Red Faction: Armageddon
PC | PlayStation 3 | Xbox 360
Red Faction: Armageddon Review
Review By butters @ 10:55am 14/06/11
Confronted with a monster twice my size, I shoot it quickly with the first bolt of the magnet gun then, aiming casually at the ceiling of the cavern, I shoot in the second bolt. The monster is suddenly pulled from its feet and smashed against the ceiling before plummeting to the ground with a thud. For the second monster I shoot the first magnet bolt into a nearby structure, the second into its torso bringing panels of metal flying into it. It's the sort of sequence that typifies the fun gameplay in Armageddon as you pull down surrounding structures, flattening scores of enemy soldiers or monsters. But ultimately the story and corridor-style gameplay leaves you feeling flat.
The Red Faction series always seems to promise big and Armageddon is no different. Not only can you bring down buildings, towers and bridges but you can rebuild them, giving you more ammunition to sling at enemies, or a re-built structure to take cover behind. Yet it's wrapped in some sort of jibberish story about a cult leader and monsters from Mars. Well for the record you play as Darius Mason, grandson of Red Faction: Guerilla’s Alec Mason and poor Darius is somewhat of a black sheep having failed to stop the destruction of the Mars terraformer forcing humans underground. But honestly, I gathered all that from the loading screens; the in-game story progression is completely disinteresting. That you're even on Mars becomes an afterthought as you're funneled through caves and buildings, or canyons; never getting to experience the wide-open plains of the Red Planet – it’s as though the story was written precisely to keep you out of the open. The missions themselves fall into three main categories of get to, destroy or repair which leaves you feeling more like a protagonist gopher than the hero of the story.
It's not the story or the missions that drive you to play Armageddon, it's the array of weapons and power upgrades that make blasting wave after wave of monsters fun. They’re varied enough to keep things interesting and ammo is aplenty, as are stations that allow you to switch up the four weapons you can assign to the D-pad. But the one you want to keep in your arsenal is the magnet gun as it requires no ammo and allows you to send enemies flying in spectacular fashion. Supporting this gunplay are your nano forge abilities that allow you to repair your surroundings as well as upgrade to new abilities using credits that are strewn about for some unknown reason. Upgrading is a mixture of the practical through increased health, ammo and damage options, with new nano forge abilities also available for purchase such as force push which blasts enemies off their feet, a limited-radius time freeze, and a protective barrier. You can upgrade these powers through a number of tiers that become available as you progress through the game with the highest tier of upgrade adding a new aspect to the ability.
Expanding on the varied weapons available you also at times get to jump into an exoskeleton suit or the crawler, a spider-like vehicle that smashes through buildings, allowing you to maximise destruction; exploding enemies faster than they can appear, splattering parts in different directions. Yet given these machines have rechargeable shields and unlimited ammo, it's barely a challenge and feels like you're just going through the motions. But going through the motions describes much of the game. The story seems inconsequential as it jumps from one aspect to another; a new element is introduced only to be superseded or cast aside and in the end it becomes formulaic. While it's fun to bounce enemies off walls the lack of variation becomes tedious and the boss battles are paint-by-the-numbers affairs.
That you can destroy and reconstruct all man-made structures in the game comes across as very impressive and it's even a little surprising that the game can handle all the action seamlessly. Sure it might not look as good as say, Gears, but it looks respectable and you can have structures flying across the screen towards enemies while you splatter a wave of bugs with your force push ability, all while the structure around you is being reduced to rubble. At times you can barely keep track of the frantic destruction, but the engine handles it with distinction. It's sad then that you never get to experience all the action in the open, speeding across the surface towards some lonely outpost infested by cultists or bugs. There are no chances to explore and when you do get outside it's only to go from one end of a canyon to another, hardly a journey to write to Ben Bova about.
Armageddon also throws in two other game options: Ruin Mode and Infestation. Ruin Mode allows you to run around and well, destroy things within a time limit where reaching certain levels of destruction will unlock new maps. With no enemies to destroy the destruction becomes a little tedious and certainly not as much fun as the days of causing maximum carnage in Burnout’s Crash Mode. Infestation is the multiplayer mode and is up to four players going all-out against waves of bugs. Basically it’s the game without having to run around like a gopher or worry about the story; in other words, the best bits!
The Red Faction franchise has come a long way since the original GeoMod engine and its underutilised level of destruction. Although Armageddon excels in the destruction stakes, combining it with some adrenaline-pumping action and cool special abilities, it leaves you feeling empty with its less-than-enthralling story – well less-than-interesting really – and level after level of tedious objectives. Armageddon is one of the few games that’s best played at lower difficulties because it plays to the game’s strengths – to run around causing carnage.