After 2009′s Red Faction: Guerrilla took many gamers by surprise with its fun mix of open-world destruction and mission-driven story mode, fans were left wondering which direction the franchise would go after the successful reinvention that Guerrilla accomplished. The leap from first-person to third-person has been a debate argued by Red Faction fans since the announcement of Guerrilla. However, the success of the franchise, both critically and sales wise, since the transition cannot be disputed.
Linearity: It’s a Good Thing
One of Guerrilla’s biggest strengths in the gameplay actually ended up being a glaring weakness in the story. Finishing parts of the single player story mode felt tiring, unnecessary, and unrewarding in an open-world game that rewarded destruction and exploration more than completing missions. For that very reason, Volition decided to take the destruction-friendly engine and mechanics of Guerrilla and work them into a linear story progression in enclosed spaces to create a tighter narrative. Despite its linearity, Armageddon still maintains the excitement of bringing down entire buildings with your available weaponry.
The linear progression of Armageddon does wonders for not only the story, but also the gameplay itself. In assuming complete control of the way the user experiences the title, Volition is able to ensure that players have a constant onslaught of action coming their way throughout the story mode. In many games, constant action can feel monotonous and even exhausting, but in Red Faction: Armageddon, Volition has done an excellent job of mixing up the type of action to provide a well-rounded experience that is as exciting as it is varied. While much of the action is centered around destruction and third person shooting, there are plenty of vehicle and turret based passages, which definitely work to effectively change up the experience a considerable amount.
Summer Blockbuster, Hold The Cheese
Armageddon puts you in the shoes of Darius Mason, the grandson of Alec Mason, the protagonist of Red Faction: Guerrilla. During a routine mission, Darius unintentionally uncovers an ancient evil that threatens humanity’s existence on Mars. Working as colonists and military personnel try to hunt him down for his mistakes, Darius must not only fight to end the party that tricked him into unleashing the threat, but also find a way to save Mars by ridding the planet of the monsters he unwittingly released. With that theme in mind, the storyline contains some intricate nuances, but overall it remains an easy to understand tale equatable to a typical summer action movie.
The parallels to a summer action film do not end with the story, however. The action and the set pieces are worthy of comparison to nearly any action flick. Red Faction: Armageddon has everything any Hollywood director would ever need to release a blockbuster action hit from buildings that crumble amidst firefights, and acrobatic adversaries that possess spectacular abilities. When you aren’t destroying buildings or enemies, you are watching well constructed and strongly voice-acted cutscenes. The dialog is certainly not going to win any awards for its thought-provoking nature, but very rarely do the characters spit out lines that are cheesy or cringe-worthy, which is commendable in a title that could have very easily gone the b-movie route with its storyline.
The presentation of the game is overall very impressive. The textures are detailed and palpable, and the colors are vibrant and diverse despite taking place underground for the majority of the story. Strangely enough, due to the red color scheme of the surface of Mars, the sequences that take place above ground are much less colorful than the underground levels. The enemies are creative and vibrant, which adds more flavor into the presentational pallet. The various colors and set-pieces work together to form a very sharp looking game that screams of polish.
The linear design of this game really allows players to get right in the action. With this, however, comes the need to have more engaging level design; therefore, players will not make their own adventure through exploring the given environment as they would in the open-world setting of Guerrilla. Fortunately, the level design is very well executed. Sure, there are some levels that feel monotonous by design; however, the levels take advantage of the destruction mechanics of the game, though not nearly as well as Guerrilla did. It’s certainly understandable to sacrifice a little bit of reliance on the destruction gimmick in the name of narrative and gameplay.
Weapons of Mass Destruction (And Repair)
The weaponry of Red Faction: Armageddon is unique and very destructive. While the favorites from Guerrilla are all back for this game, one gun has joined the already impressive weaponry lineup to form an arsenal that rivals Bulletstorm’s gun closet. That gun is the Magnet Gun. The Magnet Gun is a two-shot weapon; the first shot — the magnet — latches on to what you want to move, whether that’s an enemy or a building. The second shot — the anchor — operates as the attraction point for the first shot. What happens next is pretty easy to imagine (Unless you’re a Juggalo – Ed.). While the concept sounds almost impractical in the heat of battle, the weapon is very effective and exceeds any other weapon in overall satisfaction.
One new thing that Volition introduces with their latest installment of Red Faction is the ability to repair any structural damage that is done by players, vehicles, or enemies. Anytime a developer introduces a mechanic such as this, there is a common fear that it will require players to grind in order to find resources to fuel the new feature. Luckily, no such issue exists since the Nano Forge, which powers the repair aspect, as well as many special attack powers, has no limit on usage aside from a brief recharge period. The repair aspect comes into play much more as intense firefights tend to blow out walkways and bridges.
Maybe it’s the fact that we’ve been so focused on destroying structures in video games in the past, or maybe the fact that it’s so easy to actually perform the repairs (simply hold the left shoulder button to repair everything around you, or tap that same button to throw a “repair grenade”), but for some reason, repairing structures feels just as satisfying as bringing them down with explosives, which is a huge achievement on Volition’s part. It’s oddly interesting to walk through a pile of ruins with your arm extended and see pristine structures magically sprout back where they once were. Throughout the course of the game, players will come across several repair-based missions that are every bit as enjoyable as the destruction or shooting missions, with a huge exception on the final repair-based mission, which feels more like a chore than anything.
The Martian Threat
If you’ve played Guerrilla, you will notice that Armageddon possesses a very different threat. The enemies this time around are, for the most part, not human. Instead, enemies are of a bug-like Martian race that possess various powers and come in many shapes and sizes. This range spans from small spider-like creatures that can literally be stepped on, to behemoth monsters that look ripped out of Final Fantasy X‘s enemy roster.
Obviously the weaponry is your first line of defense against this new threat, but sometimes Red Faction: Armageddon recognizes that the situation is a little too sticky to go it alone. With that in mind, Darius will be able to take control of several different vehicles. The vehicles are as unique and fun as the weapon library, featuring spider walkers that shoot lightning out of their guns, and the awesomely powerful ExoSuit, which can easily bring buildings down just by charging into them. The most fun vehicle stage may have come from manning the Inferno GX, an aerial ship that has the player assume the first person view for the only instance in the game. The fact that each vehicle controls differently really does wonders for breaking up the pacing of the game. Volition also had the presence of mind to include a thermal view that can be accessed during vehicle sections, since so much tends to be going on in the vehicle sequences that you can lose track of enemies very easily.
Outside of the story mode, Red Faction: Armageddon boasts two awesomely entertaining multiplayer options centered around two very different ideas. Infestation mode is the new Red Faction equivalent to Halo’s Firefight or Gears of Wars’ Horde modes. Players join forces with several others in order to fight off invading enemies. Throughout the experience, you’ll encounter every enemy imaginable and will find yourself using all of your strategic destruction that you utilized in the campaign in order to survive for as long as possible.
While Infestation mode sees players attempting to do all they can to save Mars in a futile effort, Ruin mode tasks players with doing all they can to destroy Mars. Ruin mode gives players a predetermined amount of time to use any weapon they see fit to destroy the buildings before them. Each building will earn the player thousands of points, and if the player is able to efficiently bring down buildings in a quick manner, they’ll earn score multipliers, which will really raise their score. Ruin mode is really the successor to the Wrecking Crew mode in Red Faction: Guerrilla, but everything from the mode customization to the maps themselves has been taken to the next level. Ruin mode is the perfect example of Volition realizing they have the best destruction engine in the business and they are not afraid to show it off. Players hoping to enjoy Ruin mode should be warned that it requires you to enter a one-time use code that comes packaged with new copies, meaning people renting and buying used will not have access to the destruction-based explosion-fest.
Armageddon has really worked to strike a harmonious balance between fun, action, and satisfactory gameplay. Between the best destruction mechanics we’ve ever seen and a storyline that works to capitalize on it, Red Faction: Armageddon is about as much fun as anyone can ask for. The game excels at taking everything great from Red Faction: Guerrilla and adding it into a more appropriate and updated infrastructure. If you’re looking for a great third-person shooter and like the idea of destructible environments, then it’s certainly in your best interest to pre-order Red Faction: Armageddon.
- Release Date: June 7th 2011
- Genre: Third Person Shooter
- Platform: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
- Developer: Reaction Zero, Volition
- Publisher: THQ
- ESRB Rating: M