Monday 13 June 2011

Game Review – Red Faction: Armageddon

Anyone familiar with the Red Faction universe will be aware of the vast changes the series has gone through over the years. While the franchise has shifted from first-person to third-person, from confined bases to vast environments--what has remained the same is Mars being the perfect stage for thrilling adventures and battles. Red Faction: Armageddon mixes things up once again, this time opting for an alien infestation to be the main cause for concern for our protagonist Darius Mason, grandson of Red Faction: Guerrilla’s hero, Alec Mason. An expansive and fun set of new destructive weapons helps make Armageddon a game full of carnage and excitement, but is still somewhat held back by linear gameplay, repetition and story-cliches.

Armageddon is set post-Guerrilla and you will be happy to know that the predecessor has nothing to do with the sequel, so you can jump in without worrying about prior story. In fact, there’s not really much story here either--Armageddon depicts an alien infestation on Mars and beautifully designed cut-scenes tell a story of your attempts to keep the enemy at bay while trying to escape. Plenty of cliches hinder the story, making it difficult to take the developments and dialogue seriously.

Fortunately, Darius Mason is a man of few words and chooses to express himself with very, very large weapons; seriously, I’m talking like, massive guns. Armageddon is all about destructibility and it is fantastic to see that this unique selling point is implemented so well. Every single human structure can be destroyed in Armageddon and you are given plenty of opportunity and weapons to do so. Large plasma cannons, rocket launchers, dark-hole forgers and a secret unicorn rainbow gun (yeah, you read that right) are just a few of the many different weapons at your disposal to cause utter chaos in the caverns around you. The star of the show in Armageddon is without a doubt the magnet gun. Shooting two separate magnets, this awesome piece of kit lets you to smash together whatever the two magnets are latched on to; allowing you to collide buildings, enemies, vehicles, whatever you hook the magnets to. This unique contraption offers unlimited ways to wreck havoc in a predominantly linear game, creating varied ways to complete goals, destroy locations and kill enemies. If these massive guns weren’t enough, Armageddon also lets you pilot mech units that are pretty much unstoppable and allow for even more destructive fun.

Indeed most of Armageddon is set in underground caves and whilst there is room for destruction, it is impossible not to feel like a few over-ground sections should have been put in to avoid the inevitable feeling of repetition. With the planet being uninhabitable on the surface, it would have been great to see some exploration like levels, allowing developers to really show off the natural destruction occurring on ground level. Nevertheless, the linear caverns hold some thrilling encounters but the bland colouring and dull lighting makes your travels through them seem all too familiar after a while.

It is great then that Armageddon tries to keep you occupied as much as possible and lets the intense action dictate the pace of the game. You certainly need more than just your weapons to beat the infestation and thankfully you are provided with Nano-Forge abilities. These perks, which can be activated and upgraded through a nifty gadget on Darius’ wrist, give you certain abilities and boosts to help you push through the alien hordes. These range from a protective force field, a damage boost and a few other nifty additions. The most exciting of which is reconstruction--allowing you to rebuild anything around you, a perfect way to solidify a defensive structure or avoid losing a particular vantage point. It is a shame that this fantastic mechanic isn’t implemented more often or in a more interesting manner--with its predominant use being your guarantee to get through a destroyed building to your next objective.

While the campaign itself isn’t particularly long, clocking in at around 9 hours, Armageddon does offer replay value in its multi player experience. Strangely there are absolutely no competitive multi player modes present, but instead you can play a horde-style mode called Infestation. This four-player cooperative mode can provide a heap of fun and challenge as you and your friends battle for survival against waves of enemies. The other mode present is Ruin where a single player takes on the challenge of doing as much destruction to the environment as possible in a set period of time. While the latter offers leader boards and quite a chunk of replay value due to the variety in guns, you will find that to score top marks, only a certain bunch of weapons are actually useful. The former game-mode is by far the more enjoyable since you can be partnered with friends and a satisfying difficulty curve can be put in place to ensure the action is always exciting and hectic.

What’s great about Red Faction: Armageddon is that it boldly steps out and says that it is OK to be a linear game, there is no problem with being told what to do and where to go, as long as you are having a great time doing it. Armageddon strings together a good balance of content, action and unique physics to ensure there’s always plenty to do and even more to destroy. While the lackluster story and slight repetition might irritate some looking for a more independent experience, for the rest of us, it’s time to get our magnet guns ready and watch the caverns of Mars turn to ruin.

9 Game play
Fantastic physics and unique weaponry makes destroying the world a whole load of fun.

6 Graphics
Aliens aren’t really impressive and the bland and dull environments get boring pretty quickly.

7 Replay
The almost limitless ways to destroy enemies using the environment makes each new kill exciting. Infestation mode makes you come back with friends.

8 Tech
Great controls, audio is impressive, online runs smoothly for the most part.

7.5 Overall

Igor Kharin, writer

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