Red Faction: Armageddon Review «

If you don’t know by now, Red Faction: Armageddon boasts destructible environments — one of the strongest elements of the game that makes it, well, fun. Running around in an explosion of rubble and flame becomes time well spent. On more than one occasion, enemies mill around atop a surface that can easily be destroyed; instead of engaging them in combat, I’d blow up the ground beneath their feet. They appropriately fall to their death, and then I repair the structure to strut my way to safety like an asshole. Initiating moments like this is what keeps me playing.
Although destruction makes its familiar return, the sandbox elements don’t. Developer Volition took the liberty of creating a linear campaign — which is a completely different route from Red Faction: Guerilla. Although unexpected, this change is a welcoming experience. You fight as Darius Mason, and spend most of your time in the caves of Mars. Claustrophobia is surprisingly not a problem, since there’re plenty of large, open spaces within. Besides, it’s easier to fling building walls at enemies with the new magnet gun when they don’t have much space to maneuver around. The best part is utilizing the environment as much as you’d like with the ability to then rebuild what’s destroyed (with explosive barrels being the exception — one small detail I didn’t quite understand).

Click the image above to check out all Red Faction: Armageddon screens.
Volition did a great job creating a variety of missions — Darius’ battles between the Cultists and aliens intertwine extremely well, and don’t overlap each other or feel too overwhelming. The pacing seems to drag slightly in the beginning though. Many of the underground locations you travel to don’t look incredibly different, which is part of the problem. The variations in detail are there, but subtle. Fortunately, my annoyance with this is short-lived, because you eventually get sent to the surface (and you’ll be glad to know) more than once. It also helps that objectives never feel particularly overused or boring. I must say though, the ending leaves much to be desired, due to being a bit abrupt for my liking. Yet, despite Armageddon ending on a less-than satisfactory note, it’s still the first game in a while where I started a new campaign immediately after completion (I blame Mr. Toots, the final weapon that unlocks after your first play-through).

As the storyline progresses, so does your lethal arsenal. Volition generously paces out when you’ll receive all of your weapons — keeping your battles refreshing. Speaking of which, I obtain one of my favorite guns about 60-percent through the campaign: the singularity cannon. This new firearms works best against large swarms of aliens — since it acts as a small black hole that sucks in foes before exploding. After receiving it, I couldn’t help but think of how useful it would have been during some of the earlier missions. It’s an easy decision to equip it for the “new game plus” mode, which is the campaign but with all of your weapon and ability upgrade progress intact. This makes it a hell of a lot easier to progress on harder difficulties. Unfortunately, I don’t think Volition took into account that a lot of people would use their newest weapons when replaying the introductory levels; as the ammo boxes I needed were sparse, and I never had that problem beforehand.

One of the primary reasons I am playing through the campaign again is to collect more in-game currency to purchase cheats, new weapons, and odd visual modes. I’m also motivated because I enjoy the boss battles. Plenty of games seem to alleviate the buildup to intense action by the way of quick time events and cutscenes. In contrast, Volition nailed the boss battles in which timing, patience, and aim accuracy are key. I don’t feel cheated out of being responsible for the ultimate outcome. As an example, without giving away too much, the fight with Hale is distinct from the rest of the gameplay leading up to that moment.

Although Armageddon has multiplayer, it isn’t the most generous offering — but fans of Gears of War 2’s “Horde” mode, or Call of Duty: Black Op’s Zombie mode should appreciate Armageddon’s main multiplayer option. Infestation mode requires one to four people to either survive or guard specific locations in “waves.” It’s enjoyable to camp inside a building with friends, and occasionally repair it against an onslaught of aliens. Before each wave, every player chooses which weapons and ability they want at their disposal. Unfortunately, the time spent on the weapon selection process gets affected by how long the host idles with their own choices. In a few instances, my time was cut short because the host decided to start the game immediately.

Surviving an onslaught of aliens is easy enough to comprehend, but so is destroying an area as quickly as possible. Ruin mode (unlocked via a download code bundled with new copies) gives you a score for wrecking havoc against the clock. I’m not too thrilled with this, because I can’t really pinpoint how to gain a higher score. In some cases, I just use rockets as quickly as my fingers allowed me to since ammo is unlimited. A lot of the areas take some trial and error since blindly firing away at structures won’t promise anything.

Armageddon manages to uphold demolition expectations, while implementing linear gameplay and structure. I might be one of the few that didn’t receive long-term thrills from Red Faction: Guerilla, but I’m certain Armageddon will change that. The new magnet gun is one of the weapons I always enjoy using — especially when I make two aliens collide. Standing near a structure, and hurling pieces of it at enemies (while rebuilding it for violent reuse) is an unanticipated time sink. And selecting upgrades for weapons and abilities that fit my play style make the campaign much more enjoyable. Red Faction: Armageddon isn’t what I expected as Guerilla’s successor — but it remains an enjoyable third-person shooter.


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