Back in 2001, Volition released a title for the PS2, PC, Mac and later the N-Gage (Google it!) entitled ‘Red Faction’ which promptly received a fantastic reception from both gamers and critics alike. This was not due to a gripping storyline, or ground-breaking multiplayer like we are used to hearing about these days, but instead it was due to a feature we have started to take for granted. The ability to blow the living s**t out of everything up to, and including, the environment.
Taking place on Mars, Red Faction sees you playing the role of Parker as you attempt to overthrow the Ultor Corporation (Yes, the very same Ultor which appears in Volitions other franchise, Saints Row) as part of the miners resistance group known as the ‘Red Faction’….yes I know, all very Total Recall!
The engine created by Volition called Geo-Mod, on which Red Faction ran, allowed players to actively destroy the environments around them. This opened up options to gamers such as ‘Do I take the door, or blow a hole in the wall and go through it?’. While the other factors of the game were good. (The storyline itself was directly influenced by Total Recall), the inclusion of Geo-Mod was the real reason the game did so well. Due to this success it was only a matter of time until a sequel was released.
A year later and Red Faction 2 landed. Released on the same formats as the original but with the inclusion of the Xbox, Red Faction 2 took a different spin on the story and brought the franchise back to Earth. Set five years after the events which took place on Mars in the original, Red Faction 2 ups the ante with celebratory voice acting (Jason Statham, Lance Henrikson), improved graphics and a much more fleshed out storyline.
Again, the title was well received however critics found that the short storyline and lack of online multiplayer (splitscreen and Bot’s were supported however) was something which was inexcusable and as a result scored less, on average, then the original title in reviews.
Surprisingly, the next installation in the Red Faction series was due for release on the Wii entitled ‘Red Faction: B.E.A.S.T’ and developed by Locomotive Games. Including Wii MotionPlus support and a ‘Gears Of War’ style cover system, along with some rather impressive graphics for the Wii, this title actually looked like it would be a ‘must have’ for owners of the system. Sadly it was not to be as THQ shut down Locomotive Games in 2008 and have no plans to continue production of the title.
2009 arrived and with it, the next generation of Red Faction. Red Faction: Guerilla took a completely different approach to the series; Switching from the first person perspective across to the third person and placing you back on Mars and in an open world to play with. Volition once again ‘opened our mind’ (look, there was BOUND to be some kind of Total Recall pun included here) and developed the Geo-Mod 2.0 engine for RF:G to run on. Now, I’m a huge fan of the Red Faction franchise and love every single one of them, but for me, this installation stands head and shoulders above the previous two. The sheer level of destruction on offer is mind boggling, which coupled with a rather nice storyline and a great, solid control system provides an excellent instalment in the franchise.
Red Faction: Guerilla brings us up to the present day so, what’s next for the franchise?
Well, due for release in the next couple of months is Red Faction: Armageddon. Sticking with the third-person perspective, which worked so well in the last title, RF:A puts you 50 years after the events of RF: G and playing the role of the Darius Mason, grandson of Alec Mason, the title character in RF:G.
Since the liberation of Mars, the surface of the planet has become uninhabitable after the massive Terraformer machine on Mars, a machine that supplied the planet with its Earth-like atmosphere, was destroyed following the strike of a huge meteor, causing super-tornados and violent lightning storms to engulf the planet. In order to survive, the Colonists were forced to flee to the underground mines of Mars built by their ancestors, creating a network of habitable caves under the surface of the planet and setting up colonies there. Cue strange underground passages and mysterious alien beings…and lots of destruction!
With improved graphics and an enhanced engine codenamed Geo:Mod 2.5, Red Faction: Armageddon looks set to put a different spin on the series but should still be an absolute blast and I personally cannot wait to ‘get my ass to Mars’. Ok, I’ll stop with the Total Recall references now.
Interestingly, an XBLA/PSN title was released to tie in with RF:A on April 5th called Red Faction: Battlegrounds. Taking a top down view, this arcade game allows you to blow the hell out of your opponents with various vehicles. In a very cool twist, reaching level 20 in Battlegrounds will unlock the Enforcer weapon for use in RF:A. The voiceover on the trailer also has some very interesting insights regarding what ‘your’ fathers and grandfathers did to free Mars (Watch and listen to the start of the trailer below to see what I mean *snigger*).
So where will the Red Faction franchise go from here? Personally I would expect the series to stay with the new third person camera that it’s switched too. While FPS games are fun, seeing the Geo-Mod engine working at full capacity in a third person view is extremely satisfying. I would also expect the Geo-Mod engine to again be improved and tweaked ready for version 3.0 but whether we will see 3.0 running on the current consoles remains to be seen. Whatever happens next in the fight against oppression, I’ll make sure I’m there, swinging my rock hammer around like a pro.
So that’s the history of the Red Faction franchise so far in a nutshell. I’ll have some more ‘Gameology’ next time for you, but if you want to know more about a specific title, just drop me an email or mention it in the comments below.