Red Faction: Armageddon Review
Written : Thursday, June 09, 2011
By: Richard Walker
You should never underestimate the ever-enduring appeal of destruction. Especially wanton destruction. That's the best kind, and something that Red Faction: Guerrilla excelled in. Red Faction: Armageddon is ostensibly more of the same, but takes the action beneath the surface of Mars for a more linear story-driven experience, which on paper seems like a step back for the franchise after creating a rather appealing open-world in the previous game. But does being confined to the subterranean Martian caves put a dampener on Red Faction's potential for causing massive devastation or is it a case of less is more?
Continuing the legacy of the ubiquitous Mason family in Red Faction lore, you play Darius Mason, the grandson of Guerrilla's hero Alec Mason, who's just as comfortable with a big hammer in his hands as his ancestor, although this time it's called a 'Maul' and has spiky bits on it. You might find yourself ditching the Maul fairly early on however, as there's a huge arsenal of great weapons in Red Faction: Armageddon and you can only carry four at a time from a selection of old and new hardware. Much has been made of the game's magnet gun, and with good reason. It's massive fun to wield and infinitely useful, with no need for ammunition. The concept is simple. Fire one node with the yellow crosshair then fire a second using the blue crosshair to attract whatever you tagged with your first shot, pulling all of the debris through the air as the force tears apart the object you've targeted.
"It was like this when I got here. Honest."
You can even tag enemies with it, pull them into the air, drop them from great heights or pull them together with a big splat. It's enormously gratifying and will be the source of endless entertainment, meaning you'll probably keep it on you at all times. There's also the usual array of ballistic weapons like dual pistols, rifles, shotguns and the thermobaric rocket launcher to choose from, while the singularity cannon and corrosive nano rifle make a welcome return. There's also the plasma cannon that can blast a hole in anything and the plasma beam that can cut a building clean in half. Volition has really done its homework to ensure that all of Armageddon's weapons are enjoyable to use and for the most part it's a success. There's a reason for ripping through tons of manmade structures and masonry of course, and it all begins when Darius is stupidly tricked into breaking the seal on a dormant hive full of hostile aliens. The idiot.
What follows is a huge operation to eradicate the entire alien race, which inevitably means journeying deep into the creatures' hive to destroy the source. That's not a spoiler by the way. It says that in the game's achievement list. Armageddon is a far more linear game than Guerrilla, so don't expect side missions, loads of vehicles and the freedom to explore. You're given objectives to complete, things to shoot and stuff to destroy, making the game more akin to the likes of Gears of War, which is no bad thing. There's a variety of set pieces to complete too, including sections piloting a LEO exo mech, riding an excavator through a tunnel, manning a fixed turret while a barge sails through a magma chamber or flying the Marauder's Inferno GX craft through claustrophobic catacombs.
Red Faction: Armageddon is pretty well-paced and knows when to add something new into the mix at just the right juncture. As we've already mentioned, blowing stuff never gets old and there's plenty to see and do within the game's more linear framework, but shooting wave after wave of spindly, toothsome aliens soon grows tired, especially in an area packed with the monsters' spawning pods, which unleash more and more aliens making the shooting action utterly interminable towards the latter portion of the game's story. There's a sequence near the game's conclusion, where you're right in the heart of the hive for instance, where the checkpoints are fairly far apart and the sheer number of enemies is overwhelming. Thankfully, there are few annoying parts like this and the majority of Armageddon's 8-10 hours of gameplay are absorbing and incredibly entertaining.
"Worst boy band ever."
Destroying stuff is one aspect of this, but the other is using Mason's wrist-mounted Nano Forge to reassemble broken bits of the environment, meaning that you can be as reckless as you like without worrying about toppling an essential bridge or building. Upgrading the Nano Forge unlocks abilities like the Shockwave that sends enemies floating into the air in temporary stasis while you shoot them down, Impact that enables you to smash through walls and foes, Berserk which overcharges your weapons, capable of chaining kill combos to extend the duration of the ability and turns you into a walking bomb. Finally, Shell projects an energy barrier around you, which can be upgraded to reflect projectiles giving you the chance to take a breather when the action gets too hectic, which it occasionally does.
Once you've finished with the campaign, you can embark upon a 'new game +' with all of your upgrades and equipment, as well as Mr. Toots, the cuddly rainbow farting unicorn that can carve a building up in seconds. Alternatively, you can take your upgrades and weaponry into the game's four-player co-op multiplayer mode, Infestation where there's 30 waves of aliens to take on and on some maps, there's a building to defend too. Losing your lives or failing to defend the structure, events in a failure and with waves getting extremely tough relatively quickly, teamwork is paramount. You can revive your buddies as they get downed, but doing so loses a life, of which you only have three per player, per wave. It sounds like plenty, but in the later waves, it seldom is enough.
"Insert halitosis comment here."
There's masses of longevity in co-op if you can rope in some friends, but the lack of competitive multiplayer might baffle fans of Guerrilla's riotous online deathmatches and other game modes, as will the lack of funky backpacks, although the Nano Forge goes some way towards filling that latter void. Ruin brings back Guerrilla's Wrecking Crew score attack party mode with a new name and the same concept of destroying an environment as fast as you can to score the most points within a time limit. There's leaderboard support for this particular mode too, which should help foster some good competition online with friends and rivals. Ruin Mode is accessed with one of those 'project ten dollar'-type codes in new copies of the game, by the way.
If you're in it purely for the achievements though, you needn't worry as Ruin doesn't have any. However, the story and Infestation multiplayer have plenty, with a fairly even split between both aspects of the game. The majority are assigned to story progression and for pulling off certain feats during the campaign, like slamming two aliens together with the magnet gun or flinging one fifty metres with the same weapon. There's plenty to keep you on your toes and a nice proportion of inventive little cheevos to keep you occupied. Some are a little too tough however, such as beating an entire 30 waves in Infestation, which thanks to a steep difficulty will provide one hell of a challenge.
It might not be as big as Red Faction: Guerrilla or offering the same open-world, but Armageddon is nonetheless a worthy sequel with enough new ideas of its own to set it apart. Play around with the magnet gun and the plasma weapons, and you'll be hard-pushed to find something as mindlessly fun. Play with the shotgun and assault rifle, and you might find yourself having less enjoyment, but then experimenting with your weapons is all part of the appeal. And destroying stuff, of course. That never gets old.
Lots of lovely explosions, screeching aliens and so forth. Fairly standard stuff that does the job. The score is subtle, non-invasive and frankly rather forgettable.
Some parts of Red Faction: Armageddon look truly stunning and given that most of the game is set within subterranean caves and tunnels, there's enough variety to keep you from nodding off. That said, some more exterior environments beyond the few in the game would have been welcome.
Red Faction: Armageddon is a riot from start to finish, with plenty to destroy and rebuild, with a nice dose of gameplay variation as and when it's needed. Tearing through structures in an exo or a Mantis walker is immense fun and hugely gratifying to boot.
Single-player is a good length, although the latter part drags a little and Infestation has more than enough maps for you and three friends to blast through. There's also infinite replay value in Ruin, which is simple, unadulterated destruction, and upon completing the story, you can jump into a new game + with all of your persistent upgrades earned in the campaign and Infestation modes.
A good overall achievement list, with some nice ones that involve creative use of the Nano Forge and your weapons. The Infestation achievements are a little too difficult, but this is nonetheless a solid list.
Red Faction: Armageddon is a great follow-up to Guerrilla, and while it's not quite as large or as ambitious as its predecessor, it's still a fun, riotous and entertaining game that's well worth playing.