Red Faction 2 Preview
We check out the next installment of THQ and Volition's impressive first person shooter.
One of the first really good PlayStation 2 first-person shooters was Volition's Red Faction. A solid control setup, engaging gameplay, and an impressive environmental deformation feature helped the game stand as an example of how a first-person shooter should be done on a console. We've just recently received an early version of the sequel, appropriately titled Red Faction II, which has been in the works for quite a while now. After spending some time with Red Faction II, it's apparent that Volition has set out to make a much more refined game that will attempt to give you more control and better puzzles and tell a better story.
Red Faction II's story picks up five years after the events featured in the original Red Faction, but it doesn't really require any knowledge of the first game's plot. The basis of the story for the sequel surrounds six soldiers who've been enhanced by nanotechnology that gives each of them unique powers. These supersoldiers decide to fight against the very government they serve in an attempt to save their decaying country from the treacherous Chancellor Sopot. You'll take the role of Alias, one of the supersoldiers who have chosen to turn against the corrupt government.
The gameplay in Red Faction II stays fairly true to the original game in its style and feel but adds quite a few new elements as well. The most significant addition is that you have five teammates at your side. Each teammate has a specific ability, such as stealth, or a specific job, such as electronics expert, demolition expert, sniper, heavy gunner, vehicle expert, and armed-combat expert. You don't actually control your teammates in any way. Instead the game's AI takes command and puts them where they can maximize the use of their special abilities. For instance, if you come across a broken door that needs to be opened, your electronics expert will automatically start repairing the door. If you come into a large open area full of enemy soldiers, your sniper will go ahead and zero in on them. In addition to providing support, your teammates also give you good advice, in the form of verbal instructions, on how to accomplish your immediate goals. If you get in a tough spot, one of your squad members may remind you that you have the ability to blow holes in the wall or that a nearby ventilation shaft may provide a safer passageway. While these additions are certainly welcome, as they provide a change of pace from the action and tell a better story, Red Faction II's most notable gameplay element is still its destructible environments. The game's Geo-Mod engine lets you launch rockets, throw grenades, or use any explosive device to blow holes through walls, floors, ceilings, and anything else that isn't metal. While it was a very cool feature in the original game, the effect was limited by the lack of motivation to exploit it. The sequel seems, at least in the first part of the game, to give you plenty of reasons to blow stuff up and 14 different weapons to do it with. You'll also be able to use four vehicles, including a tank, a hover flyer, and a submarine. Very early on in the game you'll find yourself manning the guns mounted to the bottom hover flyer as you fly through a Blade Runner-esque city blasting enemy hover flyers with missiles and machine gun fire. This portion of the game is already incredibly cool and a lot of fun to play.
Playing the Game
The actual control configuration in Red Faction II hasn't really changed that much, but some new abilities have been added. One of our favorites is the way the action of the secondary fire button changes when you're holding dual weapons. The setup will now change the button to a primary fire button for the additional weapon. For example, when you pull out a set of dual pistols or dual machine guns, you can fire each weapon independently of the other using the L1 and R1 buttons. The L1 button fires the gun in your left hand, while the R1 button fires the gun in your right hand. While simple, this new mechanic seems to make Red Faction II's firefights a little more intense than those in the previous game. You can also throw a grenade or use an item without having to holster your primary weapon.
While the controls of the game work well with the PS2 controller, Volition has graciously added in USB mouse and keyboard support, which, as first-person shooter fans know, is the preferred control scheme for the genre. It's just unfortunate that the game will not have any online support, although you can get up to four human players on one PS2 with two AI bots thrown into the mix. You can customize the bots to play how you'd like, but even in the game's current stage of development the default bots are already pretty good, although their AI could use some tweaking to make them strafe-fire a bit more instead of just standing still and firing.
In an attempt to give Red Faction II's single-player mission some replay value, which was something some players thought the first game lacked, Volition has put a karma system in the game. Simply put, if you are the type of first-person shooter player who likes to blast innocent bystanders as you make your way through the game, you'll get a less impressive ending. If you try to preserve innocent human life, you'll get the good ending. There are said to be multiple endings that depend on the state of your karma at the end of the game.
Already it's easy to see the visual enhancements Volition has made to Red Faction II. The character models, textures, lighting, and just about everything in the game already look significantly more impressive than in the first game. The Geo-Mod effects are about the same, except that it seems like a lot more of the environments and objects are destructible. The frame rate is still a bit lower than we'd like to see, but hopefully we'll see that improve with time.
While we'll have to wait and see just how well Red Faction II continues to shape up before commenting further, its fair to say that we like what we've seen so far. Fans of Red Faction should definitely be excited about Red Faction II, especially if Volition improves the game's frame rate and AI and includes more Geo-Mod puzzles throughout the rest of the game before it ships at the end of the October.
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