Red Faction 2 improves upon the original in every way. It’s a fast-paced first-person shooter that knows exactly what it wants to do and does it well. If you had to sum the game up in one word, the word is action. Even the moments of relative calm are intense. You’ll be bringing the noise from the get-go to the heave-ho and loving every minute of it.
You’ll take control of Alias, the demolition expert in a squad of six nanotech-enhanced super-soldiers who have joined the Red Faction rebellion. Your mission is to overthrow the evil dictator Sopot, and by overthrow, I mean assassinate. However, just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the game throws an early curve ball and sends you careening in an entirely different direction.
The game begins at a fever pitch, with Alias destroying a military facility, piece by piece, and it never really slows down. Most of the time you’ll be going solo, but occasionally one of your comrades will fight by your side. Like the original, there are several vehicle segments. Some of these are essentially rail-shooters, but there are a few vehicles that you can fully control. A sure favorite is the battle armor, a mech-suit with awesome power, which allows you to mow down hordes of enemy soldiers. Typical of first-person shooters, the single player campaign is short, with less than 10 hours of play time. However, the amount of pure action packed into those hours makes up for the length. The game is fairly challenging, especially some of the boss battles. There is also a heroics meter, which goes down if you kill too many civilians and up if you complete some bonus objectives. The ending you’ll see depends on which side of the meter you’re on when you finish the game. This adds a little replay value, but really, who can resist capping innocent bystanders?
The control interface is standard for an FPS, with the right stick controlling movement, and the left controlling the camera. The controls are fully customizable, which should be an option in every game. You’ll be treated to an awesome supply of weapons, most of which feature a secondary function, as well as various types of hand grenades. The grenades are used with that pesky Z button, but at this point, if your right index finger isn’t double-jointed, you’ve been doing something wrong. One nice touch is that when wielding dual guns, the two triggers fire separate weapons. As a demolitions expert, you’ll usually have your trusty NICW (Nanotech Individual Combat Weapon), which is basically just an American-issue OICW (Objective Individual Combat Weapon) handled by a nano-enhanced soldier. Still, it’s a powerful machine-gun and grenade launcher in one neat package. When you have it in your hand, you have no fear, and when you pop a bad guy with a grenade, he happily explodes into bloody bits. If you stand still for a moment you can recover your health; a feature I normally hate, but it does work well in this game, as the amount of fire you’ll take (and give) is insane. On my pet peeve list is the one-way weapon cycle and the use of the trigger to select a weapon which will sometimes have you taking fire when you wanted to blow some peeps up. The one truly awful thing about the control is climbing ladders, which is always awkward because you literally have to jump to get off the thing.
The graphics are a step-up from the first game. The cut scenes are a little bland, but the in-game graphics are nice to look at. You’ll never confuse Red Faction 2 with a visual masterpiece, but the developers spent some time making everything clear and detailed. The environments are the real showcase. They mostly consist of war torn cityscapes and hi-tech military installations, but they’re each unique and well planned. As with the original, the environments are destructible. If you can’t find the exit, you can usually make one in a wall or the floor with any one of your varied explosives. This works both ways. If you camp too long behind a wall, the enemy will often blow right through it. There is occasional slowdown, with all the explosions, but it’s rarely a major problem.
The sound is another highlight. All the effects are spot-on and you’ll come to appreciate the thunder you bring. The music is a somewhat understated techno mix, scoring everything with a driving intensity, which fits perfectly with the game. There is a good deal of voice work, with Lance Henriksen (the android Bishop from the Alien movies) crowning the cast. His tone is superb and overshadows the rest. The title menu features Sopot’s anti-rebel propaganda, which is extremely creepy and sets the mood for the game world before the player ever sees it. I pray the writers don’t go into politics. The only bad thing I can say about the sound is that sometimes you can’t hear vital in-game information from your crew because you’re too busy blowing stuff up.
Although not up to the standards of TimeSplitters 2, the multi-player is no slouch. Four players can compete against each other and bots in all the standard games, such as deathmatch and capture the flag. The action can get hectic when playing against the bots, which feature a good AI engine. The multi-player levels are nicely laid out, and like the single-player game, feature destructible environments. There’s nothing like handing it to a camper by blowing his spot to hell. Fortunately, they fixed one complaint from the first game and actually allow you to choose your weapons. The multi-player does all the things it’s supposed to and adds hours of playing time to the game.
Red Faction 2 doesn’t mess around. It’s one of the best first-person shooters on the market. Featuring a well thought out world and gobs of action, it will draw you in and have you frothing at the mouth like the rabid, genetically enhanced machine of destruction you always wanted to be.