Review: Red Faction: Armageddon

Review: Red Faction: Armageddon

Red Faction: Armageddon is somewhat of an anomaly. Most of the time, sequels take leaps and bounds forward… not little steps backwards. However, Red Faction: Armageddon is one such game that, riding the critical success of Guerrilla, decided to revamp its entire mechanic and move in the direction opposite of what everyone expected.

Red Faction: Armageddon

Set some 50 years after the events of Red Faction: Guerrilla, the story picks up with Alec Mason’s grandson Darius and his struggle to once again save Mars from complete and utter destruction

The story begins with a short cut scene revealing a psychotic cultist named Adam Hale who is hell-bent on bringing destruction to Mars. He successfully destroyed the only remaining Terraformers on the surface, thus driving the civilians underground.

Several years later, Darius is working as an explosives contractor and is contacted by a group of cultists needing some demolition assistance. Adam Hale, who was thought to have been killed in the previous attack on the Terraformer is still kicking and still hell-bent on destroying Mars. Darius very quickly discovers, after the fact, that the whole thing is a set up and what he has done for them has released an unimaginable horror upon Mars.

An ancient race of aliens has been set loose upon the people of Mars and threatens to wipe them off the face of the planet. Darius already knows it’s his fault, but once the people of Mars begin to realize he was the catalyst that brought this upon them, they decide to turn on him. With no one to turn to, Darius heads out to find a way to undo the damage and bring peace back to Mars.

The whole story fits quite well with the Red Faction style and is at least engaging enough to warrant finishing the game. There really aren’t any unexpected twists and turns in the story which is kind of disappointing. Seeing s how the Ultor corporation has a direct link with what is happening in the game, I was actually expecting them to make a lot more references to the first game. In fact, very little information was drudged up about Ultor other than a few fleeting references here and there. EOS could have been resurrected in some fashion and possibly a romp through some old Ultor towers and relive some gaming memories from the past, just like they did in Metal Gear Solid 4 with the shadow Moses levels.

The one downside to the story is that it often gets put on the back burner. Sometimes an hour will go by without so much as a hint as to what is happening around with the rest of the people in the game. I didn’t mind it all that much because I was busy dishing out loads of pain and blowing stuff up, but the only time I ever really felt connected to the story was during the various cut scenes.

 Survival Horror Has Never Looked So Good

Red Faction Armageddon

Graphically, the game is incredible. Despite 90% of the game taking place in dark tunnels, everything is very sharp and crisp. The whole things runs smoothly, and I can only recall one very minor time when the frame rate began to chug and that was towards the end when the screen was literally filled with aliens and I was tossing rockets left and right. It’s natural to expect that when so much is going on, there is going to be a bit slow down.

When I first loaded up the game and watched the initial cut scene, I thought I had accidentally popped in Kill Zone 3. Red Faction has never been known for its great looking cinematics, but they really out did themselves this time around. Each cut scene was rendered using full body motion cap and new facial cap technology, and it really shows in the end result. Each character’s face actually looks as though there is life behind it and the characters appear to interacting with each other and the environment around them.

Besides the cut scenes, everything else looks just as great. I know, most of the game takes place in tunnels and underground, but a giant pile of red rocks has never looked so good.

Red Faction Armageddon

Seeing as how this game could be classified as survival horror, you are going to encounter a lot of darkness. Therefore, plenty of really ingenious lighting effects are employed to guide you through the tunnels. Probably the most notable is that of Darius’ flashlight, because after all sometimes the most basic of features go over looked. I was instantly reminded of how nice it would have been to have a flashlight in Doom 3. Unfortunately, here, there was no way to turn the flashlight on or off. You were simply left wondering when the flashlight would pop on.

Flashlights aside, the whole game isn’t going to be covered in a veil of complete darkness. However, its going to be dark enough in the distance and surrounding area to warrant some extra light. That’s where the games aliens come in. The ones who have been set loose to destroy you are also the ones that may potentially guide you through the game. Despite looking like giant bugs, these creatures have the ability to emit different bioluminescent light from their skin. This made from some pretty tense moments throughout the game because in the distance you would see these small red, orange, and green lights flicker through the darkness and know that you had to go that way, but wouldn’t like what you saw when you got there.

Perhaps a Step Backwards is a Good Thing

If you played Red Faction: Guerrilla you are going to feel right at home here. The game plays incredibly similar to its predecessor, except for one thing: the camera is significantly closer to your character to give you an over-the-shoulder view.

Red Faction Armageddon

The focus has shifted from open-world sandbox gameplay to a more linear, third person shooter style. Some may see this as a step in the wrong direction, but it works quite while for this series. After all, the game was founded on the FPS format.

It may take a bit of getting used to, especially for those who played a lot of Guerrilla, because you are not able to see as much of what is happening around you due to the zoomed in camera. This leads to a bit of disorientation at first, until you get used to it.

Despite its linearity, you may get a bit disoriented at points. Luckily, you are equipped with an AI wristband named SAM who will guide you along to your next objective. A quick press of the select button will reward you with a nice little glowing yellow trail that illuminates the path you need to take.

You are equipped with your basic shooter moves such as jump, roll, and sprint which all work quite well expect for the sprint feature. There is no stamina bar to speak of and often times I would go to sprint and get absolutely no reaction from the button press. It seemed entirely random as to when Darius would want to run and it often put me a bit of a tough spot with some battles.

Now, a lot of people may agree that a third person shooter can be won or lost on how well its aiming functionality works. Fortunately, Volition decided to incorporate a semi-auto lock feature to avoid any frustrations with the aiming mechanic. If you are aiming in the general direction of an enemy and press the L1 button you will be instantly locked onto that enemy, similar to that found in Red Dead Redemption. You won’t stay locked on forever, but long enough in order to blow its brains out. This tends to make the game a tad easy, especially if you discover that locking onto the enemies chest with the assault rifle, firing, and riding the recoil up will reward you with a head shot every time.

A Couple of Shining Lights in a Desolate Hell-Hole

Now, the one thing that comes to a fan’s mind when they think of Red Faction is ‘GeoMod.” I can say with all honesty that, yes, GeoMod in this game is back in full force and a ton of fun. Just like in Guerrilla, everything is entirely capable of being torn apart piece by piece with almost any weapon, including your fists.

The GeoMod this time around is very similar to that of Red Faction 2 – I know, I swore I’d never mention that game again, but this time it is warranted. Unlike the first Red Faction where you could essentially tunnel your way through absolutely any surface imaginable, Armageddon limits you to tearing down man-made structures. However, to ease the pain of not being able to tunnel into the Martian surface, the developers have included a ridiculous amount of stuff to blow up and tear apart.

Red Faction Armageddon

The GeoMod plays a bigger role than you’d think and actually becomes an enemy at some points in the game. As you are traversing massive catwalks suspended above pools of lava, the enemies are going to try and destroy the very bridge you are walking on and send you plummeting to your fiery doom. Many times I found myself winding my way up a set of stairs just to get ransack by a waiting alien and sent careening back to the first floor.

The whole process of blowing stuff up is quite a blast and equally as appealing to watch. The explosions from latent gas canisters really do something to fill up the tunnels with some much needed light.

Now, blowing stuff up is all fine and well, but where Armageddon really shines is in the ability to repair anything that you’ve destroyed. As I mentioned earlier, watching the only set of stairs get destroyed can be quite a downer on your escape plan, but thanks to the nifty wristband you wear, called the Nano Forge, you wield the ability to instantly rebuild any structure that has since been destroyed. Rebuilding things comes into play quite heavily throughout the game and at times it feels like a forced mechanic, but for me, I just spent an unhealthy amount of time blowing stuff up, rebuilding it, and blowing it up again.

Red Faction Armageddon

The ability to tear buildings, bridges, catwalks, walls, and walkways apart with the slightest of ease actually becomes your greatest weapon. The slew of weapons in the game is more than enough to protect yourself against the onslaught of advancing aliens, but using the environment to your advantage is far more effective. Perhaps the most entertaining, and useful, weapon in the game is the Magnet Gun. Equipped with two rounds, first one to set your anchor and the second one to set your attractor, the magnet gun allows you to send enemies flying across the map and into walls, or systematically dismantle an entire building and send pieces of it sailing into the advancing horde. You never run out of ammo with the Magnet Gun, so it’s one of the few that I found myself constantly having equipped.

Armed to the Teeth

Red Faction Armageddon

I’ve always been a fan f the weaponry in the Red Faction series. It’s no Ratchet & Clank, but the weapons are still inventive and creative enough to increase the playability of the game.

This time around however, I feel that there were too many weapons to choose from. Initially I was incredibly excited to have the sledgehammer back, but as soon as the next weapon showed up, it found its way back into my inventory, never to see the light of day again.

New weapons seemed to appear quite frequently and naturally, they were always better than the previous ones which meant you had to be rather picky about which ones you held on to. You can have up to 4 weapons mapped to your D-Pad at any given time and swap them out at one of the many inventory lockers spread out across the game. You start with the basic pistols, which are quickly replaced by strong pistols and then by an assault rifle. That’s about it for basic ammunition weapons, but where the real fun comes in is with the specialty weapons.

A charge launcher will fire out arched grenades that explode on impact and destroy everything in their vicinity. If for some reason you don’t feel like damaging vital buildings, which I never did, you can opt for the grenade launcher that only targets organic material, i.e. aliens.

I never found myself using either of those weapons because I very quickly stumbled upon the rocket launcher, plasma cannon, and my two favorite weapons of all: the singularity gun and the rail driver.

Red Faction Armageddon

The singularity gun never left my inventory as it is by far the most entertaining weapon to use. It fires out a singularity, also known as a black hole, which devours everything around it before rupturing in a massive exploring of purple flames. Quite amusing.

Probably the most famous of all Red Faction weapons has made a true comeback; the Rail Driver. This pseudo sniper rifle allows you to lock on to enemy heat signatures, even through walls, and kill them from a hidden spot of your choice. Unfortunately, this weapon really only came into use once because a sniper rifle in a tunnel full of swarming alien bugs really isn’t the best decision.

The Nano Forge, although is isn’t a weapon on its own, does more than just allow you to rebuild destroyed structures. It also plays host to quite a few physical attacks as well. As you spend your salvage, you can purchase new physical attacks like Impact and Shockwave, which will become incredibly useful when you can no longer fend off the advancing horde.

Mobile Destruction

Perhaps the most fun I had with this game was during the segments where I was able to man some of the games incredible vehicles. Rather than simply transport you from point A to point B, these vehicles are meant for one thing and one thing only: destruction.

The L.E.O Exoskeleton is basically a giant, armored human machine capable of ramming through any structure without even flinching. Enemies don’t stand a chance against it’s shoulder bash, machine guns, and homing rockets.

The Walker takes the form of metallic spider who wields the most entertaining weapon in the entire game: lightning cannon. This lightning cannon is capable of locking on to multiple targets and filling them with millions of volts of juice until they explode. Its hard not to make the comparison between this weapon and the one seen in District 9. I found myself replaying that segment over and over just watch everyone pop like blood filled balloons all over again.

A larger version of the Walker exists toward the end of the game, but this time around it is equipped with multiple homing rockets and a laser that fires out explosive charges.

Finally, perhaps the worst vehicle takes the form of an aircraft. I never really felt like I was flying while in this vehicle and it just became far more of an annoyance than it was fun.

The vehicle segments are sparse, but when you get to them, enjoy them because they are a ton of fun!

For the Collector in All of Us

If you are like me, you like to collect things as you go through your games. There is something about picking stuff up that makes me feel at ease. Maybe I am secretly a video game hoarder. Nevertheless, Red Faction: Armageddon has a myriad of things to collect as you make your way through. Most importantly is salvage. Salvage is basically scraps of old metal and busted buildings that you collect in order to purchase upgrades. This stuff is literally everywhere and there is never a shortage of it. After each felled building I was met with an explosion of blue light engulfed salvage and something within me forced me to pick up every last bit of it.

Oddly reminiscent of Bioshock and parts of borderlands, there are 40 different audio files laying around the world just waiting to be picked up. These audio files were not directly related to the story line and you could essentially go the entire game without picking a single one up and not miss a thing. However, I obsessed over finding every last one of them because they gave some pretty neat little tid-bits into the world of Red Faction and some of the people within it.

 What? I Can’t Quite Hear You

I wouldn’t say that Armageddon is a musical masterpiece simply because there is hardly any soundtrack to speak of. When the enemies starting flooding in there is a bit of tense music going on in the background and the cut scenes do have a bit of a dramatic feel to them, but all in all the sound track is rather negligible.

What I did notice and did not care for was the fact that the games audio levels seemed to be out of balance. The sound effects were often far too loud and over shadowed some of the voice chat happening during the cut scenes.

A nice touch in the audio department was that of running commentary in the background. During certain parts of the game, an intercom system would activate and various voices would pop on with lectures and speeches, very similar to that of Red Faction 2. However, I missed most of those due to the incredibly loud sound effects.

Online is Where it’s at

Red Faction Armageddon

Taking the fight online is where you are probably going to spend most your time with Red Faction: Armageddon. There is only one online mode and it is called Infestation. Despite being the only mode, it is going to consume you. It is a spin off of several other online survival modes that we’ve seen in the past. You and up to four other people are tasked with defending a structure from wave after wave of advancing aliens. The aliens are tasked with destroying your structure and they generally do a poor job at accomplishing that goal up until about the 6th wave. Once I hit wave 10 or so, things become unbearable hard, especially if you have less than 4 players. If you die, a team mate can rush over and revive you, but if you die, you lose one of your three precious lives.

As the aliens destroy the building, you and your teammates must figure out a strategy to rebuild it as wells as fend off the enemies. It really turns into quite a good time, especially if you get into a groove with a group of players you enjoy and who work well together.

All in All

Those of you looking for a game that you can play over and over and over again probably going to want to look somewhere else. The campaign is rather lengthy as it clocks in around 10-15 hours, depending on how many times you die. I was sorely disappointed in this games ability to bring it home. For the last 10% or so of the game I simply ran through the onslaught of enemies. There simply were too many of them and not nearly enough ammo to kill them all. This made for some frustrating deaths right before the next checkpoint.

An utter lack of side missions does hinder the game a bit, but the main storyline is engaging enough to make you want to play through to the end. The addition of a New Game Plus mode filled with cheats and extra weapons is a bit of an incentive to play through the game again, or at least part of it.

A lot of people really enjoyed the direction that the series was heading in with Guerrilla, but after thoroughly playing Armageddon, it may be safe to say that the Red Faction series is truly a jack of all trades. Whether you are a die hard fan or just someone looking to blow stuff up, this game is easy to pick up, and even easier to enjoy.

Pros:

  • GeoMod Technology
  • The weapons are great fun!
  • Top-notch visuals
  • Constant action
  • Rebuilding something just to destroy it again
  • LOADS of weapons (Mr. Toots!)

Cons:

  • Very, very linear
  • Very low replayability for the campaign
  • The last 10% of the game
  • No side missions

Score: 8.5/10

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