemy snipers using your own high-powered long-range rifle, but even those sequences are intense. If you've played a ton of other shooters, you won't find much in Red Faction II that's completely different from what you've seen before, but the game hits all the right notes, doesn't ever get boring, and packs in lots of variety.
Much like in the first game, the variety in Red Faction II comes largely from having an occasional in-vehicle sequence to break up all the action on foot. Each of the four vehicles in Red Faction II is remarkably powerful, and they all make for some highly entertaining shooting sequences. The vehicles aren't simulated with the nearly same level of realism as the vehicles in last year's superlative Xbox shooter Halo, but they make up for it with good looks and raw firepower. When you're flying high through the air between skyscrapers in the gunship or crashing through war-torn city streets in the tank, the game effectively becomes a rail shooter--you're just the gunner, and your job is to blow up any enemies that get in your way as Shrike, your squad's vehicles expert, steers you through some seriously hostile territory. But when you're in the submarine or the battle armor, you actually get to navigate as well as shoot. All the vehicle sequences are fun while they last, even though they're relatively easy and simple compared with the standard action. You'll especially like the battle armor, which is basically an assault mech bristling with Gatling guns and missiles. You'll take on entire armies in this thing.
Then again, you'll take on entire armies on foot, too. Though you'll sometimes fight alongside one of your squadmates, you'll usually go at it alone, and a slew of high-powered, over-the-top weapons are available for quickly eliminating enemies individually or in groups. Fans of the first Red Faction game will be pleased to find that most of their favorite weapons have returned and are joined by a number of new ones, making for well over a dozen different weapons in all, ranging from deadly small arms to devastating artillery. Speaking of which, as in the first game, in Red Faction II you can use explosive weapons to literally blast through walls. The developers made a really big deal of this with the original game, even though the ability didn't come into play very often. It's put to better use in the sequel, where at times you'll end up making yourself an entryway if you can't find one that suits you. The fact that your character is a demolitions expert certainly justifies all this.
Explosive or not, every weapon of yours has an alternate firing mode or some other special ability. For instance, fans of Red Faction will know that the rail driver allows you to target and shoot enemies who are on the other side of walls or obstacles. They'll also know that the precision rifle points you to enemies in the vicinity when you're looking through its scope. All this hardware packs a satisfying punch and looks great in action, though the weapon that will likely get the most use is the NICW, an assault rifle with rocket-propelled grenade launcher and a built-in targeting system, evidently modeled after the US military's next-generation Objective Individual Combat Weapon. An all-purpose firearm, the NICW can get you through virtually any encounter. You'll appreciate that this and most other weapons in your arsenal are so effective, though you might find it odd that you can carry all the game's weapons simultaneously.