Red Faction Updated Preview
We've already played through the single-player campaign in earlier builds, but what can you expect out of Red Faction's multiplayer component?
Ever since Red Faction's announcement nearly two years ago, we've had numerous opportunities to play parts of this upcoming first-person shooter's single-player campaign. Whether it's at THQ's Southern California offices or at the company's annual press event in Las Vegas, we're no strangers to Parker, the Ultor Corporation, and the other famous names that you'll find in Red Faction when it is released this September for the PC. In fact, save for slightly lower resolution, the PlayStation 2 version of the game that was released a few months ago is identical to the PC version--with one small difference: the multiplayer component. The PlayStation 2 version of Red Faction had nine straightforward multiplayer-specific levels that could be played either with or against human- or AI-controlled opponents, and up until recently, it was unknown how the PC version would be different, if at all. We're happy to report that THQ and Volition went back to the drawing board when it came time to design the game's multiplayer component--we've been playing the latest build of the PC version of the game, and it's significantly improved over the console version.
The biggest such difference is the shear number of multiplayer maps. Red Faction will have 18 different death match maps and seven capture-the-flag levels. And these aren't just mundane levels created as afterthoughts. Each of the 25 multiplayer levels in the game is designed to take specific advantage of Red Faction's unique Geo-Mod engine, which, as most fans know by now, is the technology that lets certain explosive weapons blast permanent holes in the terrain. From a level-design point of view, this technological feature can be a nightmare. After all, level designers spend weeks and sometimes months making sure that a map is balanced and playable. Add a weapon that can deform parts of that level into the equation, and you threaten to destroy the delicate balance of that map. To address that concern, the designers at Volition made only certain parts of the multiplayer map "Geo-Modable," in effect limiting what you can and can't destroy. One of the maps that best demonstrates the limited amount of destructible terrain is called "ctf1." Fashioned after a simple Quake II CTF level, this map is composed of two bases that are facing each other about 100 yards apart--between them lie about a dozen odd-shaped walls for taking up defensive positions behind. The idea here is that you will fire off a few shots from behind the cover of these walls, advance to the next wall, and repeat the process until you reach the opposition's base. These walls are destructible, however, which will force you to keep moving from wall to wall. After an extended match, the 100-yard long courtyard will be completely devoid of any protection, thus gradually changing the map's pacing as time goes on.
Red Faction's Geo-Mod technology also adds another twist to the standard deathmatch and CTF gameplay. Destructible walls not only make camping behind an object or within a certain room a lot tougher, but they also make for some interesting defensive techniques--one of these is creating and jumping into a 4-foot crater at the end of a hallway, thus providing you with protection while still making it easy for you to pick off incoming enemies. Still, all it would take is a well-placed grenade or rocket to take out anyone in one of these craters.
Other Multiplayer Mechanics
It seems that camping is a multiplayer convention of action gaming that Volition wants to do away with, because not only does Red Faction have a number of weapons that can devastate some walls, but it also contains weapons that can actually see through walls. The rocket launcher, for instance, has a side-mounted monitor that displays the outlines of people directly in its line of fire, even if they're behind a solid object or in another room, making it easy to blast your way to them. Another weapon, the massive shoulder cannon (Red Faction's version of the BFG), also has a similar monitor. While you'll only be able to find a handful of ammo for this Howitzer of sorts in each level, a single blow from the shoulder cannon can literally punch a hole in a wall big enough to drive a tank through. Red Faction even has a third weapon designed to turn a camper's life into a nightmare. This one, called the railgun, fires a single shot of supercooled mercury through any wall or object, whether that wall is destructible or not. The railgun's alternate mode of fire is an X-ray scope similar to the railgun in Eraser. It can see enemies within a 25-yard radius in any direction--even those above or below you. In the small multiplayer maps of the game, no one is safe from the railgun, especially those who hover around a single area for an extended period of time.
Another map that demonstrates the benefits of Red Faction's Geo-Mod technology is ctf7. This level is similar to ctf1 in that two opposing bases are located in close proximity to each other, and the only thing separating them is a quad lined with walls. Anyone who's played cs_speedball in Counter-Strike will be familiar with this level. The difference, of course, between cs_speedball and ctf7 is that the enter quad of the latter map can be destroyed. Eventually, the level will be simply reduced to two bases with a pile of rubble in the middle.
Red Faction's deathmatch maps are a little larger and a bit more varied in their design than their CTF counterparts. Most of these levels are arenalike in their construction, and some look a lot like Quake III Arena maps. You'll find jump pads in many of these areas, and almost all of the maps have a little less gravity than most people are probably accustomed to (the game does take place on Mars, after all), making the action a bit faster than most games but still not quite as twitch-based as Quake III. Not all of the deathmatch maps are designed in this fashion, however. Dm7, for instance, is a massive network of underground caverns that can open up to be as wide as a large room and can get narrow enough to the point where only one person would be able to squeeze through at a time. Additionally, dm7 has a number of X's painted along some of the walls. By blasting through these walls, you'll be able to create your own tunnels that will eventually connect to other areas of the level. After a while, enough new tunnels will thoroughly confuse anyone who'd committed the original level's layout to memory.
It's these small but meaningful twists on the typical deathmatch and capture-the-flag facets that make Red Faction's multiplayer component so much fun to play. The build we received was nearly complete, and THQ doesn't expect any delays in getting the game on store shelves by the first week of September. Based on what we saw of the game, it's clear that Red Faction will offer first-person shooter fans a multiplayer experience that no other game has delivered to date. It'll certainly be interesting to see whether or not the game will have as long a run as Counter-Strike, Unreal Tournament, and Quake III Arena.
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