If there is one thing to take from the Red Faction series is that the Mason family knows how to destroy almost anything! Daring to change the formula of the series again, Volition has managed to make Red Faction: Armageddon one of the most enjoyable splatterfests to be found. Using their Geo-Mod game engine and outfitting the latest Mason with the next generation of Nano Forge technology, Volition has achieved a level of destruction and chaos that far surpasses their previous effort entitled Guerrilla.
Armageddon puts you in the shoes of Darius Mason who is the grandson of the protagonist of the last game. Much has happened on Mars since then and Volition managed to secure a movie (entitled Red Faction: Origins) to be released on SyFy explaining those events. Here though, as a demolitions expert, Darius is thrown into a conflict with cultists looking to disturb the peace that the revolutionary group, named Red Faction, has forged since they ousted the corrupt EDF.
As you progress through this story in the single player mode it is easy to notice that abandoning the open world gameplay featured in Guerrilla was a brilliant idea. The amount of action and chaos throughout Armageddon is fast-paced and almost non-stop. At first, the game slowly leads you through the capabilities of a few weapons and the controls with a few simple battles against humanoids along with requiring you to destroy a few structures. As you quickly get the hang of the capabilities, you find that destroying everything in sight is satisfying and quite beautifully rendered in Armageddon.
The third person viewpoint behind Darius is a bit closer to the action than in Guerilla and this not only brings the action closer to show off the improved and beautiful graphics, it heightens the chaos of the whole experience. As debris and monsters fly and leap about you, you will appreciate the extra love and attention that the graphics received this go around. Ice caverns, lava caves, alien nests, storm ravaged Marauder towns, mines, and underground research facilities all explode, disintegrate, collapse, and implode with such colorful and dynamic flair. This game’s destructive ‘wow’ factor is certainly off the charts!
Despite being the fourth iteration of the series, Armageddon features a more impressive array of damage dealing tools than all of its previous editions. All together there are roughly 14 different weapons of destruction. The standard issue weaponry like the assault rifle, the dual pistols, the shotgun, and the shotgun-like pistols called Banshees do just as you would expect they would against the varied foes that you encounter. The maul even makes a welcome return. The rest of your weaponry is fun and destructive in an exponential way! The singularity cannon unleashes a purple ray that creates a small black hole upon whatever it hits. Then, as it pulls more into its limited radius, it unleashes an equally powerful blast! A plasma beam weapon is amazingly effective on structures and simply cuts through most inorganic material like butter! Even the nano rifle and its dissolving nanites makes a welcome return from Guerrilla. The star of the show is the magnet gun, though. Simply tag one object with your first shot and tag the second object as the stationary target and whatever you first tagged will speed towards the second object! Its so satisfying to see a huge alien bug charging at you only to tag it with the magnet gun and send it flying into a cavern ceiling, a nearby building, or even another enemy! With unlimited ammunition, this makes the magnet gun and indispensible part of your equipped arsenal.
The fun that is had using the magnet gun explains why Volition chose to feature a majority of the scenery underground. With rocks, crystals, ceiling mounted equipment, and massive walls, these caves provide a large amount of additional ammo for the use of your magnet gun. When above ground, the gun is slightly less effective once most nearby buildings are destroyed mainly because the angle needed to make object race towards each other are typically less ideal above ground.
As explained earlier, Darius is gifted with Nano Forge technology that was passed down to him. This tech is carried with him in the form of a glowing blue forearm bracelet. This nano-technology uses extremely small robots (nanites) to not only destroy but to rebuild almost anything metallic. The Nano Forge can generate a destructive shockwave in a specified direction or in an upwards radial blast. Then, upon blasting away foes and portions of buildings, it can slowly ‘reconstitute’ the structure about Darius in a surprisingly satisfying manner that sounds a bit like metal bending or in stress. This dynamic of the game is crucial in that it allows you to push away swarms of enemies and destroy nearby structures. Then, the rebuilding feature allows you to provide cover and a structure to rest and regenerate health as the Nano Forge energy regenerates as well. Thankfully, the rebuilding feature of the Nano Forge is unlimited and does not rely upon an energy meter to use. This tech is upgraded throughout the game by picking up salvage material (which acts as a type of currency), Darius will also be able to create a nano shield that damages all foes within its radius. It can even reflect projectiles and debris. The use of the Nano Forge along with the many weapons provided allows you so many different ways to dispense of the hordes of bug-like aliens that you’ll encounter.
Of course, it would be easy to use only a few different favorite weapons to do all of your damage but Volition brilliantly squashes that idea. The variety of alien types in the game forces you to constantly switch not only the weapons you unleash but the weapons that you have equipped as well (you can have a max of four). Some enemies are small, quick, and evasive. Others are humanoid sized with great leaping ability and barb projectiles. Some even unleash disorienting clouds that prevent weapons fire as they gain the upper hand against you with invisibility and piercing laser fire. There are also golem-like beasts that wield acid or fiery projectiles as they charge towards you. There’s even one massive beast that is so heavy that it cannot be lifted by the magnet gun’s pull! The point is that Volition expertly spreads out the discovery of each of these weapons throughout the story and gives you ample opportunity to change them out at lockers found and repaired throughout each level.
Just when you thought the fun could get any more intense, Volition adds in vehicular levels where you pilot exosuits, walkers, and an aerial vehicle which all have unlimited ammunition and various weapons. The exosuits are of the first experienced in the story and their power is probably the least of the game’s garage. The rail guns and missile racks still pack an unflinching punch upon the alien masses though. As those systems reload the charging shoulder dash fills in the gaps. Then you have the massive Marauder Heavy Walker. This building sized behemoth packs the most punch with its imposing size, heat seeking missiles, and the giggle-inducing napalm laser! Simply draw a line across the landscape and watch the beautiful napalm flames purge the path of all enemies! So satisfying!
Take all of this in and spread it out over about 11 hours of action movie-styled presentation and you have a game that is sure to be an action classic much in the same way as the original Lost Planet. Because of the many ways you can dispense of enemies throughout the story, the replayability of the game is fairly high.
Then you have the multiplayer aspect of the game. Infestation is a horde mode that you can play with up to four friends and survive or defend through roughly 20 waves of increasingly hard and numerous enemies. As you go through the different waves, the purchased upgrades acquired in the campaign are unlocked. While the first tier upgrades are immediately available, tier two isn’t available until Wave seven. Just about every seven waves after, the remaining tiers are unlocked.
The Ruin mode is a return of the Wrecking Crew mode found in Guerrilla. Here you can play the challenge or free mode where the word of the day is demolish! Destroy as much as possible to achieve high scores that unlock new maps and access to more weapons.
Now fans of the Red Faction series are just as varied and divided as the game itself has been. Die hard fans of the open world style of Guerrilla will be disappointed at the linear gameplay. Those disappointed with the unnecessary traveling and boring exploration of Guerrilla will be thrilled with the more linear and fast-paced play of Armageddon. Those new to this series will simply enjoy the freedom to destroy virtually everything in sight!
Games like Red Faction: Armageddon are a welcome return to the days when all you wanted from a game was an arsenal of weapons, explosions, and waves upon waves of enemies! The many creative ways and combos of unleashing mayhem and then rebuilding the damage sets Armageddon high on the fun chain!
Red Faction: Armageddon is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood, Gore, Violence, and Strong Language. This game can also be found on: PS3, Xbox 360.