"Without a doubt, Red Faction II is one of the PS2’s most prized first-person shooters, and the plot is only one piece of a memorable experience. The pursuit of the fleeing Sopot will take Alias through government high-rises, into the streets, fortified military bases, and face to face with hundreds of the Commonwealth’s forces."
Loyal, courageous, and battle-hardened, Alias was among the Commonwealth’s elite soldiers. He proudly followed orders when Sopot, the nation’s grand leader, sent him to steal Martian nano-technology, and gladly accepted the honor of becoming one of 2,000 super-soldiers born from it. Alias never expected his patriotism to be rewarded with betrayal when Sopot, fearing the power of his own creations, ordered their elimination. Cast aside, Alias and his five surviving comrades will join their enemy, Red Faction, to take revenge upon their former dictator.
Without a doubt, Red Faction II is one of the PS2’s most prized first-person shooters, and the plot is only one piece of a memorable experience. The pursuit of the fleeing Sopot will take Alias through government high-rises, into the streets, fortified military bases, and face to face with hundreds of the Commonwealth’s forces. Although you won’t get to command your teammates, they will always be nearby, providing updates on the current situation. Trading typical cutscenes for radio banter was an excellent choice, as it allows the myriad of scenes to flow seamlessly from one to the next. You will hardly notice a single break in the pacing as you move from a late-night ambush on Sopot’s stronghold, to a morning sunrise as the chase leaves the city.
With a hefty load of firearms, including pistols, SMGs, machine guns, shotguns, and grenade launchers, Red Faction II won’t turn any heads with an original inventory, but you’ll see the difference when you actually use them. From flaming shotgun shells, homing rockets, and scopes, nearly every weapon has an alternate fire. For those partial to one-handed guns, dual-wielding should put a smile on your face, and each gun is fired separately with the shoulder buttons. You won’t have a free hand for throwing grenades, but who can resist machine pistols times two?
Amazingly, and unlike other FPSs in which you almost need a new weapon for every new level, even the starting weapons of Red Faction II are valuable assets late in the game. Red Faction II strays so far from the norm that Alias’s starting weapon is a grenade launcher. Within a few minutes though, he’ll be carrying dual-pistols, an SMG, and a stockpile of grenades. Every weapon has its use, so just because you pick up a shotgun does not mean that your pistols will go to waste, especially when you’re on your own and the ammunition becomes scarce. Saying any more would ruin a number of plot twists, but whether you prefer deafening explosions, pinpoint accuracy, or hailstorms of bullets, Red Faction II won’t shut you out.
The only stain on this otherwise fantastic experience is the A.I. Enemies don’t dive for cover or try to flank you. In fact, the only tactic they seem to know is the bumrush. Once they get a few feet away, they stop, even if they happen to be looking down the barrel of a rocket launcher. Try lobbing a grenade. If it lands in front of them, they retreat back to safety. If it lands behind them, they retreat in the same direction to a lemming-esque suicide. If they weren’t such good shots, the enemies would be completely worthless. Alias will often be outgunned, but thanks to the nano-technology he helped procure, Alias is one tough opponent. He has a traditional health bar, but with enough rest, the nano-technology heals him automatically. Of course, finding proper cover can get a little tricky.
The original Red Faction’s claim to fame was Geo-Mod technology – a system that allowed players the freedom to blow holes in walls or even dig tunnels around entire rooms with explosives. Geo-Mod is back for Red Faction II, but this time, the tunneling aspects have been downplayed in favor of chaotic battles. A typical firefight can quickly turn into a hurricane of destruction as windows shatter, sparks fly from computers, and entire walls come crumbling down. At one point I took shelter behind a pillar. A few seconds later I was taking fire and turned around to find that the pillar had been chipped away to nothing.
As exciting as Geo-Mod technology can be, it is strangely inconsistent at times. I was able to blast my way through a concrete wall and a steel sewer lid, but not a mesh grate in a ventilation shaft. I suppose I do need to make a few concessions though and suspend my disbelief, as the PS2 can only handle so many modifications to the environment. Without the Geo-Mod technology, Red Faction II would be a passably average shooter, but having it makes all the difference in the world. It opens so many new ways of interacting with the environment, taking cover, and turns gunfights into frantic barrages of bullets and debris that would make John Woo proud.
When you pass the single-player experience, and you will want to in order to unlock everything, Red Faction II has one of the most expansive multiplayer modes on the PS2. It has all of the usual games like deathmatch, capture the flag, team games, and elimination rounds. With customizable weapon lists, difficulty settings, five bots, and various power-ups, almost every aspect can be tweaked to set up the perfect match. Unfortunately, the maps are not the shining point here. There are 31 maps and Volition obviously went for quantity instead of quality. The majority feel like a few hallways slapped together, but even so, there are at least eight intricately designed standouts that make it all worthwhile.
I know that customizable weapons, basic multiplayer modes, and a few good maps are not revolutionary, but the bot-system is pretty close. You can have up to five bots per match, and even they can be modified. You can pick the character models, give them names, and even choose weapon preferences. That last bit is especially important when you decide to adjust the meters for Aggressiveness and Camping Tendency. Throw them in a few games and your new creations will start building points to be dispersed among Health, Accuracy, Agility, and Damage Multiplier. This sounds great in theory, but does it work? Very well actually. After a few dozen games and some modifications, I was able to make a sharpshooter to rival even the best Halo players out there.
By no means is Red Faction II the perfect FPS. It’s a game of give take, but over the years it has offered enough that I have beaten it three times and logged enough hours to craft some frighteningly skillful bots. It’s about time we got something worthwhile. With barely any system exclusives and a hodgepodge of pared-down Xbox ports, PS2 fans don’t have many FPSs to brag about. This one may not be PS2-exclusive, but at least it is full-featured. We have been neglected in the past, but Red Faction II will bring the hurting to an end.
Staff review by Brian Rowe (September 07, 2007)
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