Sunday, February 28, 2016

Mars game review - Red Faction

Red Faction logo
Red Faction (2001) is a classic first-person shooter (FPS) game. It's one of the first 3D computer games set on Mars and despite its old age - still the greatest. No wonder there were made several sequels in the form of computer games and even a TV movie.

Red Faction depicts a miner revolution against oppressive corporation conducting some nasty biological experiments in a Martian colony in 2075. The most innovative feature of this game is its Geo-Mod engine which allows to create fully destructible game world.


Red Faction starts with the game's protagonist (you) Parker arriving at Martian mining colony with hopes of starting a new life away from his parents. Earth’s minerals are being depleted and humanity needs more and more of them. The Ultor Corporation runs the mining and research operations on Mars and is promising for potential fortune seekers high income and new horizons on a fresh planet. But the reality turns out to be not as bright - living conditions for the miners are poor, the guards are brutal and a deadly disease "The Plague" is spreading among the workers. Rumors are it is purposedly made by Ultor's scientists.

Where false promises meets discontent a rebellion is born
Parker is ending his routine mining shift when a daily strife between the miners and the guards spark an armed rebellion. Turns out the growing discontent of Ultor's rule has created an underground resistance force called "Red Faction", which now finally takes real action against the oppressors. Parker joins the rebellion and together with other miners is starting to fight his way out of mines with the helpful radio-guidance of Red Faction's leader Eos and Ultor's technician Hendrix. Parker is guided to join up with a group of miners who are about to steal a supply shuttle and escape the mining complex, but he arrives too late... luckily - the shuttle takes off and is immediately destroyed by Ultor's missiles.

It's now clear that escaping Mars won't be an easy task. Parker goes to Ultor's geothermal plant deep underground, sabotages it and through underwater tunnel enters the administrative complex of Ultor. There he kidnaps a high-ranking Ultor administrator, Gryphon, who turns out to be a Red Faction sympathizer willing to share his knowledge of Ultor's secrets to Red Faction. The man behind "The Plague" is Ultor's head scientist Dr. Capek who has been experimenting with nanotechnology and "The Plague" is a side-effect of injections at the miners' annual medical checkup. Parker tracks down Capek in his underground laboratory and with the help of Eos finishes him.
Before his death Capek tells that there is a cure for "The Plague", but refuses to give it away and initiates the self-destruction of his lab. Eos stays to search for Capek's files, but Parker heads for the communications center to send a distress message to Earth Defense Force (EDF) and then destroys Ultor's short-range missile defense system. Meanwhile he encounters more deadly enemies - Masako's mercenaries - who are taking over the security for Ultor from its regular guards.

No, those are not craters on Mars, these are bullet marks
No one can enter Mars' vicinity without confronting Ultor's long-range laser defense system in the orbit of Mars, so it is the next target for Parker. He manages to enter the shuttle heading for it and destroys it, escaping the blast in an escape pod. The pod lands back on Mars near the place where Red Faction is making its final assault against the fortress of Masako's mercenaries. Hendrix has learnt out that the mercenaries have orders to destroy the mining complex, covering up any proof of Ultor's wrongdoing. Parker fights his way through the fortress, but Hendrix falls into a trap and is killed. Soon Parker confronts the mercenary leader - colonel Masako - and kills her. He discovers Eos tied next to an atomic(?) bomb and disables it in the last seconds (it is a time-rush game by itself). Now the EDF drop-ships arrive, saving them from the remaining Ultor's fighter craft. Eos tells Parker the cure for "The Plague" is made but she is fed up with Mars and he can live his remaining life here like a local hero.

The story of Martian colonists struggling for independence is continued in Red Faction sequels: Red Faction: Guerrilla (2009) and Red Faction: Armageddon (2011) [this one is a crappy game, so I won't made a review for it] computer games and Red Faction: Origins (2011) TV movie.

Gameplay, visuals and physics

Red Faction is a first-person shooter (FPS) game where the player will be shooting enemies a lot. Both the enemies and available weapons will get tougher over time. This monotony is split by a few "stealth" sections, several driving/flying/swimming sections (which was quite a new feature in 2001) and a few cutscenes. Speaking about cutscenes - if the game as a whole graphically is quite good by standards of 2001, then the cutscenes are definitely outdated.

Red Faction technically is not really innovative game (think of Max Payne, which was released the same year), mostly following the well-tried experience of the Half Life (1998) generation FPS games. The exception is its innovative Geo-Mod game engine, which allows to create fully destructible game world. Too bad this potentially revolutionary game engine wasn't used to its full potential by Red Faction's developer team; its most unique features are hardly used designing game's locations. It's interesting the much newer Geo-Mod 2 engine is heavily used in Red Faction: Guerrilla, but lacks the reality feel of the older Geo-Mod engine.

Verdict: 9/10

If you ask me Red Faction, despite being 15 years old now, is still the best computer game set on Mars. There are only some minor things not letting it get the maximum 10/10 score:
  • As I mentioned game's cutscenes graphically are a bit weak and its innovative Geo-Mod engine isn't used to its full potential designing the game;
  • The game is too easy to beat - if you play carefully and quick-save a lot, even at "impossible" difficulty level there will be only a handful of challenging moments in the game;
  • The story in the start lacks some logic. Why Ultor would spend enormous money on shipping miners to Mars and then "treat them like dirt"? Every miner on Mars has cost Ultor hundreds of thousands, if not millions (it's year 2075 - only a few decades after the first colony on Mars). It's economically unreasonable to beat them up or shut down just for fun.

Video walkthrough

Here is a complete video walkthrough of the game, if you need one:


All screenshots are my own and in chronological order. Click on image to view in full resolution:

Mars game - Red Faction screenshot minerMars game - Red Faction screenshot drillMars game - Red Faction screenshot poster

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Mars game - Red Faction screenshot spaceshipMars game - Red Faction screenshot ventilationMars game - Red Faction screenshot poster

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Mars game - Red Faction screenshotMars game - Red Faction screenshot Parker EosMars game - Red Faction screenshot underground

Mars game - Red Faction screenshotMars game - Red Faction screenshotMars game - Red Faction screenshot spaceship

Mars game - Red Faction screenshotMars game - Red Faction screenshotMars game - Red Faction screenshot

Mars game - Red Faction screenshot orbital stationMars game - Red Faction screenshotMars game - Red Faction screenshot spaceship

My reviews of Red Faction series:

My reviews of other games set on Mars:

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