There are certain franchises out there that cop the rough end of the stick. Maybe the timing of the release is just a little off, the games industry is overflowing with similarly styled titles, the planets havenít aligned correctly, whatever. Sometimes they donít get enough credit where creditís due.
When the revamped Red Faction: Guerrilla originally hit my jaw dropped. Forget about Ďverticalityí and other wanky PR catch phrases designed to grab simpletonsí attention. All that reverberated through my soul was GeoMod, a sparkly little engine designed to make things fall apart in the most glorious of ways. Armed with a sledgehammer and an indomitable will to lay waste to every structure on the surface of Mars, I set out as Alec Mason to smash every damned thing I could. And I did.
Crates buckled, towers toppled, bodies crunched and entire complexes felt my wrath as I discovered the true meaning of the words Ďdestructible environmentsí. It consumed my days, may have cost me my marriage and changed the way I looked at games forever. It still stuns me to this day that more sandbox titles havenít incorporated this feature as law. It broke the mould and after the setting the stage, itís time to get my arse back to Mars for another dose of demolition and destruction.
A lot has changed in the fifty years since Alec Mason and Red Faction liberated the red planet from the tyranny of the oppressive EDF and ferocious Marauders clans. After a meteor crashed into the surface, the terraforming colonists have been forced underground to live out their days in expanded mine shafts. You kick off as Alec Masonís grandson, Darius, a scavenger and trader who doesnít exactly endear himself to the local populace.
As a bit of a whiz with the LEO exosuit (turning him into a metal sheathed bad-arse), he is contracted to excavate a long abandoned site for a little extra cash. Little did he know his employer was a borderline insane cult leader, Adam Hale, who worships a bug-like race that formerly populated Mars and has set him up to wake their slumbering insectoid kin and unleash them upon the world. Yep. Darius is having one hell of a bad day.
Armed with his trusty sledgehammer, a can of industrial strength Baygon and a spiffy new item known as the Nano-Forge, he sets out to bring Hale to justice (or a death sentence) and squish any cockroach along the way before the remaining colonists rip him a new one. Thatís if the bugs, crazy cultists and titular Red Faction donít get to him first.
Thereís a slew of differences between Red Faction: Armageddon and its predecessor. Gone is the open world sandbox filled to the brim with vehicles, mechanised suits and settlements to take over. RF: Armageddon instead is the most linear of adventures, with very little reason to tread off the beaten path. Easily the best-looking iteration of the franchise it seems Volition has sacrificed quantity for quality, but the transition isnít without its flaws.
The entire single player campaign can be knocked out in about 10 or so hours, and whilst the Ruin (destroy building for points) and Infestation modes (four player horde) do add to the length, the loss of adversarial multiplayer to boot is a glaring oversight. Volitionís take on multi was a brilliant dose of over-the-top insanity that will be sorely missed, but enough crapping on about what didnít work, lets get down to the nitty gritty, shall we?
The plot is a simple matter of Ďfind bugs Ė kill them all Ė move on to next nestí in a nutshell. Sure, there are different types, those that spit fire, others charge, some want to stomp you into the ground, a few power up every enemy in the vicinity, but at the end of the day youíre just after an explosive confrontation with their leader and to send them back slinking under the fridge where they belong. To help you squishify them (totally a word) with extreme prejudice, Volition gives you a whole grab bag of old school favourites and sexy new additions to play with.
Of course thereís your sledgehammer, the Nano Rifle with its disintegrating properties returns as does the beefy Singularity Gun which opens a tiny imploding black hole and sucks anything into its depths, essential for some of the larger bug brethren later in the piece. The must have new accessory is easily the brilliant Magnet Gun.
Attach one end to a building, the other to an enemy and watch the hilarity ensue as they come together. You can make bugs splat into one another, literally bring houses down and send an express delivery to dead place by attaching it to debris and flinging it in their general direction. It is easily the most addictive weapon in your locker and a tough one to be without.
The other game changer is the introduction of the Nano-Forge. This handy piece of kit magically makes any destroyed structure reappear with a deft flick of your wrist. It immediately changes your strategy, as you no longer have to worry about bridges or paths crumbling. Simply destroy, rebuild and knock it all down again and thatís not all the Nano-Forge brings into the equation.
A quick tap gives you Impact, which immediately knocks anything in your way on its butt and delivers a touch of localised structural damage. This can be upgraded as well as three other nifty little abilities. Shockwave works like the Biotic Lift from Mass Effect keeping your enemies hovering frozen like a snow cone while you deliver the coup de grace. Berserk makes you faster and deal more damage and can even give you unlimited ammunition if you level it up.
The most useful, however, was Shell.
Initially Shell is just a small stationary sphere of protection, but by the third upgrade it not only covers you from fire, it spreads out to easily a ten foot radius, damages anything inside the sphere and even reflects back projectiles to their sender! This is essential during later swarming stages on higher difficulty levels.
Albeit a little short, Red Faction: Armageddon is a hoot and a half to play through. Itís well paced, offers cool vehicle sections to break the routine and still has you wanting more at the end. If Volition can make this style of gameplay transition over to an open world environment it could easily be a contender for game of the year. You hear that, Volition? Do ya?