|Red Faction Armageddon|
|Developer: Volition Inc.
Publisher: THQ/SyFy Games
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: 1-4, 2-4 online/system link co-op, DLC
This is the fourth game in the Red Faction series, the first two of which were first person shooters with a focus on the game engine’s “Geo-Mod" technology, which provided previously unseen destructible environments. The series switched to a third person viewpoint and became an open world game set on Mars for the 2009 Red Faction Guerrilla (referred to as RFG from now on.) In Armageddon you play as Darius Mason, the grandson of Alex and Samanya from RFG.
The game cuts to 5 years later when the survivors have set up a subterranean safe haven called Bastion, and that’s where the story starts. Darius, now a mercenary, is once again tricked by Hale (he’s so sneaky! Or is Darius just dumb as a cave full of rocks?) into releasing a previously undiscovered species of creatures called ‘The Plague,’ and now must find a way of stopping the “Armageddon” of the title.
Darius has a “Situational Awareness Module” (SAM) who acts like “Cortana” (the smartass female AI from Halo) throughout the game. She gives you combat advice (usually too late) and will show you the way to go if you get lost, and yes, despite the game’s unceasing linearity, you will occasionally.
Armageddon throws a veritable arsenal of varied and powerful weapons your way very quickly; the Maul (huge mining hammer), Magnet Gun (magnetises first target then when fired a second time attracts the first to the second), pistols, shotgun, Charge Launcher (fires sticky grenades that are triggered remotely), assault rifle, plasma cannon (very powerful but slow to charge up), Banshees (more dual-wielded pistols), Nano Rifle (an updated version of the disintegrator-type weapon from RFG), rocket launcher, plasma beam (powerful but slow to fire & aim), pulse grenade (only damages organic material), Rail Driver (sniper weapon) and Singularity cannon (creates a black hole!)
If the Magnet gun sounds fun then yes it is, and it could have been as inventive a weapon as Half Life 2’s Gravity gun or Just Cause 2’s grapple line, but despite producing some spectacular moments as you hurl enemies around or fire explosive objects at enemies, by the end of the game I felt that it was a hugely wasted opportunity for something greater.
Apart from the hemmed-in underground settings and thus unsurprisingly linear gameplay being very different, fans of RFG will also mourn the virtual disappearance of vehicles from the game, maybe they used them all in the waste of time and money that was Red Faction Battlegrounds. There are no driveable wheeled ones at all! And even when the story allows for a driving section on the super-tornado and lightning-ravaged surface of Mars it’s all done in cut scene! Another of RFG’s favourite toys, the jet pack has gone too, presumably because you’d forever be banging your head on the cave ceilings! This dearth of vehicles is a huge change in gameplay styles and for me at least, a huge loss. The linear story and tunnel setting means there’s also a lack of freedom or side missions, like the excellent “Demolitions Master” ones that have been forgotten, which were, for want of a better term, dead clever and quite possibly my favourite part of RFG.
A few levels in which you stomp around in exoskeletons, crawl around in spidery walking tanks and ride along on a lava barge as gunner are fun and add a bit of variety, and you also get to pilot an Inferno GX air support vehicle, although this is obviously very restricted and very reminiscent of a host of other tunnel-based shooters of yore, and probably owes a lot to Volition’s cancelled project Descent 4. The almost constant underground settings make for some very samey scenery (and when I say ‘samey’, I mean the early levels look exactly like the later ones), none of which will trouble the BAFTA nominations for ‘most inventive level design of the year.’
RFA inexplicably does away with the adversarial multiplayer from RFG (which I thought was really good, but proved to be about as popular as a Gary Glitter T-shirt) and instead goes down the Gears of War Horde mode route with a 2-4 player co-op survival mode. In this you’ll have to kill the ever-increasingly difficult waves of aliens while healing your downed buddies and mending broken structures with the Nano Forge. This plays well enough, but before long the tight locations, the flashy weapon effects and the fast-moving enemy that gets quite numerous makes it all start to feel a bit like you’re staging WWE’s Royal Rumble in your bedroom, and losing.
When you finally get a glimpse of the sun you’ll be glad, but the game is over then, and I reckon you’ll be glad of that too. RFA just seems like a huge step backwards from RFG, the game engine is certainly impressive in terms of how much action there is on-screen, and at times it looks really nice-the cut scenes in particular are very good with superb character models (especially Kara!) But sadly, in the end Armageddon leaves you feeling like you've watched a low-budget B-movie filmed on an old Star Trek sound stage and using the same scenery over and over again, whereas despite a storyline that was just about as weak, RFG felt like a Michael Bay blockbuster. All most fans of RFG wanted was more of the same, possibly new terrain styles and the ability to fly above the Martian surface too. From a thrilling, epic and wide open Guerrilla war to an all-new potholing (spelunking for our US readers) adventure, Volition has seemingly tried to bury the Red Faction in more ways than one.
- Geo Mod engine generally pleases with its amazing destructibility.
- Loads of on-screen action with no slowdown.
- The Magnet Gun.
- Repetitive gameplay and scenery.
- Wasted opportunities with weak level design.
- Mostly underground settings make the game feel claustrophobic.
- Feel like a prequel to Guerrilla rather than a sequel.
- Feeble story that could have been written by a 12-year old.
- Did we really need the stupid Martian monsters?
- Mr Toots says it all really.