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Red Faction

Entry updated 11 May 2020. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (2001). Volition. Platforms: Mac, PS2, Win (2001); Phone (2003).

Red Faction is a First Person Shooter, set on Mars and often suggestive of the less sophisticated scenes in Total Recall (1990). Its linear story follows the adventures of an oppressed miner (the player character) who becomes involved in a rebellion against the company which runs twenty-first century Mars (see Interactive Narrative). The gameplay is competently constructed if somewhat routine, with a design that is often reminiscent of Half-Life (1998). While the colour of the eponymous rebel group suggests radical socialism as well as the Red Planet, the game's revolutionary credentials are somewhat superficial; ultimately, the rebels are saved by an intervention from Earth. Much of Red Faction's commercial success can be attributed not to its Cliché-ridden plot or to its conventional core gameplay, but to the unusual degree of mutability exhibited by its scenery when struck by rockets or grenades. This ability to destroy large portions of the player's environment was highly popular, and became the signature feature of the game's various sequels.

Red Faction II (2002 Volition, PS2; 2003 GC, Win, XBox) designed by Nathan Camarillo is another First Person Shooter, but this time set in a range of urban environments and military bases rather than the first game's maze of tunnels. Its linear story follows a revolution against a dictatorship on twenty-first-century Earth led by a team of Nanotechnologically enhanced supersoldiers, one of whom is the player character. Throughout the Red Faction series, nanotechnology fills the role of a technology sufficiently advanced that its effects are indistinguishable from magic (see Clarke's Laws). Red Faction: Guerilla (2009 Volition, PS3, Win, XB360) designed by James Hague repeats the first game's scenario of a rebellion against oppressive overseers on Mars, but with the role of the tyrants taken by Earth's military rather than by a monopolistic corporation. In Guerilla it is the twenty-second century, and Mars has been Terraformed, allowing the game to be set on the surface. The basic design is that of a Third Person Shooter, but Guerilla's most distinctive feature is that every man-made structure in the game is destructible, as opposed to the occasional mutable areas seen in the first two works. Players are offered a choice of missions within a partially modular narrative, but the emphasis is on the dubious pleasures of sheer destruction. Finally, Red Faction: Armageddon (2011 Volition, PS3, Win, XB360) designed by David Abzug ia another Third Person Shooter, again set on Mars, this time in the late twenty-second century. Soon after the beginning of the game, the planet's single terraformer – which also serves as a Weather Control machine – is destroyed, rendering the surface uninhabitable. The colonists take refuge in the old mines, justifying the use of a rather more linear narrative structure than that of Guerilla. The majority of the plot takes place several years later, when some (inevitably hostile) aliens are released from a sealed section of the underground caverns to attack the colonists, and the player must fight them and the humans who have arranged for their escape. In this iteration of the series, highly destructive exotic Weapons are commonplace. Most characteristic, perhaps, is the "singularity cannon" – a handgun that fires miniature Black Holes.

Related works: Red Faction: Guerilla – Demons of the Badlands (2009 Volition, PS3, XB360) is an expansion pack and prequel for Guerilla which was included in the Windows version. Red Faction: Armageddon – Path to War (2011 Volition, PS3, XB360) is an expansion pack for Armageddon which serves as a prequel to that game. Red Faction: Battlegrounds (2011 THQ Digital Warrington, PS2, XB360) is a two-dimensional game of vehicle combat, seen in plan view. Red Faction: Origins (2011) is a film made in association with the Syfy network, set between Guerilla and Armageddon. [NT]


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