Red Faction Guerrilla may have been the story of Alec Mason and his quest to save Mars from the evil Earth Defense Force but to me, it was an amazing sandbox where I could “blow s*hit up” while freeing a planet from crazy despots. All I cared for destroying buildings, collecting salvage, buying new weapons, upgrading them, then hitting the dusty martian roads to search for more stuff to explode. A couple of hours later, Mars was saved and Alec was a hero, so I would jump online and compete against friends in Wreaking Crew, the popular leaderboard-based destruction mode. In all, it was a nice overall package that definitely deserved my praises, despite the rather forgettable story.
So here we are two years later, and we’re back to Mars for Red Faction Armageddon. Leaving the open-world and adopting a more confined, linear environment, Volition’s newest entry in the popular franchise promises a far more engaging story and less distractions without compromising what the Illinois-based developer has been building upon. The result is quite different...but pleasantly interesting.
In the several years that followed Guerrilla’s war, Mars was without major conflicts. Actually, there are a few things of importance that happened between Guerrilla and Armageddon, and THQ plans to make the bridge with their upcoming SyFy series Red Faction Origins. As for Armageddon’s story, part of the premise is revealed in the opening sequence and first level. Darius Mason - Alec Mason’s grandson - joins the Red Faction to stop a certain Adam Hale from destroying the Terraformer, the key element that makes Mars’ surface habitable. Hale succeeds and with the Terraformer gone, the entire population was forced to rebuild underground. Already being despised because of his heroic origins and feeling the guilt of being unable to stop Hale, we meet up with Darius several years later working as a demolition expert. Unfortunately, Darius is tricked into opening a sealed cavern and inadvertently lets loose a vicious race of Martian creatures. Unfortunately, things won’t get better for him. However, he won’t stay there wallow in his misfortune. He will take matter into his hands in order to clear his name with the help of some key characters, his trusty Situational Awareness Module (aka S.A.M, a wink to Nanoforge’s creator and Darius grandmother Samanya Mason) and of course, some toys of destruction.
Plowing through the campaign will take approximately seven hours on the Casual/Normal difficulty setting, and depending on your skill level. The story development is very predictable, but has a considerable amount of non-stop action and surprise moments that will make any complaints minimal. The dialog is well delivered, often taking the cheeky humorist route to hide some of the weaker points. Despite that, all friendly characters are likable, particularly Darius who stands out among the rest and is certainly more gripping than his grandfather was. The fact that he wasn’t thrown in a typical and overused David vs Goliath story set-up helps his cause. There’s a few things that will go unmentioned - to avoid spoilers - but Red Faction Armageddon is indeed a tad deeper in terms of narrative compared to its predecessor. Further character development could have pushed it into into greater territory, but being an action-heavy sci-fi third person shooter, its quite understandable nowadays. Plus, the crazy weapons, such as the Magnet Gun and the Singularity Cannon, and the unlockable Nanoforge powers available throughout the game does push the story’s purpose to the side without making it completely forgettable. It’s usually a good sign when the cinematics aren’t skipped.
Before venturing into something else, let’s talk about the weapons and abilities. First, the Nanoforge. Attached to Darius’ arm, the Nanoforge can rebuild destroyed man-made structures, whether before arrival or during a heated battle. Stairs, bridges, etc. While some elements can be rebuilt for progression needs, other times the Nanoforge can be used for combat tactics, like rebuilding walls for cover against enemy attacks. The device also gives Darius four specific and upgradable powers: Shockwave (suspends and destroys living enemies), Impact (projects a sort of Force Push), Berserk (increases damage) and Shell (a protective force field). Note that just like in Guerrilla, destroyed elements give out Salvage, currency that can be traded in at specific terminals for Nanoforge upgrades. As for the weapons, pistols, shotgun, rifles, charge launcher and rocket launcher become available throughout the game but pairing the Nanoforge to the aforementioned Magnet Gun and Singularity Cannon or the Maul will make things far more easier and enjoyable. My favorite: the Magnet Gun. Once it becomes part of your inventory, you’ll have a hard time letting it go. A two-stage weapon, the Magnet Gun shoots a magnet, then an anchor, which attracts the magnet at high speed once it’s fired at an object or structure. What can be done is up to your imagination, but let’s just say that propelling enemies into an explosive barrel, which later creates a chain reaction that tears down a whole building...yes...I’ll leave it for you to discover. P.S. Mr Toots. Finish the single player campaign. You will know what I mean.
The Nanoforge, the weapons and all havoc that could have been possible during the single player campaign, but wasn’t quite “there” for certain tastes can become a reality in the game’s Infestation (Armageddon’s take on Horde mode) and Ruin (Guerrilla’s Wrecking Crew) modes. No, Red Faction Armageddon does not feature a competitive multiplayer component, unlike Guerrilla. No Anarchy, no Demolition, no Capture The Flag...all gone. Volition explained that some changes needed to be addressed in order to give the game’s story more depth and take advantage of the GeoMod engine, among other things. In all honesty, some multiplayer fanatics may feel cheated but for once, a developer stood by something many of us game critics have been complaining about over the last few years. Not all games need to be Call of Duty, Battlefield or Halo and offer a slew of adversarial modes for the sake of saying the game has them. Personally, I didn’t play a whole lot of multiplayer in Guerrilla, instead wasting countless hours of productivity in Wrecking Crew. To me, resources weren’t wasted here. If posting ridiculous high scores in Ruin isn’t your thing, then teaming up with three other friends and fighting hordes of aliens across eight Infestation missions should do the trick. And let me emphasize the “team” part. While Infestation can be played solo, it truly is a cooperative experience and is meant to be play with three of your friends. One thing of note though, the Ruin mode is unlocked via a code packed in with new retail copies of the game. No word on if it will be available for purchase separately, but we assume so.
Some folks may find themselves out of place during the first few levels and may miss the open-world set-up from Guerrilla but the truth is, Armageddon puts a certain emphasis on storytelling that its predecessor didn’t. It’s still miles away from other, more narrative-driven titles, but like many “save the world” type of sci-fi shooters, the game focuses on the action as well as the different weapons and Nanoforge powers given to the player to get the job done. These, and more specifically the weapons, become major players in both of the game’s multiplayer modes. And while some may question Volition’s choice to remove the usual suspects, Infestation and Ruin fills the void just fine. Hopefully additional maps and missions will be heading our way via downloadable content.
In all, Red Faction Armageddon doesn’t punch as hard as Guerrilla did, but does deliver a solid and satisfactory experience worth checking out.
Release date :
Publisher : THQ
Developer : Volition
Gameplay : Action
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