I have fond memories of Volition, Inc.’s original Red Faction. Blowing holes in the ground just to see how far you could go, ripping buildings out from under enemies and busting through a wall to get to a multiplayer opponent were all pioneering moments. I haven’t been back to Mars since, and was pleasantly surprised to see how the series has evolved since last generation. I had so much fun with Red Faction: Armageddon, that I was inspired to grab a copy of Guerrilla and spend some time with it.
Red Faction: Armageddon follows the story of Darius Mason, descendent of Alec Mason, hero of the Red Faction’s triumph over the EDF in Guerrilla. Equipped with a Nano-Forge, a talking Situational Awareness Module (affectionately called SAM), and an arsenal of diverse weapons, Darius will venture from the surface of Mars to deep underneath it. The game opens with a Red Faction assault on a cultist-held terraformer that ends badly. The population of Mars is forced underground; Darius leaves the military and becomes a private contractor specializing in salvage. He is duped into unleashing a long-dormant horde of bugs, thus beginning his quest for redemption and survival.
Red Faction: Armageddon is a third-person shooter featuring a camera that is extremely tight to Darius. This provides a very claustrophobic feel, which juxtaposes nicely with some of the wide-open caverns you’ll traverse. In many ways, Armageddon feels a bit like a survival horror game between the camera and the emotionless enemies flooding toward Darius. Thankfully, even when you are out of ammo, there are still weapons at your disposal. The Maul, a brutal melee weapon and the Nano-Forge, with abilities that slam, levitate, shield and augment your strength, allow you to stay alive and make some breathing room. The game’s signature weapon is the Magnet Gun. Projectiles can be attached to enemies and structures with the first (and anything attached to it) being pulled toward the second. There are few things more satisfying than watching part of a building fly across a room to crush a bug and some of his friends.
The Magnet Gun also has less violent purposes such as pulling out-of-reach ammo and salvage toward you and destroying infected buildings. There are lots of ways to tear down structures, whether you prefer your demolition up close and personal with the Maul or from a distance with the Plasma Beam, which cuts through supports like butter.
With all of the metal flying around, you will inevitably destroy walkways and bridges that you need to traverse. In addition to its offensive capabilities, the Nano-Forge is equipped with a Reconstructor that can repair any manmade structure. Later on, you’ll receive an upgrade that will even allow your nanites to work from a distance. I never got tired of watching the Reconstructor in action. The effect is well animated with items shifting into place in a realistic fashion.
Unlike Red Faction: Guerrilla, which featured open-world gameplay, Armageddon is a strictly linear affair. SAM can guide you from objective to objective with the press of the select/back button, which is helpful in the cavernous Mars underground. You’ll do well to stray off the path, though, as salvage caches and audio logs are often squirreled away. Salvage is used to upgrade Darius’s stamina, damage, and nano-forge abilities. New tiers are unlocked at certain story milestones and, in a brilliant move, the game always lets you know how much you’ve completed and when the next set of abilities will become available. This allows you to budget your points wisely. Even better, Armageddon features a New Game +, so you can carry over your abilities (and the super secret end-game weapon, which shouldn’t be spoiled).
Throughout the game, you’ll have to repair objects, destroy infected buildings, defeat bugs, and pursue the cultists and their leader Adam Hale. The objectives are varied enough and the combat is so enjoyable that despite its linearity, Armageddon is a fun ride. Speaking of rides, throughout the game there are a number of vehicle segments. Most will put you in control of movement and weaponry, but there is one on-rails segment that is broken up nicely with sections where you’ll have to dismount.
My biggest complaint about the game is that, while the enemy AI keeps you on your toes, the bugs themselves have no personality. The creatures come in a number of different types, keeping the combat interesting and, occasionally, you’ll come up against gun-wielding cultists. Unlike the Red Faction’s struggle against the oppressive EDF in Guerrilla though, the battle against the bugs and the cultists is merely about survival. Sure, there is a visceral satisfaction in seeing the bugs explode, but what is missing is a sense of triumph and moral victory.
Red Faction: Armageddon also departs from Guerrilla’s multiplayer offerings. There are no competitive multiplayer modes to be found. Online, you’ll find the horde-style Infestation mode and leaderboards for the destruction-focused Ruin mode. Infestation comes in two flavors: Survival and Defense, each with 8 maps consisting of 30 waves. Survival is exactly as it sounds: defeat all of the bugs in the wave. Defense adds an additional wrinkle, putting structures under your protection. You’ll be using your Reconstructor frequently to ensure that the buildings don’t go down. Both of these modes are available for up to 4 players and with that many, the metal and bug guts fly everywhere. You’ll have to dodge and reconstruct cover to survive.
Offline, you’ll find Ruin mode (similar to Guerrilla’s Wrecking Crew mode), which tasks you with racking up points for large, creative demolition. You’ll start with one map unlocked with each of four others becoming available once you hit the par scores for the ones leading up to it. Once the maps are unlocked you can spend time in Free Play mode doing your best human wrecking ball impersonation or challenge your friends with the built in leaderboards. There is nothing like blowing off steam by jumping into Ruin mode and wreaking havoc. Ruin mode reminded me a lot of Burnout’s Crash mode and yielded the same level of enjoyment.
Red Faction: Armageddon looks and sounds great. The character models are well designed, the bugs are gruesome and vicious looking, and the cutscenes are unbelievably gorgeous. The voice acting is top notch. I had no trouble relating to Darius, who was at times cocky, at other moments scared, but always personable. The guns sound appropriately weighty, crumbling buildings crash loudly as metal buckles, and bugs squish and explode in a way that can only be described as satisfying. The background music is atmospheric, building to a crescendo at the right moments and dying back down when the area is clear of infestation.
As I mentioned earlier, I had a great time with Red Faction: Armageddon. It is an enjoyable 6 – 8 hour romp that, while imperfect, has shining moments. The Geo-Mod 2.0 engine provides the tools for destruction, but the level design elevates beyond being a gimmick. If you enjoyed Red Faction: Guerrilla or if you are looking for something different from a 3rd person shooter, I strongly suggest checking out Volition, Inc.’s latest endeavor.
Review copy provided by publisher. Both versions played through completion.