Red Faction pretty much follows the prescribed course of what is referred to as an old school, first-person shooter. If you're looking for a comparison, play style would be similar to games like Half-Life and Jedi Knights. These types of older games have aged quite well and can still offer the player a lot of enjoyment. In its day, this one was well-received enough to inspire several sequels.
You play Parker, a young man looking to make his fortune by going to Mars to work in the mines run by the Ultor Corporation. Expecting opportunities for career advancement, what he finds instead are horrible working conditions and unrest among the miners. In addition, many are contracting a mysterious disease referred to as "The Plague", for which there is no known cause nor cure. With the miners being pushed to their limits, many are on the edge of revolting against Ultor. When one of them is ruthlessly killed by a guard, it ignites a full-fledged rebellion organized under a leader named Eos. They become known as the Red Faction, so named, I presume, for their red uniforms and armor.
All miners are now the targets of Ultor security and Parker must join this faction as they try to make their way out of the mines. Their goal is to reach the docking bay where they can escape Mars and return to Earth. The odds are not good and most of the miners are being mowed down as they look for a way out. Through the comm link in his suit, Parker receives directions from Eos, as well as a man named Hendrix, who is an Ultor technician helping the Red Faction. Parker misses reaching the docking bay in time for the flight, which is fortunate as the missile defense force blows up the shuttle full of escaping miners. Eos then assigns Parker several objectives, including finding the source of the plague and a possible antidote. This involves penetrating Ultor's headquarters and extracting the executive who has information about Capek, the man in charge of Ultor's medical facility. Information reveals that Capek has been experimenting on both animals and humans with nano technology and this process has produced several types of dangerous mutants.
With the help of Parker, the Red Faction has managed to send a distress signal to Earth and after accomplishing these goals, Parker must then find a way to disable the missile defense system so that the rescue ship will not be destroyed like the shuttle. Ultor has now deployed mercenaries to seal up the base and kill all the rebels. He must fight his way through these, culminating in the final boss fight with their leader.
Red Faction follows most of the standards for this genre being smooth-running and fast-paced, with easy to master controls. In addition to manual saves, there is also quicksave and load, which true to their name, do load quickly. There are quite a few weapons available, and along with ammo and health, these are picked up simply by moving over them. In its day, one significant feature of this game was the ability for players to cause real effects to the environment. Explosives can open new tunnels and guns will destroy the surrounding landscape. There are also quite a few vehicles that are downright fun, as they are so easy to control and can be used to mow down the enemy. The AIs are also quite tricky and able to dodge your bullets quite effectively. For the most part, they never stand still for an easy kill. There are some neat visual effects if you manage to get one with a shotgun blast.
As with most of this genre, there are many objectives, but how to accomplish them is not puzzling in this game. There are a couple of places that attempt to employ stealth of a sort, but it's not a strong feature. It does mix things up, though, so the experience is not completely run and gun. There are also a few areas that require timed responses. The maps are fairly typical of shooters, corridor type in the form of tunnels, an office complex and military bases. The graphics are also fairly typical for its time with the environments and objects rendering fairly well, but sentient beings looking rather blocky. However, all are very acceptable.
Now for the bad news. I experienced several errors that resulted in crashes. There was also a section where I lost the sound. However, these were overcome by restarting, which was not entirely irritating as the game loads very quickly. Possibly one bad place is when you encounter the first submarine. Many people, including myself, had a problem with the sub blowing up instead of lowering into the water. This is caused by too high a frame rate. You can see below for potential solutions.
Now for the really bad news. The last few minutes of the game requires you to enter in two codes by means of guesswork. There are no clues to the right sequence. In addition, it is completely randomized, not only for each person, but also for each attempt, so that it cannot be memorized. It is also on a timer. The first code requires a sequence of four symbols and when you have that, these four symbols must be arranged in a further correct sequence of seven. You will probably have approximately 30 seconds at this stage and if you make a mistake on any symbol you will have to re-enter even the correct ones. Be sure to save just prior to starting this.
Having said that, it does not materially effect the game in any way except to end on a bit of a frustrating note, but perhaps you'll have more luck with it than I did. The game is very much worth playing and lots of fun if you enjoy this genre.