The Let's Play Archive

Red Faction 1

by Lazyfire

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Original Thread: Get Your Ass Off Mars! Let's Play Red Faction and Red Faction II



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About the game

The story of Red Faction actually goes back to the Descent franchise. In 1995 Parallax Software was lauded for their 3D shooter Descent which used a “Six degrees of freedom” system to allow the player to move around in a fully 3D environment while killing enemy robots at mining facilities. Back in 1995 that was some serious shit considering the contemporary shooters were things like Doom and Duke Nukem which used a series of 2D assets to make you feel like it was 3D. Descent is still highly regarded to this day and for a time was a real one of a kind game that actually inspired some clones like Forsaken. Parallax released a sequel: Descent II in 1997 and then did a very bizarre thing; the company split into two. Volition Studios and Outrage Entertainment. Both studios worked on a Descent game, or more accurately Volition released a game with Descent in the name and Outrage released Descent III. Volition then developed two FreeSpace games, including FreeSpace II, which I often get confused with Homeworld II and Masters of Orion II despite never having played any of them because everyone seems to like those space game sequels the best.

THQ bought Volition in September of 2000 and published a game called Summoner the same year. THQ also halted development on Descent IV and had Volition focus on making a first person shooter. Because enough work had been done on the next Descent game Volition ended up using some of the concepts and ideas for the shooter. This included the Martian setting of the game, the destructible environments and the control system used in vehicles. Red Faction hit the shelves as a PS2 exclusive in March-May of 2001 in different regions and drew praise from critics and high sales. The latter was helped by its status as one of only a handful of FPS games on the PS2 at that time (about six months from launch) and the promise of the Geo-Mod system.

I can’t overstate how much game magazines and early websites gushed about Geo-Mod. Don’t want to use a door? Blast around it! Tank in your way? Knock out the bridge below it! You get to do both of these one time each in the first hour of the game and then never again. Geo-Mod remains a pretty neat system that lets you alter the environment in ways you couldn’t and still can’t in most other games, but the uses for it are limited much of the time. Aside from the use cases I mentioned you can also open up hidden passages and routes or knock over some structures, but other games had done that before, they just made these things scripted or put them behind hidden doors.

By the back half of the game Geo-Mod is a distant memory, nearly every object is invincible to explosions, and the alternate routes disappear. It remains one of the big disappointments of this game 12 years later.

I’ll be using the PureFaction mod, something cooked up by fans that fixes a number of bugs, gets the game to run on modern PCs and allows you to change the resolution to 1920x1080, which is a godsend. It also does something to your install of the game so you need to launch through the mod application if you want to be able to play beyond the frame where you pick up the first weapon, which will crash the game every time otherwise. Speaking of bugs and weirdness, I’ll be attempting to show off as much of the jank in this game as possible as it’s an indelible part of the experience.

Table of Contents


Red Faction has a limited number of people named in the story. I’ll endeavor to list them here as they appear.


Parker is the player character who has a lot more backstory in the manual to the game, which Steam doesn’t include with the game so I’m going off 12 year old memories here. Parker is the son of two doctors who treated his acceptance to Harvard as a given and their lack of a reaction prompted him to join Ultor’s Martian mining program. Contrary to the introductory video, where people seem to be chatting quietly in the shuttle to Mars, someone threw up in Zero G on the way to Mars and it hung in the air, sort of a messy introduction to the next year of Parker’s contract. At some point Parker got involved with the Red Faction as evidenced by the training mode, and that somewhat explains his otherwise inexplicable capacity to use firearms. At the start of the game Parker has just finished a shift in mine M4 and is headed back to get some rest when the revolt against Ultor starts before his eyes.

Parker is also treated as an idiot by just about everyone who meets him face to face. I get a lot of laughs out of nearly every third person cutscene in this game between the really bad animations and Parker being treated like he’s a goofy child with a rocket launcher.

The game manual's bio of Parker reads:

Scribbleykins posted:

I can't believe how stupid I was. Yeah, 'Come to Mars, Help Make a New World!' How could I have believed that crap?

I always thought I was different, better than most. Mom and Dad-Dr. and Dr. Parker. if you please-had my life all scoped out. Private schools, tutors, prep school, Ivy League for undergrad, then grad school and on to a glittering career in academia. They had me running their little maze.

I just couldn't take it anymore. Never being able to seperate what I really wanted from what they'd trained me to want. Not knowing where I began and where they ended. No achievement was praiseworthy. When the acceptance letter from Harvard came, they took it like no big deal, just an expected turn in the maze. I went nuts. I ripped up the letter and stormed out of the house, hardly able to see straight. I wanted to so something that wasn't another item to mark off on their progress chart. Signing up for Ultor's mining operations on Mars was sure to fit that bill. I drove downtown, saw one of their recruiting offices, and it just clicked.

The next thing I knew, I was on a shuttle bound for Mars. That's when it hit me. What was I doing? The other recruits lost their lunch during takeoff and it floated about the cabin for the whole ride. I dodged it during freefall, but when gravity returned on Mars the mess fell over all of us.

Once we left the ship, it didn't get any better. We were stripped naked and then fire-hosed from sprayers in the walls and ceiling. It was humiliating-Ultor was showing us who was boss. With the showers over, they issued us uniforms. None of them fit. One new recruit tried to complain. He got beaten by the guards and was hauled off to the infirmary. The rest of us kept our mouths shut.

The barracks are a nightmare. The narrow bunks are stacked in dank rooms. Trash covers the floors and graffiti covers the walls. It wouldn't be so bad if the bed was ours, but we share them. While we're out in the mines, the previous shift uses our bunks. It's gross.

Once you're down in the mines, it's pure grunt work. We smash the rock out of the walls trying to follow a vein of noachite. I'm not sure why they don't use bots to do the work. Ultor has them all over the place here.

It's getting tense around here. We're all scared and angry. Angry at Ultor for the conditions we work in and scared of the Plague. Miners are getting sick. Not flu-sick, but something worse. Every day, dozens of miners collapse, in the mines and in the barracks, without warning. One minute they're fine, the next they're on the ground, writhing in pain or sometimes unconscious before they even hit the floor. And there's something wrong with their faces too. They seem... puffy or stretched. Some say that they've seen sick miners whose faces are bulging or pulsating. Everyone is on the verge of panic.

Lately, there've been pamphlets slapped up on the barracks and cafeteria walls. They're calling for miners to go on strike against Ultor, to refuse to work. Some of the flyers even encourage us to attack the guards, to get back at them for all the years of mistreatment. No one know who writes them. The pamphlets are signed 'Eos'. Some say it's the name of a group; some say it's the name of a woman who's trying to stir up the miners.

The security guards tear down the pamphlets as soon as they see them, but the damage has already been done. Dozens of people read them. In a few hours, hundreds of miners are talking about the latest pamphlet. People are grumbling, glaring at guards, and openly muttering about a strike or worse. It gets uglier every day.

I don't know what to think or do. I just want to get out of here alive, somehow. Harvard sounds better all the time.


He’s got a first name, but that’s lost to the ages as I still can’t find a game manual. Hendrix is actually the son of two Ultor employees but blames Ultor for their deaths or something. He provides computer support from an Ultor office somewhere near Parker, secretly working for the Red Faction as their man on the inside. Hendrix is actually pretty important to the plot of the game and will be with us up till the end.

The game manual bio of Hendrix reads:

Scribbleykins posted:

Growing up, I never heard anything negative about Ultor. Mom and Dad gave their lives to the corporation, in more ways than one. They blamed the Plague on bad luck, a Martian virus, or bad air-anything but Ultor. When you're in the belly of the beast, you shy away from wondering if it has your best interests in mind.

They wanted to keep me out of the mines in the worst way. They pushed me to excel at my studies and glowed with pride at every achievement. As long as I did well in Ultor's schools, I could stay out of the mines. I took all of the tech courses I could. Not just the mechanical stuff that Ultor pushed on all of us, but comp sci, physics, chemistry- everything they'd let me into. Even that didn't stop me. When they wouldn't let me into a certain class, I just borrowed the tapes from someone who was. I wasn't going to wind up in the mines.

As I grew older, I started to hack into Ultor's systems. At first, I was extremely cautious. A friend of mine, Danny, his father supposedly stole something. After Ultor found out, Danny's whole family was gone overnight. I made sure I wouldn't get caught, and started by breaking into unimportant systems like the lock controls on the door to our apartment, or the lights.

It took me a long time to get up the courage to crack a system outside our apartment. I kept picturing Danny and his family. I finally screwed up my nerve and started to hack into the grading records for our complex's school. I figured security would be pretty lax there, all things considered. It took me about two weeks of cautious trial and error, but I finally got in. I made sure I just looked around. When no one came knocking at our door over the nest few days, I went back in and made some small changes to test scores for a couple of my friends. I was afraid to do more, as the teachers might notice.

When I finished the tech program at age 15, they put me to work in the robot maintenance division, working on bot electronics. For the past ten years, I've worked long and hard at it, rising from maintenance to SciLab support and now security technician.

All that time, my real work has gone on at home. One of the first subsystems I looked for was Ultor's snooper / tracker programs. By watching them work, I figured out how avoid detection on my nightly forays. They're not that smart, so it wasn't hard. I felt safer then and began to explore further. I cracked hundreds of Ultor systems, never touching data or code, never leaving a trace (at least I hope not). Over the years, I've broken into almost every important system in the mining complex.

The exceptions are certain areas within the SciLabs' computer subnetwork and the medical facility subnetwork. Incredible security and layers of complex encoding surround all files within these areas. When I first encountered the SciLab section of the netowrk, over two years ago, it scared me to death. Every few months I work up the courage to look again, but I always stop short. I'm not even sure I really want to see what's inside anyway. I've got a bad feeling about it.

Those network sections are under the personal security of Dr. Capek, the head of Ultor's Science Labs. He's the scariest person I've ever met. He looks like he's half robot, with implants all over his body. I think most of my fear of the SciLab subnet centers on running into Capek, even in a virtual area.

For years, I've existed in two worlds. The physical world that I share with everyone else here is the daily drudgery of this hellish mining complex. But the virtual world of Ultor's computer net is mine alone. I've never talked about it with anyone, and I've never spotted another human presence among the autonomous programs that run the complex.

The irony of my current position doesn't escape me. Here I am, a security technician, entrusted with observing and maintaining a roomful of security monitors and data analysis equipment. I can watch activity in dozens of areas throughout the mining complex. I can also switch a monitor to show the view through any miner's helmetcam, giving me a choice of thousands of mobile cameras. And yet, I might be Ultor's single greatest security risk.

With what I know about the systems here, I could probably bring the entire mining operation crashing down. But they'd be sure to find me then, and I don't even want to think about that. I can help out anyone who wants to fight Ultor, though, whatever I can do without much risk. Maybe keep the rebels one step ahead.

There are some miners who're willing to start a revolt against Ultor. The one making the most noise right now goes by the codename 'Eos.' Her group has been posting flyers urgning miners to rise up against Ultor.

I know who Eos is. Worse yet, Ultor knows too. That's how I found out-by looking through Ultor security files. I want to warn her, to tell her that Ultor's on to her and is hiding its time for some reason. But I can't bring myself to contact her; I can't risk exposure. They're watching her and they might catch me.

So I sit and watch too, hoping things turn out OK. I've been watching for years now, as things slowly fall apart, as the miners and Ultor get closer and closer to a final confrontation.

That's the way I've always dealt with the world-by sitting and watching. Even when my parents died. They both seemed like they'd live and work forever. One day, a little over a year ago, we had just finished dinner when Dad started shivering and twitching, more violently every second. He flopped onto the floor before Mom or I could reach him. His face was bulging and stretching like it was made out of rubber. Lumps were moving around under his clothes too. Mom freaked out. I called the medics, but he was dead before they got here. They said it was the Plague and had no ideas what caused it.

I'd heard of the Plague, of course. Lots of people on Mom and Dad's shifts had been hit over the last few years. It always struck suddenly. Sometimes the victim died within minutes and sometimes he was still alive when the medics took him away. None of the miners taken away ever came back, so I'm pretty sure they died too.

After Mom got over the shock of Dad's death, she got mad, really mad. Dad had been in for his annual checkup at the station's medical facility just a week before and she thought they should have found it then. She railed, on and on, night after night, about the medics' incompetence and how they could have cured him of the Plague. She went in for her annuel four months later and came back ticked off all over again. Turns out she gave them a piece of her mind the whole time she was there. Three weeks after that, my supervisor came into the monitoring room and told me Mom had collapsed in the tunnels and died before they could get her to a medevac.

My annual checkup is in two weeks; I'm not going.


Eos is the leader of the Red Faction and seems to have some sort of cyber eye. She’s apparently really looking for the cure to the disease killing all the miners and may be afflicted herself. She also hates Parker so goddamn much even when he does things OK it sounds like she’s really angry with him. She’s great if not a bit grating.

The game manual bio of Eos reads:

Scribbleykins posted:

There's no going back now. We've finally made a move, after all these years of planning and talking. With last night's attack, we've finally committed.

Orion rigged the bomb. Once he was clear, I hit the Alert button outside the cafeteria. When the security guards ran out of their barracks, the blast took out six of them. That should stir things up.

I can't think of them as people. There's too much at stake here. They work for Ultor, helping the company kill miners. They're the enemy. Too many of my friends have died to feel pity now. We need to harden attitudes on both sides, to make a conflict inevitable. Once miners realize they have no choice, once they know their lives depend on defeating Ultor, then they'll fight. And we'll win.

I can't believe it took this long. Ultor's made us live like animals for so many years that we've forgotten we're human. People have been beaten down, physically and mentally, and it's going to take a strong shock to get them back up. We're going to provide the juice, even if it kills us. But no matter what, the miners here will never go back to lurching through life like zombies. We're going to make sure of that.

Mom was one of the early Plague victims, over four years ago. Something about the reactions of the docs and techs in the medical facility made me wonder what was really going on. When she died, I saw guilt burn across a doc's face. I started screaming, blaming Ultor. My Dad dragged me back to our apartment and locked me in my room until I stopped yelling. He refused to hear it. But I knew. I just shut up and churned inside.

That night, I decided to rid Mars of Ultor. I had to do it for my Mom, for what they did to her. It began with getting Orion on board. We'd gorwn up together and I knew I could trust him. And that is where it all began.

As our core group grew, it got harder to meet without arousing suspicion. Orion and I decided to create a smoke-screen of athletic competitions between miner barracks. Each barrack could field one or more teams to meet in weekly contests. We submitted a proposal to Gryphon, Ultor's Deputy Administrator. It made my skin crawl to ask him for something, but he quickly approved the idea. A good morale booster is what he thought. It's pretty funny that Ultor is helping cover up our activities.

It was Orion who came up with the name Red Faction for our team. He thought the political sense of "Faction" would have meaning only for us. And the "Red" symbolised that we represented all of Mars. The name clicked with everyone, and Red Faction became the first team to join the new league. Once the league got underway, we met several times a week for "training" sessions. We couched all our planning in sports terms. This gave a light-hearted feel to a frightening undertaking. Our meetings were also less dangerous because Ultor had to spread its monitoring efforts among the many teams in the competitions.

We all took codenames to use within the group. It probably doesn't provide all that much protection, but it makes us feel a little safer. We'll see. Keeping the group small should help too. There are 23 of us now, plus a few probational recruits. Few enought to be fairly certain there are no leaks, but more than enough to really groups of miners against Ultor when the time comes.

Sometimes it bothers me how much the others look to me for leadership. What if I get capture or killed? I'd hate for everything to fall apart if something happened to me. Orion's the only one with any initiative. Maybe I've been too forceful, but someone had to do it. We'd still be sitting on our butts complaining if I hadn't taken charge.

Last night's action might have gotten the ball rolling. The security goons are freaking out. I heard they dragged some miners off the third shift and beat them. Everything's primed for the rebellion to start. All it needs is a spark.

And once it gets going, we'll be there to lead it. For weeks now, we've been blanketing the barracks with pamphlets condemning Ultor and blaming them for everything wrong on Mars. The writings are signed "Eos". I would have preferred to have them from a group, from Red Faction, but that would have given us away immediately. Orion also said the miners needed someone to believe in and follow, not another faceless group. I don't know if I buy that, but it's good enough for now. Once the rebellion begins, though, everyone's going to know that Red Faction is the driving force behind it. There will be no more hiding.

We've been stockpiling weapons for months now. We've quietly stolen weapons from a bunch of weapons lockers at guard barracks and posts. We had to break into only the first couple we raided. After that, we found the doors unlocked to every post we tried. The weapon cabinets were unlocked too. It freaked us out the first time it happened. We figured Ultor was on to us and backed off pretty quickly. But when we found the door to another weapons locked open a few days later, we took some weapons and boxes of ammo and got out fast. The doors have been unlocked every time since. We still have no idea why. We don't know if Ultor's doing it or someone else, but we're going to grab weapons as long as we can. They won't know miners are armed until the bullets are coming out the backs of their skulls.

We've cached the stolen weapons throughout the mines and barracks. When the rebellion starts, Red Faction members will head to the nearest cache and hand out weapons to any miners willing to fight. The security guards are used to bullying unarmed miners; they're in for a big shock.

I don't know what to do about the mercenaries that Masako brought here, though. They're tough, and so is she. We'll make some feints at important installations around the complex, maybe get the mercs dug into defensive positions. If that doesn't work, we're in trouble. The mercs will slice right through us if they go on the offensive too soon. If we move fast enough, they won't hit us until we've settled with the guards and gotten everyone armed. Our sole advantage is numbers, but I don't want to waste thousands of miners to human wave attacks.

The next few days are going to make or break us. Four years of planning and plotting are either going to pay off or get us all killed. Getting rid of Ultor is the goal of everyone else in Red Faction. But I want more. I want to know who's behind the Plague. And I want them to die.
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