I was pretty shocked that a game I picked up for 79p and had last played about 12 years ago turned out to be one of my most enjoyable gaming experiences in recent memory.
Don't be fooled by the game's age - if you've never played Red Faction before, or, like me, had simply forgotten about it over time, it's immediately obvious that it's a surprisingly solid shooter, and a fantastic PC port to boot, given it's age. The controls are smooth and responsive, and whilst the default mapping is not entirely intuitive this can obviously be corrected quite easily. This smooth control scheme lays a solid base over which the rest of the game is very competently assembled.
Visually, Red Faction is head and shoulders above many shooters of the time, offering varied locals (from claustrophobic mines, to sterile office environments, to sprawling underwater caverns), a good dose of atmosphere, and of particular note - fantastic lighting. The lighting in this game holds up so well that I often found myself just walking around the environment observing how the lighting effects the various surfaces around me. The levels are often non-linear, which can be confusing at times, but more often than not simply makes the environment feel like a more realistic, lived-in place. You can play multiple times and find new things every time, which for a game that is essentially a corridor shooter, is pretty cool, I think.
Gameplay is quite varied with well-designed gunplay supplimented with stealth, driving, flying, and submarine sections. The stealth is passable, and if you follow the rules everything works. The flying and diving vehicles control beautifully and blowing up an enemy sub underwater results in some great underwater explosion effects which are imaginative and impressive even in hindsight. There's a raft of fun weapons to use as well, most of which have their own alternate fire, including the most fantastically OP flamethrower in video game history.
The soundtrack is a standout, with wonderfully moody electronic tracks perfectly supplimenting the action, and giving the game an irreplacable personality.
And of course I have to mention the environmental destruction. Whilst it isn't exactly a gameplay staple as much as it is a useful gimmick, it absolutely improves the experience when your battles dynamically scar the environment around you. Walking away from a gunfight with holes in the walls and scorch marks on all surfaces is a great feeling, and it's the moments when you forget about the mechanic, and then an enemy blows a hole in the wall you're hiding behind that you truly appreciate just how much this little touch does to improve the immersion. It's worth noting as well that this mechanic completely changes your multiplayer experience for the better, as you can strategically shatter your opponent's cover around them - I've never played more local VS. in my life than I did this game when I owned it on PS2.
Now it's not perfect, of course - the voice acting for the NPCs is repetitive, and the quality of some of the character is often poor, but in saying that, it's not uniformly bad, so I can personally let it go. It's also a game that occasionally leaves you wondering where to go as there is no mission objective screen as far as I can tell. However, there's a number of problems that I solved by simply blowing giant holes in the wall until I made a path around the obstacle, and I'm still not sure if I did the right thing or not. I, for one, call that the mark of a pretty cool game. Other than that though, I'd have to nit-pick to name issues that really bugged me.
Red Faction has single-handedly restored my faith in the quality of games released around the early 2000s - a time in which I feel a large number of developers' reach exceeded their grasp. Sure, it's not the most ground-breaking shooter, and it has its issues, most of which were somewhat characteristic of games at the time. But when it plays so well, and is so much fun, who cares? Given that I'd played it so much when I was younger, I expected nostalgia to be playing a large part in my judgements, but it's been so long that it was like playing it anew, and I just found myself genuinely excited by what the game offers.
I'd highly recommend this to anyone looking for a fun, well-designed shooter, with a decent amount of variety and some neat gameplay mechanics.