Taking place fifty years after the events of Red Faction: Guerilla, Armageddon tells the story of Darius Mason, Grandson of Alec Mason from Guerilla. Armageddon deals with a terror attack by the enigmatic Nathan Hale that ends up destroying Mars’ terra-former, forcing the residents of Mars to move underground, as the weather and atmosphere on Mars get worse and worse. Think the reverse of Total Recall.
Five years after this attack you are hired for your Red Faction trained demolition skills. Much like five years previously, you are tricked, only this time a strange and horrific form of alien life has been unleashed, and it will be up to you and your former comrades of the Red Faction to once again save Mars.
Armageddon’s story is decent, if somewhat familiar, however the development of the game is where the real story lies. It is no secret that Guerilla was a highly regarded game. It chose to move away from the first-person perspective and to instead blend run-and-gun combat with drivable vehicles and some of the best destructible terrain and objects ever featured in a video game. It was a true return to the Red Faction form, and it really revitalized the franchise. It was also a fairly open game, featuring collectibles, challenges and some random missions available if you chose to explore.
I have established this, because really from just about the minute it was announced back in June of 2010 that Armageddon would not be an open world game, but instead a more traditional linear game, the griping and groaning began. Even though Guerilla was the third entry in the franchise, to many gamers it was their first introduction. Many have forgotten the classic PS2 title that was easily one of the best FPS console titles ever released, especially for 2001. The franchise is best known for being based on Mars and featuring destructible terrain.
The question now is would the deviation of the Guerilla formula be well-received, or better yet, would it make for a better or worse game?
This is a third person shooter-styled game. Although a keyboard and mouse are possible, I had far better luck with my wired Xbox 360 controller. The game has eschewed the trappings of a cover-based shooter and relies instead on rampant and widespread destruction. What sets Red Faction apart from nearly every other game is the wide magnitude of destruction you are allowed to bring forth.
Leading off for the cause of destruction is an arsenal of diverse and powerful weapons, ranging from pistols and assault rifles to black hole singularity rifles and the Red Faction staple rail gun. You are allowed to carry four weapons at a time which allows you to modify your tactics based on what the game throws at you. Should you play your cards right and complete the game, you may even be causing death and destruction via the farts of a unicorn. (Yes. I just wrote that sentence intentionally.) My personal favorite weapon is a nanite rifle. I should also mention the exciting magnet gun, a device which allows you to target an enemy and an object and ensure that they meet up with the most destructive results. I didn’t use it often but may replay the game and try using it in newer and unique ways.
In addition to this diverse arsenal, you will find yourself in possession of the Nano Forge. This device is the true star of the game. The most important function of this device is that it allows you to reconstruct any structure that you may have destroyed. This comes in handy, when you get too destructive and need to rebuild a bridge over a chasm or even a stairwell that you took out.
The Nano Forge also allows you to use a variety of abilities, from a kind of telekinetic push to creating a shield around your character. These abilities in combination with the right weaponry can easily turn you into a killing machine in short order.
As you proceed through Armageddon, you will begin to collect salvage, a kind of currency that allows you to purchase upgrades. These upgrades range from new Nano Forge abilities to additional health and the ability to carry more ammunition. These abilities and their progression are tied into how far along in the campaign you are, as you need over 75% of the game complete before you can even access the final tier. This salvage is gained through exploration, as well as through rampant destruction. By the time I completed the game, I had unlocked almost every ability that was available, but of course I explored the maps tirelessly and destroyed everything I could find.
Despite being a linearly designed game, the maps you proceed through can be quite large, and at times you have a choice in terms of which objective to fulfill first. To help with navigation, you have the ability to activate a series of gold beacons which light up the proper direction for your travels. This is fairly helpful and will save most gamers from frustration.
In addition to the running and gunning Armageddon features a number of vehicles for your use. Initially this entails you piloting a large robotic suit used to help take down larger enemy threats. The suit features the ability to fire rockets in addition to your standard machine guns. You also have the ability to leave the suit with the press of a button, ensuring that you don’t miss out on anything. You will also gain access to a large robotic walker for use on a couple of different sections. This walker is a blast to pilot but seemed almost over-powered in comparison to your foes. Finally you will also gain access to an aircraft, which will bring some flashbacks to other popular first person flight games, especially the kind that involve tight spaces and flying indoors.
Graphically Armageddon is a very attractive game. It features graphics settings for Direct X 9, as well as 10/11. While Direct X 11 works and makes the game look pretty, it does feature some issues involving crashing to the desktop and a handful of lockouts which have yet to be addressed by the development team. Despite those hiccups, you will be treated to huge explosions, large numbers of aliens on-screen at one time with no slow down, as well as some fairly climactic and entertaining cut scenes rendered outside of the game engine.
The sound effects are solid including a solid and familiar sounding cast of voice actors. The sound effects themselves were top notch, especially as it was often the sounds the aliens made which informed me where they were, as well as what type of alien they were.
The single player campaign for me clocked in at nine hours, slightly higher that the 7:39 average found at How Long to Beat.com. While it doesn’t feature any versus death match play, you can play through the Extermination mode, which pits you and three other players against wave after wave of aliens. There is also the addition of the Ruin Mode which effectively challenges you to swiftly and effectively destroy various environments. While fun, these seemed mainly added to offer additional content but not rival the single player campaign.
The difficulty was fairly even on the normal level. The enemies were tough, and I died on numerous occasions. I also found that there were times when I simply had to run for my life and pray I made it to the next checkpoint. I was actually quite impressed by the wide variety of ways available for helping take down the alien threat. The Nano Forge abilities and weapon selection truly offered up unique strategies for moving through the game. Sometimes the larger enemies could be lured onto a bridge which I could then destroy, leaving them to fall to their deaths in lava.
"Red Faction: Armageddon to me is a good B movie."
Red Faction: Armageddon to me is a good B movie. It is loud, blaring, and fun, but by no means a complex or layered story. The enemies are quick and overwhelming at times, and the firepower you have at hand can be undeniably destructive. While there are some early pacing issues in the first third of the game, it really and truly picks up after that. The game becomes engaging, going from being on foot to operating vehicles to creative rail shooter-styled segments.
I personally feel that Armageddon has gotten some unfair critiquing in the media, largely for daring to not be a direct sequel in gameplay to Guerilla. The truth is that traditionally Red Faction has been a fairly linear series, relying on destruction and the fight for Mars as the draw for gamers. Clearly many wanted this game to be more like Guerilla, but I personally enjoyed my time from start to finish here. Like most B movies, your actual mileage may vary, but if you want to play a game that brings a smile to your face, as you stop and consider the sheer amount of carnage you create, I think you’ll find that Red Faction: Armageddon is worth your time.