Review: Red Faction: Armageddon
Red Faction: Armageddon is the fourth game in the franchise, and the sequel to 2009's Red Faction: Guerrilla, which was a game that won over many fans due to its open world setting and vast amounts of creative destructibility and replay value. Does Armageddon take the series in the right direction?
- Worth The Time?Yes, but to play, as it wouldn't really be worth a full price purchase.
- Things LovedThe level of destructibility, the awesome and unique weapons, recreating anything you destroy only to destroy it again, uniquely using the environment in combat, the cooperative mode, Ruin mode, the chaotic nature to the game.
- Things HatedThe restrictions brought by linearity (previous game was open world), the extremely repetitive nature of the single player and lack of freedom in movement and exploration, the forced and unexciting story, the lacking and repetitive visuals, the varying degrees of enjoyment from level to level in single player.
- RecommendationBuying this at full price depends on how much of a fan you are, but in the end it would be best to get it cheaper.
- Name: Red Faction: Armageddon
- Genre: Third Person Shooter
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: Online and LAN co-op (4 players)
- Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
- Developer: Volition, Inc
- Publisher: THQ, Syfy Games
- Price: R348-399 (PC), R529-599 (PS3, 360)
- Reviewed On: PS3
Red Faction: Armageddon is the fourth game in the franchise, and the sequel to 2009’s Red Faction: Guerrilla, which was a game that won over many fans due to its open world setting and vast amounts of creative destructibility and replay value. With this sequel many were hoping for more of the same, but of course also for the game to be filled with new content, and naturally skepticism was on the rise when it was discovered that Armageddon would not be an open world game. Now, after having given the game a play, it’s easy to see that dropping the open world aspect certainly didn’t do the game a great many favours, but beneath its shortcomings and mishaps it’s actually a decent enough and entertaining game that will surely keep you occupied while it lasts. Just don’t expect an overall better game compared to Guerilla.
The game takes place fifty years after the events of Red Faction: Guerilla, and puts you in control of Darius Mason, the grandson of Alec Mason, the protagonist from the previous game. Darius isn’t quite the fortunate guy, as he fails to stop Mars’ terraformer from being reduced to rubble by terrorists, which renders the surface of the planet almost uninhabitable and forces humans to live underground. And if that wasn’t enough to slate Darius’ name with, several years later he gets manipulated and tricked into reopening a strange vast shaft in an old Marauder temple, resulting in the awakening of an ancient race of Martian creatures, causing an Armageddon on Mars. Wanting to set things right, Darius teams up with the Red Faction in order to clear his name and save the people of Mars, just like his grandfather did before him.
This sequel attempted to have a more focused plot over its predecessor, and while that’s no bad thing, the way Armageddon goes about it is. For the most part the story feels forced on you, because practically every bit of story detail is told through cutscenes, breaking up the constant stream of chaotic action and almost feeling out of place. It doesn’t flow, as if the story and game are on entirely different levels to each other, making it seem unnatural. To give an idea of natural storytelling, in a good game we can learn new things about and see new sides to the main characters through in-game dialogue or individual thought during gameplay. Armageddon doesn’t make use of this at all unless Darius is saying some cheesy one-liner, resulting in the story feeling disconnected from the gameplay. Of course you can’t eliminate the need for good old cutscenes, but good storytelling blends the story with the gameplay where it can and progression is shown to the player through their actions, and the game does not keep the story and game entirely separate as though they aren’t connected. At times it almost seems as if the story doesn’t drive the game forward, but interrupts it.
The gameplay in Armageddon carries the same exciting and fun concept the franchise is known for, which is to destroy everything. There is still a huge amount of fun to be had in completely demolishing entire buildings with your arsenal of unique and awesome weaponry, and the great physics only encourages you further. Destroying things isn’t just for kicks though, as the environment is actually a key part of your arsenal and tactics. The power is literally in your hands with the Nano-Forge, a unique tool and relic in the Mason family that is capable of extraordinary feats, such as the ability to reverse any and all destruction dealt to man-made objects. Now, with the ability to not only destroy all structures in sight but also recreate them instantly at the push of a button, things become so much more enjoyable and open ended, gameplay wise. Need cover, for instance? Simply explode a wall in a building, jump inside and rebuild the wall again, closing off enemies. On the flip side, you may be trying to escape some enemies across a bridge, so after crossing it you can simply demolish it to the ground and block off the way for your enemies. In these moments, the game is pure class.
The Nano-Forge also boasts a variety of upgrades to purchase using found Salvage, which is basically like money. Using an upgrade station you can enhance your abilities such as Impulse, which is a powerful force wave that blows away structures and sends enemies flying through the air, and gain perks like an increased ammo capacity and faster reload speeds. You’re also able to upgrade your weapons and armour to improve efficiency and change their appearance. While these abilities are all great, Armageddon’s real strength lies with its weapons and destructibility. A number of past weapons make a return in this sequel, but in slightly different forms, such as the Hammer and Singularity Bomb, which are now the Maul and Singularity Cannon respectively. A favourite of mine was definitely the Magnet Gun, which allows you to fire one magnet onto an object or enemy and then another on a second object or enemy and watch the first rocket towards the second. It’s simply fantastic fun to bring down an entire roof onto an enemy or hurl someone flying upwards into spikes, or collapse the floor an enemy is standing on. Added to the fact that you’re able to instantly rebuild destroyed structures and objects, and you have an infinite supply of objects to play around with using the Magnet Gun.
However, while things may sound great so far, the big problem here ultimately ends up being the game’s new-found linearity. Quite simply, Armageddon features great concepts and amazing weapons, but unfortunately it just doesn’t feel the right game world to use it all in. It’s clear that a much larger playing field would have done the game extraordinary wonders in variety and would have added a great deal more freedom and re-playability, but as it stands right now the linear progression in the game makes things just feel like connected generic shootouts. The linear style makes the single player hugely repetitive, because you’ll basically just be killing a whole bunch of enemies room to room, and the restricted and small-scale design of levels makes things feel claustrophobic and not as free as you’d hope. This effectively ruins a great deal of the fun in Armageddon, because its weapons and concepts are much more suited to a massive, fully destructible playground that is yours to be creatively destructive in. Even though the weapons and concept begs for player creativity and freedom, the linear design still makes things feel restricted and limited, like you’re playing by the game’s rules and not setting your own. This severely dampens the longevity of the single player experience.
The next big problem with the game is that levels are inconsistent, ranging from being hugely repetitive, devoid of things to destroy and downright boring to exciting, open and free. Some levels require you to play the game like a standard shooter with hardly anything to destroy, but Armageddon was not intended to be a top class third person shooter, as it performs just about adequately in this regard, and is therefore simply not good enough to remain exciting or entertaining multiple times over in sections that require you to shoot up armies of aliens. Furthermore, what brings down the campaign a bit more is that it doesn’t seem to provide creative ways to use your powers of destruction and recreation. For the most part objectives in the campaign can be summed up by playing errand boy, getting somewhere to push a button or just rebuild something that was broken or shoot up some enemies and, while that’s always entertaining the first few times, it begins to feel like a chore later on and as though you’re not making good creative use of your powers.
The campaign does try to up the variety by including sections where you’re able to pilot the new LEO exosuit mechs, which are large robot suits that give you access to powerful weaponry, phenomenal strength, allowing you to charge through structures and tear them apart, and huge armour. These mechs are really great because they make you feel incredibly powerful and do well to showcase the destructibility featured in the game, but again, they’re brought down by the linear environment because both your movement and sense of freedom is restricted. In the end, the campaign just doesn’t remain entertaining to see it all the way through, and its immense repetitiveness brings it down in addition to the novelty of things just wearing off in such a linear environment. With that out of the equation, and since the story itself won’t keep you hooked, the single player campaign is pretty much an average experience overall, but it still does well to showcase what the game is capable of and what sort of fun you’ll have with it. It may just so happen that you find yourself craving and wishing for a larger game world to better enjoy such awesome weaponry and environmental destructibility.
While on the subject of lacking an open world setting, it should be noted that the reduction to a linear and more closed style didn’t really improve the game’s visuals all that much. Things look awesome when they’re blowing up and the physics engine is going crazy, but overall the game isn’t really that impressive graphically. It doesn’t look bad at all, but its bland and repetitive level design and lack of environmental detail certainly doesn’t do it any favours. When it comes to audio, the game performs quite well, as the voice actors do a pretty good job and the music is peculiarly fitting and enjoyable to listen to. The sounds of your weapons firing and of buildings and structures getting demolished really gives an impression of power, and it’s a satisfactory complement to the actual act of doing it. Technically, the game is of a good standard too, as the game’s interface is pretty smooth and easy to work with, the button-press solution to guide you in the right direction if you’re lost removes frustration in not knowing where to go and items on the ground and objects of interest are easy to pick out in the environment, so in these ways the game is stress free and great to play.
Editor’s Note: We were not able to secure an online code on PSN for full access to Ruin mode, and were only able to give the included demo of it a play-through.
Another feature that’s completely lacking from Armageddon, strangely and disappointingly so, is competitive multiplayer. Instead, the game has Ruin mode and the online cooperative mode called Infestation. Fortunately, both of these are extremely fun, but the concern lies in how long they’ll last, especially the former. Ruin mode puts you into a world completely devoid of any enemies and you’re given a time limit in which you must wreak as much havoc as you can in order to rack up the most points in the shortest time. It’s exhilarating and mindless fun, and it’s really the kind of thing you’d be wishing the main campaign featured more of, as it showcases the game’s awesome weaponry and fantastic destruction in an excellent way. It’s pretty entertaining and exciting at first, but it seems as though it will get old quickly.
The cooperative mode, Infestation, is where this game is really enjoyable. You’ll team up with up to three other players online as you fight alongside them against waves and waves of increasingly powerful enemies, trying to survive as long as you can. You’re able to play the mode on LAN and offline as well. Each player has a certain amount of lives, and is able to be revived by a teammate if they die, but once all lives are depleted, the player is gone for good. While there isn’t a huge need for team work in the early stages of an Infestation round, and even though there is a competitive element to it in that players will be wanting to rack up the most points and kills for themselves, the later stages where enemies are much tougher require you to work together, make good use of your weaponry and abilities and communicate with your teammates effectively if you want to succeed. This is where the game really shines, because it simply supplies you with the weapons and tools and points you in the direction of enemies and things to destroy, and it’s really good fun.
Infestation also features a great customisation component, where you’re able to alter the appearance of your online character by choosing from a host of preset characters, design and colourise your insignia flag as well as choose your weapon load-out and abilities before you enter a game. Mind you, it’s not that deep and neither does it provide that much of an incentive to play the game more, but it’s a welcome inclusion that is certainly better featured than not. Infestation is by far the most enjoyable and exciting part of Armageddon, and it’s far superior to the single player experience, and will in all likelihood be the reason you play this game or keep coming back to it. Since I was only able to play the demo of Ruin mode, I can’t provide an accurate and fully in-depth analysis on it, but based on impressions it doesn’t seem like it will be long-lasting, but rather a mode you’ll play now and again for a quick adrenaline fix, and in this it does the job right.
Red Faction: Armageddon, at the very least, is a decent and enjoyable game that may leave a bitter taste in the mouth due to its lack of features compared to its predecessor, but in the end it still offers enough chaotic fun to keep you entertained and addicted. It’s difficult to resist the inner child within you craving this degree of destruction, and in this Armageddon is a sure winner. It’s just unfortunate that linearity, restricted design and a lack of game modes and competitive multiplayer severely bring down the game, and prevent it from being great.