Red Faction is a gritty and apocalyptic first-person shooter that originally appeared on the PlayStation 2 and PC in 2001, and now, several years later, it's the first of its kind for Nokia's fledgling N-Gage. While it certainly shows off what the system is capable of, that doesn't mean that it is impressive on its own. Featuring clunky controls, choppy animation, and a subpar frame rate, this reworking of a great game isn't one that you'd want to have with you on a desert island.
You play the role of Parker, a miner working deep below the surface of Mars in less than favorable conditions. The game begins when you and your coworkers have had enough of the deplorable working conditions and start a grassroots uprising. Over the course of the game, you'll find yourself below the surface of the planet and will eventually work your way up to the futuristic laboratories and offices of the Ultor Corporation, the evil oppressor you're looking to destroy. While the original game relied heavily on story to move the game along, this version takes several steps back and reduces the game to the basest elements of the genre--find a key, find a door, and shoot things along the way. Those expecting a faithful interpretation of the original game might be disappointed, but deep down the spirit of the game lives on.
Another element that played a big role in the original incarnation of Red Faction was Parker's impressive array of weapons and his ability to blow holes through certain walls. Thankfully, the cache of guns is still present, allowing Parker to off Ultor's guards with varying degrees of ease, and you're still able to destroy certain walls, although the effect is more or less equivalent to that of opening a hidden door rather than modifying the level geometry around you.
Red Faction on the N-Gage looks reasonably impressive when standing still. Once it's set in motion, though, several problems begin to appear. Textures that make up the levels are well drawn, but they are very similar. Most levels offer little variety in terms of their presentation, so your environment gets very hard to navigate as everything begins to look the same. Secondly, the 3D engine has a hard time maintaining a decent frame rate, which gives the game a choppy, uneven feel. The game also offers very rudimentary animation, manifested mostly in the enemies that you encounter. Ultor guards move very stiffly, given that only a few frames of animation bring them to life. After you shoot and kill them, they simply turn into a gigantic burst of blood or just completely disappear without a trace. The game is also sparse in the audio department, offering just a few simple ethereal music tracks, unoriginal gun sounds, and poorly sampled audio to denote when you've been spotted by a guard. On the whole, the game barely resembles the source material that it is based on and is more akin to early first-person shooters like Rise of the Triad or Wolfenstein 3D.
The game's poor presentation is also complemented by a clunky control scheme that takes some getting used to but never reaches the point at which it feels comfortable. The N-Gage's 5 key fires your weapon, while the 2, 4, 6, and 8 keys move Parker around. Buttons 1 and 3 switch between your available weapons, and 7 switches the movement controls to the directional pad, normally used for looking around, thus allowing you to jump by pressing the 2 button. In short, the control scheme is less than desirable, and the fact that you have to press a button to change the control scheme just to jump makes for an unintuitive experience. The control problems ensure that all of the game's modes, even the Bluetooth multiplayer support, aren't much fun at all.
To sum it all up, Red Faction on the N-Gage is a poorly designed mess of a game that fails to hold up to the game that it is based on. While it may be the only choice for first-person shooter fans looking for an N-Gage game, it isn't a good choice at all.