Hey all, I’m back after a month! I took a hiatus to work on National Novel Writing Month, finished that and now I’m here with a new GOTW entry. Last time, I wrote about The Simpsons and how most arcade experiences are really only sustainable in an arcade setting.

This week brings us Red Faction, a shooter that seemingly only has one thing going for it—but it gets a bit deeper than it initially seems.

Content of the plot is fairly obvious by the box art.

Red Faction was developed by Volition (of Saints Row fame) and published by THQ. You play as Parker, who is a miner on Mars, working for the Ultor Corporation. Ultor mistreats its employees regularly, and living conditions are horrible, and it leads to rebellion. Things quickly get complicated as Parker is forced to take part in said rebellion, find a cure for a plague, team up with freedom fighters, etc. etc. etc.

At first glance, Red Faction is an ordinary first-person-shooter...and that’s what it is at second glance, too. Your selection of weapons is light and unsurprising (assault rifle, shotgun, etc.), and there’s nothing in the way of, say, super powers or abilities on Parker’s part. Still, the shooting gameplay itself is competent and the guns generally feel good to shoot.

Geo Mod tech at work.

But it’s Red Faction’s flashy-sounding “Geo-Mod Technology” that’s the real star. Simply put, Red Faction’s explosive weapons let you blow chunks out of most walls and floors. Shoot a rocket at a wall and it would be blown away. Do this to a wall of a cave enough times, and you could create a hilarious tunnel. It’s something taken for granted to a degree these days; games like Battlefield offer level destruction on a grand scale, and one comparing Battlefield to Red Faction would find the latter somewhat lacking.

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But back when Red Faction was released, there was nothing like it. It was immensely satisfying to tunnel my way around a locked door rather than find a more “traditional” way to get through. Seeing my weapons cause real, irreversible damage to the caves of Mars was incredible. Destroying a bridge so my enemies couldn’t pursue me? Priceless. Bear in mind, Red Faction came out in 2001. It’s old. And yet it continues to impress, even though it kind of pushed the PS2 to its limit, especially if you blasted holes everywhere.

Anyway, I remember Red Faction fondly for two things—apart from the Geo Mod stuff. The first was the multiplayer. On PS2, Red Faction had a simple offline split-screen PvP multiplayer not unlike GoldenEye or Perfect Dark. There was this simple map that had two bases facing each other. Friends, my brother and I would spend an unhealthy amount of time playing just this map, sniping at each other and using C4 and rocket launchers to destroy each others bases—or build tunnels to circumvent the dangerous open field between said bases and catch each other off guard. It sounds silly, and it is, but we had a lot of fun playing it.

More Geo Mod tech at work

The other reason is the plot. It’s simple, derivative and sometimes altogether absent from the game, but the game is about rebelling against an evil corporation that mistreats its workers. I mean, who wouldn’t be down for that? I got invested in it, primarily because Red Faction does a great job of selling its world and atmosphere. Mars is a fascinating place to explore; the game is linear, but the space around you is wide enough to make the environment feel big. Geo Mod takes this a step further; the world feels bigger and more convincing when you can alter it yourself. Its easy to get lost in Red Faction as a result; you’re immersed because what you do has an impact. Maybe not on the story, but on the world. Shoot too many rockets into the ground, and you’ll make a hole too deep to climb out of. I still find that impressive.

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Red Faction would spawn three sequels and a TV movie that inexplicably features Robert Patrick. The entire series is fairly good; Red Faction: Guerrilla is a high point, taking the level destruction to absurd (and incredibly fun) heights. But none of them had the same impact on me that the first one did. Still the best one, in my opinion, and still worth a revisit.

Thanks for reading my stuff! Yell at me on Twitter about why I’m wrong, and/or suggest other games I should cover! Hit the comments!

Next week, I replay an entry that everyone forgot in the longest running FPS series ever.