NOTE: This preview was originally posted on or about 3 Feb 2001 by Tom Hall on GameSpy, which is no longer available.
In the Beginning
Of all the genres of computer gaming, the one that probably stirs up the most attention is the first-person shooter. Ever since we played Castle Wolfenstein or the original Doom, we haven't been the same since. Throughout the years, we have seen the first-person genre evolve in so many ways. We've gone from bitmaps to polygons; from blood spots on the ground to limbs getting severed off. Engrossing single-player games have given way to the madness of multiplayer gaming. No matter how you look at it, the brilliance of great game design combined with cutting edge technology has given us experiences that words can't describe. What's great for us is, as technology gets better and better, so will the games.
The Revolution is Coming
At this year's E3, a revolutionary FPS was revealed. No it wasn't Quake related or Unreal related. And no it wasn't Team Fortress 2 (which would have been nice though). It was a FPS from developer Volition, the folks responsible for Freespace 1 and 2 and the upcoming RPG, Summoner. That game was Red Faction. Even though the game is slated for Winter 2001 (as in next year), the demo we saw was nevertheless mind blowing. We always hear about that "one game" that will change everything, the one title that takes the genre truly to another level. Red Faction from Volition just maybe that game.
If there is one thing Volition has proven they're masters of, it's telling a story. From their Freespace series to Summoner, they know how to tell a tale and how to keep us sucked in. Volition has been pretty tight lipped about the nitty gritty storyline for Red Faction, but this is what we know so far. As it stands right now, Red Faction will have 20 levels with various stealth and action driven objectives. Players take on the role of Parker, working in mines beneath the surface of Mars run by the corrupt Ultor Corporation. Amidst all the rubble and debris, miners are suffering from sub-standard living conditions and a vicious disease called the Plague that is infecting Mars' miners in droves.
Miners are collapsing without warning with puffy, stretched, and sometimes pulsating faces. Of course, Ultor doesn't feel there is a problem. Realizing something needs to be done, Parker sets off and starts a rebellion against the Ultor Corporation. Players have to live long enough to bring down Ultor as well as finding what's behind this mysterious Plague. Players will not only fight it out in the mines below ground, but on the surface of Mars and also various satellites orbiting the planet.
The Geo-Mod Engine
On the surface, Red Faction may look like your run-of-the-mill FPS. But what sets Red Faction apart from any other FPS out there is the game engine. Volition didn't want to use the Quake III or Unreal engine, as do many developers. Instead they started from scratch. Together with their talented team of programmers, Volition created the Geo-Mod engine. The Geo-Mod engine executes real-time, arbitrary geometry modification. What this means in English is that players will not only be able to unleash their weapons on enemies just like any other FPS, but will also be able to destroy the environments as well.
Now we're not talking about shooting a computer monitor in the environment and watching the screen shatter or shooting the light bulb out of a street lamp (remember how game developers would brag, "Eh…and you see here how we made the environment interactive…everything is live. You can shoot anything.") Man, how naïve were we? While playing Red Faction, utilizing the Geo-Mod engine, players will be able to destroy buildings, walls, platforms, and bridges with their weapons.
Imagine being chased by a horde of enemies down a corridor. You reach a dead end with only one rocket left. What do you do? Sit back and hopefully place a money shot to knock out all the enemies? Fat chance. Or how about stepping back from the wall, aiming your rocket at the wall and blowing a hole big enough for you to escape through. You catch our drift? Wipe that smile off your face, this is only the beginning.
Inside the Engine
Volition has taken this a step further. By adding an advanced physics simulation that supports falling geometry, particles, and liquid forms, players will witness things that they only dreamed about. For instance, if you were to blast through the roof of a building, the weight of the debris would make the floor collapse and fall on whoever was underneath it. Where in previous games enemies could hide behind walls for cover, no biggie. Destroy the wall they're hiding behind and destroy them in the process.
In Red Faction, players will be able to control land, sea, and air vehicles and use them as they see fit during missions. And just like the handheld weapons, these vehicles can destroy walls and buildings also. During the demo, a tank literally made a building into a pile of rubble in seconds. The overall effect was pretty mesmerizing.
Red Faction isn't going to be just running around blowing stuff up at will. Players are going to have to think differently when they play. Where in the past players were used to shooting weapons at walls and buildings with no real effect, players will be totally taken aback when they can see how much carnage they can create.
The enemy AI will be fine-tuned as well. For example, if players manage to destroy an enemy's cover, the enemy, realizing that his cover is blown, will seek out other forms of protection. Now mind you everything in world is not destructible. No engine (at least not yet) can take that much calculation. Volition had to make certain areas indestructible to move the game along. If players were allowed to destroy everything in site, there wouldn't be much a level to play in.
After developing games like Freespace 1 and 2, we don't have to question whether Red Faction is going to look good or not. It's a given. Volition is pushing the technological envelope to unheard of levels. Without question, Red Faction will set new standards when it's released next year.
Utilizing real-time skeletal deformation and interpolation, the animations are truly lifelike and at times, down right scary. Enemies as well as buildings have a location based damage system so if you shoot an enemy in the shoulder; he's going to grab his wound while he's trying to shoot back. You knock out supports underneath a building and watch it come tumbling down like a house of cards.
So start counting the days action fans. Red Faction is moving along quite nicely in the development cycle and Volition is making incredible progress. We won't go out on a limb and say that Red Faction will ship earlier than Winter 2001, but we can sure as hell dream about it.