ECTSRed Faction Hands-On
THQ was showing off their PS2 first-person shooter behind closed doors at its booth at ECTS and GameSpot had the opportunity to spend a little quality time with it.
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Hidden behind secure doors in THQ's booth at ECTS was a build of Red Faction, one of the most promising PS2 games yet announced. Although a far cry from the final version, the build THQ was showing select members of the press contained enough impressive aspects to keep us almost awestruck.
The futuristic plot of Red Faction is thick with corrupt mega-corporations, alien worlds and beings, an unsolved mystery, and of course, plenty of violence. The game's hero is a miner stationed on Mars - your average, everyday blue collar type who discovers that several miners are dying from a mysterious disease. The corrupt corporation our hero works for denies the disease is a threat and ignores the lives of the miners they send to die in the mines. Fed up, our hero decides to investigate the disease himself, and if that causes the corporation some property damage while he's at it he won't mind much.
Red Faction's most impressive feature is easily the revolutionary Geo-Mod technology Volition designed specifically for the game. Short for Geographical Modification, the Geo-Mod technology allows the player to affect and alter his surroundings in a realistic manner. The most dramatic presentation of this technology is the player's ability to hollow out walls, destroy pillars, and create his own exit using explosives. But the effect is not just limited to simply making holes in walls - a carefully placed rocket can cause harmful debris to fall on enemies, destroy support pillars and cause cave-ins, and even create foxholes. Because reckless use of rockets or explosives might lead to some disappointing gameplay, Volition is limiting the amount of textures that are affected by the Geo-Mod technology, which simply keeps the player on somewhat of a path. But blowing up your environment isn't the only thing the Geo-Mod technology is good for. The technology is also used to create amazing physics that affect not only every game object, but the environment as well. For example, Alan Lawrence, the game's lead designer showed me a test room with a vent that poured steam onto the room floor. That was impressive enough, but once he activated a fan in the room the steam started to react to the wind it swirled and moved about in an amazingly realistic manner. Not only that, he demonstrated that wind also affects your aim. Long range shots fired through wind will indeed be influenced by the force and the player will have to compensate for it. The game also features gravity that affects the player's shots - fire a few rockets straight into the air and they'll return to the ground soon after - additionally the longer your shot the higher you'll have to aim, as gravity will pull your round to the planet. Watching the Geo-Mod technology in action is enough to make your jaw drop - the ability to remake your surroundings as you see fit has not only never been done in a console first-person shooter, it's never been done on any first-person shooter.
Not only does the game feature a wide range of levels, but you'll actually get to deviate from the standard first-person shooting to pilot any of the game's six different vehicles. The vehicles we've seen so far is a troop transport with turret guns mounted on it, a torpedo equipped submarine, a VTOL fighter that controls exactly like the crafts in Descent, and a lumbering armored drilling machine reminiscent of the driller Benny piloted in Total Recall. Each of the different vehicles will have their own special weapons as well as their own special abilities - the driller can make huge tunnels in no time at all, and the VTOL and submarine can explore new areas of the game. Additionally, the game will feature 15 different weapons, each of which has two separate fire modes. We've seen a pistol, an explosive charge, an assault rifle, a sniper rifle, and a rocket launcher, not to mention the occasional gun turret you can control. Volition is keeping the details of the final weapons and vehicles a secret for now.
Red Faction has visuals that will be envied by first-person shooters that might suddenly feel inadequate. Though the game only featured a few different levels, the textures and backgrounds are simply enchanting. The game is fully anti-aliased, and though it isn't running in high-res mode quite yet, Volition promised Red Faction would indeed run in high-res mode by the time the game ships. Some of the animated effects are simply mind-boggling, and even though the game is a quite a bit away from a release date it has the most accurate and visually stunning glass shattering effect seen in a console game. The characters all look very good, with a much more rounded style than Summoner, Volition and THQ's other PS2 game. Each of the game's characters has 17 different death animations that run depending on their hit location and what type of ammunition you used. Volition is mixing all of these ingredients to make Red Faction one hot cookie.
With an amazingly accurate physics engine and the exclusive Geo-Mod technology, Red Faction could easily redefine the first-person shooter. If Volition tightens the sometimes sluggish controls and stuffs all the flashy goodies we've seen in the demo build into the final version of the game without sacrificing the framerate or load times, Red Faction could be the new yardstick for PS2 games. Expect to see Red Faction at a store near you around the tail end of next year.