Red Faction is a first-person shooter. Players take the role of Parker, a miner working underground for the Ultor Corporation. Equipped in an environment suit, Parker is protected from various hazards and able to breathe deep in the mines and in airless locations. At times, Parker also needs to travel undercover in more a lesser protective disguise. Parker defends himself with a variety of weapons, most which feature a primary and secondary firing mode.
The weapons are divided into: hand weapons such as riot shields and flamethrowers, light arms which include pistols and shotguns, heavy arms featuring rocket launchers and sub-machine guns and finally weapons that are thrown or placed such as grenades and explosives.
The game features a variety of vehicles to drive in first-person; including jeeps, drillers, flying craft and submarines. In order to survive, Parker must link up and aid his fellow miners, receiving direction and objectives via com-link messages.