Join the Red Faction, we’ve got cookies. And no small amount of social commentary too. Just look at the name, Red Faction. Red, as in red planet. But also, Red as in Karl Marx. You see, the Faction themselves, operate under an amalgamated communist libertarian ideal. Whilst the Ultor corporation, a greedy, multi-global conglomerate and your primary nemesis, are symbolic of capitalism. I didn’t notice that back in 2002, when I first played the game. But boy does it leap out at me now. In fact, the whole series offers a quite scathing social commentary. And I shall touch on each in turn.
Thankfully, the narrative of the game does live up to this lofty concept. At least for the most part. The majority, though not all, of the dialogue comes from a chap called Hendrix, who is, obviously, a direct descendant of the prog rock legend from the 1960s. He whispers, lovingly, in the protagonists (that’s you) ear at surprisingly frequent intervals. Wooing you with promises of freedom and great fame. As well as compounding, but also offsetting, the sense of loneliness that prevails as you trudge your way through mines, submerged caverns, canyons and even a space station*, Leaving a bitter trail of bullets and destruction in your path.
Bond. Mars Bond
And the game offers yet more food for thought. Not only from the surprisingly complex symbolism mentioned above, but also in the game itself. Over a decade later, though clearly aged, the graphical integrity of the game is surprisingly solid. Animations are smooth, if somewhat hurried, and there’s even a passable attempt at lip syncing. Though, I cannot stress this enough. The game has issues with more recent hardware. At one point, in particular, I was unable to fully progress without enabling V-sync. Some of the animations run too quickly. Which was a problem in the submarine bay, as the sub kept falling onto the floor and exploding. It’s supposed to fall into the water. It’s a minor issue, but one to be aware of.
However, this does not detract significantly from the game. And especially not for its, now infamous, Geomod engine. Offering a level of environmental interaction unprecedented, and mind blowing, at the time. And unmatched even to this day. There are other games, of course, which have played with the idea of destructible environments. But whilst many have outdone Red Faction in the physics department. None, not a single one, that I am aware of, has matched its scale. Well nigh everything can be blown to itty bitty pieces. Can’t figure out which way to go? No sign of an exit? Well just grab your rocket launcher. And make one. I can recount many tales of blasting corridors through solid rock a mile long. I kid you not. And you will even, at times, find hidden caverns filled with goodies, just right out there in the middle of nowhere.
The music and sound effects in the game are also extremely nice. Though the voice acting is a touch iffy at times, it has some great momenta. Even injecting some genuine, and unexpected, humour into the mix. “I’ll decide when it’s time to go...okay let’s go” and whilst the various weapons can sound a little tinny, they are hampered only by the limitations of the time. And, best of all, the game is fairly meaty too. You can run through in only six hours. But you have to literally run straight through it. A regular playthrough, with time taken to explore, will wile away a good ten hours of your time. Add to this a bot assissted mutliplayer, with decent AI in both this and the campaign, it’s a game well worth looking back at.
*Best of all. You hitch a ride on a shuttle, and destory a freaking space defense sattelite with a machine gun and a couple of satchel charges. How cool is that?