The Red Faction series has a long and varied history, though the latest title Guerrilla made a lot of splashes when it abandoned many aspects of the original games in favor of an open world setting with some emphasis put on destruction. The game was received with open arms by fans and praised highly for its wonderful physics and graphics, but was often lauded for having a weak story.
Things have changed a little bit for this latest entry into the Red Faction series, as the open world aspect they explored has been removed, and outside of a co-operative “Horde” style mode multiplayer has been removed. Do these changes work in the games favor, or remove from the experience? Read on to find out.
Red Faction: Armageddon wastes no time getting into the thick of things, as you are thrust into a mission on the surface of Mars. The terraformer that allows life to exist on the surface is under attack by cultists, and it’s up to your team to stop it. Let’s just say that things don’t go entirely in your favor. Everyone is forced to move underground, and this is where the story really begins.
Without spoiling too much, something happens early on that seemingly unleashes hell upon the people inhabiting Mars. Strange alien creatures begin attacking everybody and leaving utter devastation in their wake. This is where the change of scenery from the open surface of Mars to deep beneath the surface really works in the games favor, as enemies can come from anywhere at any time.
The first thing you’ll notice is how wonderful Red Faction: Armageddon looks. The team really went all out on this title, and every aspect of the game is just incredible looking. The faces look realistic without crossing too far past that “uncanny valley” line, and every movement is fluid and looks like how a real person would move. Things look even better during the cutscenes. It’s strange to see graphics of such high caliber, and see the name “SyFy” attached to the title.
When a game focuses on destruction as much as Red Faction: Armageddon does, the question of how you stop that from ruining the game comes into play. The answer in this case is the Nano Forge. With the press of a button, the Nano Forge will rebuild everything around you which will help rebuild that bridge you blew up on accident (or on purpose more often). While this will come into play with some small puzzle work rebuilding an already ruined path, the ability to rend the world to shreds around you without having to worry about getting yourself stuck is a breath of relief.
There are some brief segments spread throughout the game where you’ll take command of a powered mech suit or vehicle of some sort, and the absolutely solid gameplay experience you have on foot is translated perfectly to the vehicles. Whether it’s a slow clunky suit, the stomping spider-like crawling mech or the graceful flying ship, each movement feels smooth.
The pace moves at a breakneck speed, and you’re under attack at almost all times. Little time is spent talking to people or not in combat, and this truly is a shame because the facial animations and voice acting in the game are simply astounding. There’s an early level where it looks like you’re going to be able to spend some time wandering around the city shopping or interacting with the people living there, but that hope is dashed quickly when it’s time for more shooting and Mason takes off running.
However, if you’re going to have your game be nonstop action you better make the shooting and movement as solid as possible, and Volition has absolutely succeeded in this aspect. The shooting action is absolutely top notch no matter which gun you’re using. Using your guns is of course not your only option for disposing of your foes and creating holes in walls. A series of Nano Forge abilities are at your disposal, and utilizing these properly will be a key aspect to surviving your nightmare in the belly of Mars.
These abilities are upgradeable along with many other options, using “scrap” which is found laying around the game world. One unlockable ability will also give you scrap for each enemy you kill. Upgrading everything in one playthrough is simply not possible, so you’re going to want to pick and choose which abilities are more important to you. There is a New Game + option upon completion of the campaign, and your scrap and upgrades are shared between the single player and co-op modes so getting everything is just a matter of time.
The aliens will be bouncing off the walls and climbing out of the floor to destroy you, with human enemies sticking to the tried and true “Shoot him with guns” approach. If the nonstop bouncing gets to be too much, the game has an auto-lock function that works very well without feeling too cheap.
While most of the human enemies are functionally the same aside from what weapon they’re holding, the aliens will provide a much wider range of creatures flying your way. They differ in size, strength and attack speed as you would expect and each one is easily identifiable from a distance. Ultimately the solution to beating each of them involves using a combination of your Nano Forge abilities and your guns, though some do take a little more thinking to get the job done.
Navigating the similar looking rocky caves can be a little frustrating, but is made easier with one key feature that’s becoming more popular in modern games; a guide line that appears at the press of a button to show the path you should be heading in. This is nice, and maneuvering through the games many slightly different environments would be a lot harder without it, but I feel like I ended up relying on this function a little more than I would have liked to. It’s too easy to get lost without it, so I found myself pretty much pushing the guide button every 30 seconds or so.
The two “exceptions” I just mentioned hinder the game almost as much as they help though, as it can feel at times like the game is holding your hand too much. Sure, you can turn both the sticky aim off and choose to not use the guide line, but the latter is pretty necessary at times. A necessary side-effect to a useful feature, but worth nothing nonetheless.
The story in Red Faction: Armageddon is well told with believable, interesting characters that simply get under utilized as the game progresses. One character is introduced as the love interest for Mason, and while we get to see plenty of this in their interactions in the cut scenes and in-game dialogue, she never gets much time to develop as much more than just “the love interest”.
Of course one big reason that we don’t get to see these characters grow much comes as a direct result of the games biggest flaw. Playing on Normal, my playtime at the end of the game was just a little over six hours. The game has plenty of re-playability with unlockable weapons and a New Game + option, but I can’t help but feel a little shafted on this aspect. The fact that this length has become an industry standard doesn’t make it any more acceptable to me.
But of course, that’s just the single player experience. While RF:A lacks a competitive multiplayer mode which will be yet another disappointment to fans of Guerrilla, it does feature two extra game modes; Ruin, which gives points for destruction in a set arena and Infestation, the games “Horde” type mode which is starting to become a necessary addition to games.
Ruin is fun for awhile, allowing you to select which weapons you want to use and offering a “free roam” mode to let you plan the course of optimal destruction, but will grow old fast. Infestation is where the real fun is to be had. Featuring co-op for up to four players, everyone chooses their weapons and one Nano Forge ability and you all try to survive as long as possible. Team up with some friends and see how long you can last on the maps provided, though it’s just as much fun by yourself.
Red Faction: Armageddon might not be the longest game, and compared to the previous entry in the series it seems like a lot of things have been ‘removed’, but there is plenty of fun to be had here. Don’t enter this comparing every aspect of it to the previous game, and just accept it for what it is; a solid third person shooter with an interesting and engaging story. Every aspect of the game is absolutely top notch, with the biggest crime being that it’s over all too fast.
Throw in the co-op, unlockable weapons, and New Game + and you’ve got a good reason to return to this one many times over. How much that makes up for the short yet satisfying campaign is up to you, but this is another great entry in the long running Red Faction series and I think fans that can get over the “they changed it now it sucks” mindset will be pleased to see the story continue.
- Title: Red Faction: Armageddon
- Platform Reviewed: Xbox 360
- Developer: Volition, Inc
- Publisher: THQ
- Release Date: June 7, 2011
- MSRP: $59.99
- Review Copy Info: A copy of this title was provided to DualShockers, Inc. by the publisher for the purpose of this review.