RF Preview from Daily Radar

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NOTE: This series of previews were all originally posted around Feb 2001 on Daily Radar, which is no longer available.

Preview 1

Gamers are eagerly looking forward to Red Faction, Volition's second PS2 effort, and with good reason. With few exceptions, the FPS genre has seen little innovation, no tearing down of the old and no building up the new. Voliton has kindly provided us with a few levels to test out, and on nearly all accounts (especially the tearing down bit,) Red Faction looks like it's on it's way to being the only must-have shooter on the PS2 -- for now, at least. The story concerns downtrodden miners on the planet of Mars, and the corporate conspiracy that threatens to destroy them. Fighting the good fight means players will be able to get their hands on plenty of kick ass weaponry, including a rail gun that's sure to illicit giggles the first few hundred times it's put to use. Scenarios will include taking the reins of a massive mounted cannon, piloting a submarine through icy Martian waters, and even commandeering a massive drilling machine.

The really exciting part, however, is the game's Geo-Mod technology, which allows for real-time, arbitrary modification of just about everything -- and we're not just talking doing a quick bit of surgery on Ultor goons, either. As Parker, the game's protagonist, players will be able to blow holes in the floors, ceilings, walls, and the like. Halting enemy pursuit, taking out bridges, channeling lava, and otherwise bringing the house down should all play a big part in the game; a deeply engrossing story can't hurt, either.

Like seemingly every PS2 game worth noting, Red Faction has been delayed -- this time, until May. This seems like a pretty wise decision as the game looks great so far, but some additional tweaking could do the trick. For now, enjoy these movies, and check back with Daily Radar for updates soon.

Preview 2

It's rare when we get a real surprise during the middle of the E3 conference, but today we were really astonished when THQ and Volition announced their new first person shooter for the PC and the PlayStation2. As a standard shooter, Red Faction is rather impressive and has a host of notable features that separate it from the typical run-and-gun affair. The weapons are innovative, the environments impressive, and the game even enables players to drive vehicles.

However, the most impressive feature is the game's destroyable environments. This means that players can destroy just about anything in the game, including walls, objects and even buildings. It's almost disconcerting when a wall is disintegrated, because we are all so used to watching bombs bounce harmlessly off of objects.

Check out these other features hidden in this new game:

  • Geo-ModT Engine � the only FPS with real-time, arbitrary geometry modification
  • Advanced physics simulation - supports falling geometry, particles and liquid
  • Land, sea and air vehicles to commandeer and control
  • A completely immersive and compelling storyline
  • Stealth and action driven objectives
  • Varied environments including natural settings unique to the genre
  • Object shadow casting and other cutting-edge lighting effects
  • Advanced AI behavior in 20 dynamic 3D levels
  • Real-time skeletal deformation and interpolation for silky smooth animations
  • Location-based damage system
  • Proprietary level editor that is faster, easier and more advanced than any on the market
  • Multi-player support for LAN and TCP-IP

Preview 3

Far beneath the surface of Mars, miners employed by the Ultor Corporation are falling victim to a strange and deadly disease known only as the plague. Working conditions -- already appallingly inhumane -- are worsening, and resentment toward the multiplanetary organization is coming to a head. This harsh landscape is the backdrop for Red Faction, a first-person shooter in development by the creators of the award-winning Freescape. While plenty of first-person shooters have been announced for the PS2 already, developer Volition plans to contribute to the genre in an unprecedented fashion -- even opening a few doors, you might say. Despite its emphasis on corporate conspiracy, Red Faction is first and foremost an FPS, and the emphasis is on the person shooting. Naturally, Red Faction will have a number of the features we've come to expect in the genre, including tricky enemy AI, light and shadow casting with which to find them and a location-based damage system with which to put them down. Gun-happy gamers can expect a considerable arsenal with sci-fi stylings and, at certain points, land, sea and air vehicles will become available. Particle and liquid physics, multiplayer LAN and TCP-IP support, and a user-friendly level editor round out the package.

What's most exciting, though, is the release of Volition's Geo Mod engine, allowing for realtime, arbitrary geometry modification. Put another way, you can blow things up -- all sorts of things. While we haven't had a chance to test this out for ourselves, the potential for entirely new forms of destruction is huge. Imagine hiding in wait for a squad of Ultor goons, then bringing select chunks of ceiling down on them with a well-placed rocket. Environmental destruction won't be limited to caverns, though. Most of the screens we've seen so far detail subterranean shootouts with squads of Ultor thugs and vehicles, but we know that gamers will be able to take the fight to the pristine Ultor labs on the Martian surface and even the satellites orbiting above.

The game's writers have taken great pains to introduce an elaborate backstory to Red Faction, which includes a website full of screens, specs and character sketches (two so far, but expect more as the game approaches release). So far these include Parker (the game's protagonist) and Gryphon -- a disillusioned corporate man trying to do the right thing. Parker's an embittered miner who's chosen a subterranean life on Mars over Harvard, and realizes a little too late that green Ivy League grass is far, far better than red Martian rock. From dodging bile in zero gravity and stripping down for a mass disinfecting to sharing bunks in the squalid barracks, it's a pretty hellish life -- and a fine example of immersive game writing. Gryphon's story takes place at the opposite end of the spectrum; he's the cowardly turncoat who stumbles across the corporation's insidious plans -- at the expense of his life, we're guessing. Both bios are evocative and detailed, and while many developers have attempted this before, it's been with mostly dubious or unmemorable results. Volition appears to have put some considerable time and thought into these, and we're hoping they'll add a cerebral element to the action.

While first-person carnage, outrageous explosions and sinister sci-fi subplots are nothing new to the videogamer's world, Volition seems to have wrapped up all of these elements and packaged them in quite a nifty package. With a simultaneous PS2 and PC release, it might well be the title to sell console gamers on what has historically been a PC staple (Goldeneye excepted). The ability to arbitrarily modify your surroundings could be a huge step, or it could just be a gimmick -- in either case, it's sure to be a lot of fun. There's a lot of potential for this game, and if it lives up to Volition's claims, it could be a benchmark step for what is fast becoming a tired genre.

Preview 4

At its second annual Editor's Day, THQ proudly demonstrated its eagerly awaited sci-fi shooter Red Faction. Taking place on the planet of Mars in a distant future, the game follows the adventures of Parker, a disillusioned miner in the employ of the undoubtedly evil multi-planetary Ultor Corporation. When a plague begins to spread throughout the mining community, suspicions are aroused -- and, with the help of a few scrupulous Ultor employees, a massive conspiracy is eventually revealed. While the developers at Volition have emphasized a thorough and engrossing storyline, it's clear that what they (and gamers) are most excited about is their Geo Mod technology, which is fancy speak for the ability to actually alter the player's surrounding environment -- by shooting at it, of course. We've seen this idea in games before, but always in a limited capacity. After several impressive demos, we were given the opportunity to sample Geo Mod technology for ourselves - and this is a whole new game.

After a brief Q&A; session, the game's producers were more than eager to show off some demos. First up was the glass house, a perfect demonstration of the processing power they've been able to pull from the PS2. Shooting any panel once causes the pane to splinter; hitting it again causes the pane to explode into hundreds (if not thousands) of shards. More impressive is that the point of explosion reflects exactly where the second shot hit - not to mention the minor impact damage suffered by a less than cautious player. Other examples included taking out an APC bearing bridge and repeatedly firing rockets at a wall, leaving a navigable tunnel that reflected dozens of in-game yards. Destructive? Certainly. A bold new step in a mostly tired genre? Quite possibly...

Creating a structured, linear game with flexible pathways is undoubtedly a massive challenge. Obviously, limitations will have to be applied - but solid level design should compensate for any "artificial" limitations the level designers need to apply. Of course all of this wanton destruction wouldn't be much without some wicked graphics and animations to back it up, and it's clear that so far, Volition has that pretty much in the bag. Lighting and shadow effects are crisp and clean, and the textures that make up the undoubtedly many miles of subterranean tunnel are already showing some nice texture work. Interested gamers will simply have to see for themselves, but we're quite certain that FPS fans will be much impressed with the Geo Mod engine and the detail it's capable of.

Other outstanding effects include smoke, particle and even wind effects. One demo level had a ceiling vent releasing steam, which was then blown to the side - quite realistically -- by a large fan. Impressive stuff, but even more so when a small explosive was tossed in that direction and promptly lifted in the same direction as the smoke. Fans of Sony's highly vaunted PS2 particle demonstration will be pleased to know that developers are actually putting said technology to use. Another demo involved shooting out a section of a lava-channeling trough, which resulted in the molten rock sputtering and spewing out the hole and then collecting on the floor.

The controls, which will be fully customizable at release, should be instantly familiar to fans of the genre. The right triggers are both used for firing and, as in Unreal Tournament, each of the weapons has an alternative fire mode (such as automatic and semi-automatic). Jumping and ducking are on the left side, and the two analog sticks are used for movement, strafing and targeting. Weapon selection is similar to that in Turok 2 - tapping the X button cycles through over 20 weapons and holding it down brings up a ring of available weapons, which are selected by pushing in the corresponding direction with the analog stick. When we gave the game a try, the auto-lock mode was engaged, but otherwise the aiming is smooth and responsive.

Of course, these days it's not enough to have some smooth gameplay and a massive arsenal of weapons - gamers are all about the details, and in this respect Red Faction is sure to satisfy. Depending on the wall surface and the type of ammunition used, shots fired at walls will ricochet realistically. Several vehicles (land, sea and air) and non-collectable weapons are available for use (theft), including fixed gun turrets, an enormous drill on treads and a submersible vehicle. Observant gamers who go to steal the sub will notice the frosty breath emitted by Ultor thugs, standing patrol around a chilly subterranean lake. All of the vehicles have been designed to control exactly like Parker himself, so hopping in and getting started shouldn't require any sort of excessive tutorials - this sort of integrated gameplay makes for a happy gamer. Holstering Parker's weapon will likely draw less attention from the authorities, while aiming at a miner will cause him to drop to his quivering knees and pledge allegiance to the Red Faction. Of course, particularly sadistic gamers probably won't heed these pleas, which is why the designers have kindly included location-based damage, realtime skeletal deformation and as many as 12 death animations per opponent. And yes -- a splitscreen multiplayer mode is most definitely in the works.

In our last preview, we wondered whether the Geo Mod engine was gimmick or genre-buster, and we're pleased to say that many of Volition's claims are valid. We've been following this one for some time, but this is the first hands-on look we've had with it -- and if the developers can nail that ever-so-tricky issue of gameplay balancing, we might have a winner on our hands. Stay tuned for more updates - we've got a feeling that when it comes to tearing the first-person shooter genre a new one, Red Faction still has plenty of rounds left in its barrel.