Last month, I had an opportunity to check out Red Faction: Armageddon at a preview event in San Francisco. At the time, I was impressed with what the game had to offer. The single player campaign was engaging, the Ruin mode offered up some mindless carnage, and the Infestation mode was a hoot. Needless to say, Red Faction Armageddon was shaping into a significant upgrade over the previous Red Faction game (Red Faction: Guerilla) which was release in 2009. After playing through the retail version of the game I have to say that I am happy with the final product.
Developed by Volition and published by THQ, Red Faction: Armageddon is a third-person action shooter and is the fourth installment in the Red Faction series. Unlike the previous Red Faction game, Armageddon features no competitive multiplayer modes. Instead, Red Faction: Armageddon features a Horde-like mode called Infestation to go along with the single player story progression and Ruin mode. Nevertheless, fans of the franchise will be pleased to know the fully destructible environments are back better than ever. But before I get the chaos and mayhem that is Red Faction Armageddon, let me give you a bit of background in terms of the games plotline.
Red Faction: Armageddon takes place on the planet Mars 50-years after the events of Red Faction: Guerrilla. Since the liberation of Mars where there was peace and harmony, the surface of the planet has become uninhabitable. Adam Hale, the game’s nefarious figure, has destroyed the massive Terraformer machine on Mars which supplies it with its Earth-like atmosphere. In order to survive, the Colonists were forced to flee to the underground mines of Mars built by their ancestors, creating a network of habitable caves under the surface of the planet and setting up colonies there. Years after Hale single-handedly changed everyone’s life on Mars, Darius Mason, the grandson of Alec from Red Faction: Guerilla, takes on demolition jobs no one else will take on. Using his Nano Forge powers to repair and destroy, Darius uncovers a long-dormant race of Martian creatures which inadvertently leads to an Armageddon on Mars. The people of Mars are torn apart by the aliens and soon Darius is blamed for the catastrophe. Taking on the role of Darius, you must join the Red Faction to clear your name and save the people of Mars, as your grandfather did before him.
Overall, it is not a bad storyline and certainly much more engaging and evolved compared to Red Faction: Guerilla. Much of the story is told via in-between level cut-scenes. It had me interested to a point, but it also lost me on several occasions. Adam Hale’s involvement is limited in the game and I found him to be one of the more interesting figures in the game. I just wished we received more of him. In any event, the game’s storyline really does take a back seat to Armageddon’s action and the real enjoyment in the game, which is taking down enemies using your powerful weaponry and demolishing the games explosive environments.
The Red Faction franchise has always been about sci-fi action, powerful weaponry, and total destruction, and Armageddon has this all and then some. The first hour or so into the single player experience you are introduced the game’s basic control scheme along with some of the game’s menus, upgrade system and salvage items. The controls in the game are very tight. Although Red Faction: Armageddon is once again a third person shooter, it has the standard first person shooter controls that were also implemented in Red Faction: Guerilla. You will find the usual shoot, run, melee, zoom, weapon choice and any other control button you would typically find in an FPS. Anyone who has any experience playing FPS games will be comfortable running and gunning in Armageddon. For those who are finicky, you can control the games the sensitivity and speed of many of the controls.
Red Faction: Armageddon features a slick little upgrade system which is something we have seen before and plays out very much like EA’s Dead Space game. Throughout the campaign you acquire salvage that is used as currency on Mars. With it you can purchase a number of combat upgrades as well as the Nano Forge. The Nano Forge is one of the more innovative aspects of the game and allows your character the ability to repair/fix destroyed structures, walkways, terminals, etc., that you may come across in the game. In Red Faction: Guerilla you had to use a weapon to do this, but this time around you have the ability incorporated into your body. Along with the ability to repair things, you can also use the same Nano abilities to ‘punch’ through certain walls or doors, fling enemies into mid-air or launch a glut of enemies back. All in all this newly added Nano gameplay element proves to be useful towards the latter half of the single player game when things get absolutely out of control and chaotic.
As far as the weaponry is concerned, Red Faction: Armageddon delivers. The game comes equipped with your standard shotgun and assault rifles but also comes with some slick futuristic weapons. My favourite hands-down was the new Plasma Beam. Using this to take down structures was like running against the Detroit Lions defense. It just slices through objects and continues along a path of destruction. The weapon emits a continuous plasma beam that you guide through structures to easily take them down. Like all weapons in the game, the futuristic feel is there. The magnet gun is also a neat weapon. With it you can crush your enemy by targeting them with the gun and then bringing a load of metal their way from a destroyed or standing building/structure. The results are satisfying and the experience is unlike any weapon I have used before in a game.
I managed to finish the single player campaign is only a few sittings and the experience did feel somewhat short. That being said, it was a thrill ride and the more I played the more I was hooked. Taking down alien after alien does become stale after awhile, and the game does get repetitive towards the latter stages; however, the upgrades, slick weapons, explosion effects, level of exploration searching for salvage, and the somewhat entertaining storyline really keeps the single player experience alive.
If you get sick of the single player mode, Red Faction: Armageddon does offer up a couple additional modes which keeps the experience alive. Similar to Gears of War’s horde mode, and also quite similar to the Zombies mode in Call of Duty: Black Ops in some regards, “Infestation mode” has you and up to three friends taking on waves of multiple enemies. Red Faction: Armageddon features 26 enemies and many of them are part of the onslaught that comes hunting you down as you try to make you way through each of the “Infestation mode’s” 30 waves of enemies. You can choose from four available characters (Sergeant Winters, Snipes, Corvales and Snake); and there are two objective game types available. The Survival mode is where you are basically trying to hang on for dear life as you take down enemies. It is mindless, but the results are extremely satisfying. Defend mode on the other hand involves quite a bit of strategy. Your goal is to defend and repair a structure while also trying to survive and eliminate the enemy at the same time. Teamwork and using your special abilities becomes a critical aspect of the game. Of course firing your weapon and running like a mad man also becomes a critical component as well.
When you first fire up the Infestation mode and assemble your team, you are tasked with selecting a map and as well as organizing your weapon load-out. Selecting weapons in the game is accomplished with your d-pad. All the basic weapons are available at the onset and more powerful weapons can be unlocked as you progress along in the game and survive the waves of enemies. Whether it is a sledgehammer-like weapon used to deliver devastating blows or using your shotgun for a wide-shot blast, all weapons seem to have their own set of strengths and weaknesses.
If some online co-op gameplay is not your thing, Red Faction: Armageddon’s Ruin mode might be right up your alley. Ruin mode is a fast paced game filled with large scale destruction. Blowing up as much stuff as possible within a short time limit is the name of the game. Just before you start a round, which lasts only 60 seconds in duration unless you are awarded bonus time, you select your weapon load-out from the four weapons that are available. In the game you can select any of the four weapons by simply pressing on your D-pad; however, if you are looking obtain a good score you won’t want to change up your weapons too much as you should have a weapon in mind and stick with it for the duration of the game as 60 seconds if not enough time to fart around looking for the best weapon to take down the maps many structures. My preference was the Rocket Launcher and Plasma Cannon. As the name would imply, the Plasma Cannon is heavier weapon and to say that it packs a punch is an understatement. Taking down multiple structures all at once earns you big points. The more stuff you take down with one shot the higher your score as the combo modifier kicks in and you are racking up big time points. Pull off killer multipliers and you awarded some valuable bonus time. It only amounts to 15 seconds but those 15 seconds are critical when attempting to obtain a high score. As you would guess, there is quite a bit of strategy involved in obtaining a high score.
Red Faction: Armageddon’s Ruin mode also features some “game to web” integration as your score can be compared with others on Xbox LIVE via Leaderboards. This aspect should be addicting for many. Get a group and try to battle it out for the highest score could be hoot, not to mention being able to earn yourself some bragging rights.
Overall, I was very impressed with what Red Faction: Armageddon offered in the visuals department. From the impressive looking levels, the Geo Mod destruction engine, to the gnarly looking enemies, everything looks very good. Granted some of the levels can appear a tad drab at times and some of the character designs are not the best we have seen in recent years; however, the explosion effects and the level of detail in the game is stunning making this a great looking title.
Most of Red Faction: Armageddon takes place in underground in cave and industrial like settings. There are some above ground levels in mountainous desert like settings, but for the most part the game takes place beneath the surface of Mars. It will certainly remind you of Gears of War but it works. I have to say that being underground can be dark at times and in some areas it was quite difficult to see; however, you can adjust the brightness in the game. The dark levels certainly made me jumpy at times as you never know what is lurking around the corner at any given moment.
The enemies themselves all seem to have their own unique look about them and the results are fantastic as Red Faction: Armageddon’s enemies are some of the most gruesomely detailed alien creatures I have seen in quite some time. Granted some are much more over-represented than others, but I was impressed with the variety.
The Geo Mod graphics engine is back and it is impressive as the detailed environments truly come to life. Nearly everything is destructible in the game and nearly everything can be repaired with your Nano Forge repair ability. Red Faction: Armageddon features more ways than ever before to blow things up and the results are remarkably satisfying. Rubble and destruction is everywhere as weapon and energy blasts can take their toll on the game’s surroundings. As you progress along and unlock more powerful weapons, like the plasma beam, which caused the carnage to ramp-up and the results were definitley slick.
Overall, Red Faction: Armageddon’s visuals are very good and all should be satisfied with what this game has to offer in the graphics department. Although games like Call of Duty Black Ops, Halo Reach and Gears of War 2 can seem sharper, on its own Red Faction: Armageddon delivers in spades.
The sound compliments the rest of the game quite nicely. You will find that the voice acting gets the job done, but don’t expect it to knock you out of your seat. The voice actors get their lines across but not with the emotion or feeling of an epic story. Needless to say, I wasn’t hanging on every single word. As for the sound effects, they really do help bring Red Faction: Armageddon alive. The weapon sounds are solid, the explosions are full and resonate with bass, and of course the sound of buildings or objects collapsing fills your speakers with loud crashes and bangs. The sound fully immerses you in the feeling of destruction and mayhem that can take place on screen. I have to say that the soundtrack is a tad repetitive and pretty much forgetful, but otherwise it suits the style of game.
At the end of the day I have to say that Volition has managed to create yet another great entry into the world of Red Faction. Red Faction: Armageddon’s story manages to keep you somewhat interested, which is much more than the previous entry into the series, and the gameplay is addicting as ever. Although the game loses most of the adversarial multiplayer modes of Red Faction: Guerilla, the inclusion of Infestation Mode and Ruin Mode manage to make up for this and adds to the overall experience. I really enjoyed my time with Red Faction: Armageddon and I think that most of you will too.