Monday, April 12, 2010

Red Faction trilogy review

The latest in the Red Faction series "Guerilla" has dropped substantially in price so I picked it up. I'd played the demo and thought it "meh" but smashing stuff is fun. As it's been a while I thought I'd recap and play the previous PS2 versions just to bring me back into the story.

The story line for all three runs as follows: In RF1 you're a miner on Mars, a plague is hitting the miners they're getting annoyed and revolt against the company running the show. Turns out the plague has been engineering by a mad scientist. You get the antidote and the Earth Defence Force arrives to save the day.

In RF2 the same plague technology is used to create super soldiers and start the Earth Commonwealth. The guy in charge becomes a despot and fears the super soldiers might turn so has them eliminated, except you and your team. Kill the despot, story line twist, save everyone, hurray.

In RF3 the EDF has taken over Mars and is running it to save Earth, the re-formed Red Faction is trying to take it back, you run around blowing up stuff until they leave.

The original Red Faction at first glance appears to be a standard FPS released at a time when there were a glut on the market. To make it stand out it had "Geo-Mod" technology, the ability to destroy your surroundings. The idea was that rather than being forced to go through that door into that ambush you could blast around it and ambush your ambushers; it was a good theory. In practice it didn't work; firstly because you had to know what was coming in order to take advantage, secondly because you could only destroy rock or concrete and the second half of the game had you playing in indestructible metal structures.

When you did blow things up it never worked well, it would take to many charges and, if not careful, leave a jagged point that you blocked your passage without yet another charge to remove it. Saying that there was still joy to be had in the one and only chance you had to destroy a stone bridge and the tank that sat atop it.

Other than Geo-Mod it also introduced the Rail gun, switch to secondary mode and you could see through walls and target enemies; sad to say they could do the same for a one-shot kill. Shame it was so slow in reloading and said mode also zoomed in making it slow to move.

Another good thing it used was the Half-Life method of level loading, you'd run down a corridor and they'd be a pause and the next bit would load; with no load screens it kept you immersed in the game and made you consider everything as one level. Shame then that it provided no map and thus you could end up at Point A heading down corridor 1 load to Point B then head down corridor 3 load and find yourself exiting corridor 2 back at Point A.

Said loadings also took a toll on the headset messages; you'd head down a corridor and your guide would start to impart important information and then there'd be a load and nothing, wouldn't even show up in the message log.

Another nasty point was that it tried to remove your weapons on no less than three occasions; luckily two you could skip if you were in the know and you'd want to as you're weaponless disguise would always be penetrated leaving you to fend off the enemies with only a pistol.

The ending was also poor a corridor shooting gallery, kill the end boss and then go "Hmm now what?"

Innovative at the time, but lacked polish.

Onto Red Faction 2 and still with the geo-mod, but pretty much never used except where storyline dictated that you had to blow a wall to progress. The same loading technique is used, except there are also distinct levels with loading screens; makes for bigger levels and prevents back-tracking.

Sadly this is more your straight up shooter, but it still had some kinks that others should follow; persistent weapons and ammo. Load the new level and you'd still have not only the weapons from the previous level, but the same ammo count. Stops you splurging.

Also introduced the mech-walker, hop in and destroy your foes.

Still no map, but the levels were almost totally linear. It's as if they veered too far from the flaws of the previous game.

Endings were good, yep multiple endings depending on how you'd acted in the game good or bad. Also had a replay value for the secret bonus objectives in each mission that unlocked artwork etc.

Onto Red Faction 3 and they've gone all sandboxy. Runs like Prototype and InFamous; run to mission start; mission loads up, complete mission. Like Prototype you run around destroying things, but unlike that game you can have an effect outside of missions. In other words you don't have to start the "Destroy building" mission, you can just head to it and blow it up. Sure to progress the storyline you have to do some of the missions, but you can damage the enemies and raise morale outside them too. It's more like inFamous than Prototype and that's a compliment. It takes the full run around destruction of Prototype and marries it to the mission structure of InFamous.

Yes there are some missions that only allow you to use certain weapons or use certain vehicles; but in-game this makes sense; likewise the timed events. It's not just an out-game tutorial; it makes sense in-game.

So flaws and there are a few. The control system, R2 to switch weapons, L2 to sprint - fine. R2 to accelerate, L2 to brake - not fine. After sprinting around on foot you jump into a vehicle and start reversing. You jump out the vehicle and switch weapons.

Screwing up missions is also a pain as only some allow you to exit and restart them and control shift also comes up here. Succeed in a mission and it's X to continue Circle to Retry (to get a better time) Fail and it's X to retry and Circle to exit. However restart does take you back to the beginning of the mission, at least you don't have to find your own way back to the right point.

Timed missions can also be a matter of luck; I hurtled around a corner in a vehicle only to discover a large loader doing a three-point turn in the middle of the road.

On the good side you can place beacons on the map and back in the game you'll have luminous yellow arrows floating ahead of you on the ground showing you the quickest route. Important to note that said route is always via roads and therefore not necessarily the quickest if you can go cross-country. If you're just roaming around missions will sometimes appear and pressing left on the pad will automatically beacon it. This would be great except sometimes it's a little sluggish and you can turn it on, then turn it off without realising it and then have to go back into the map menu to re-highlight it. Also not good with multi-part missions - destroy these 12 towers; you can't plot a course and as there are 12 of them you can't automatically beacon the next one.

Get morale high enough and you can be joined in mission by fighters, this can be a lifesaver, but morale will go down if they get themselves killed. AI is fine in that they'll stick to you and won't go chasing off.

Replenishing ammo is a pain. There are only two methods of doing so - from a safehouse, or from a crate. Running back to a safehouse each time is a pain and so many of the crates tend to be stuck in EDF strongholds so you end up using all the ammo you've just collected fighting your way back out.

But it's fun, it's what Prototype should have been and even though the missions won't award me anything beyond the maximum I still want to do them.