It’s entirely unclear why Volition, Inc. felt the need to abandon Guerilla’s open-world gameplay and return to a more a basic shooter design. Red Faction: Guerilla was a high water mark for the franchise, it seems odd to haphazardly ditch its framework in exchange for releasing yet another FPS on an already crowded market. And Red Faction: Armageddon is most assuredly just another FPS with some minor attributes that distinguish it from the competition.
Armageddon is as linear as this type of game gets, with Mason’s route always clearly marked on your screen by glowing path indicators. You’ll never be at a loss for where to go next and where you go will invariably be forward, toward the next mission way point, objective, or closed-off room where you’ll need to kill a set number of enemies before moving ever onwards. Once or twice you’ll encounter branching paths, but all options inevitably lead to the same destination. Linearity is not always a bad thing in a shooter, as long as the sights and sounds on the way to your destination provide a decent enough distraction, you won’t necessarily mind that the game is holding your hand.
In this regard, Armageddon is a pleasant enough trip. Enemy variety is solid if unspectacular and hallways/walls/props repeat with alarming regularity, but there’s always just enough eye-candy presented to the player to keep you in the moment rather than spending your time critiquing the décor. Red Faction: Armageddon is a fast-paced, single-minded experience. Think of it as a Michael Bay movie ingame form, empty calories to be sure, but you’re so entertained you won’t mind gorging yourself.
Red Faction games have always prided themselves on the sheer amount of destruction the player is capable of wreaking on his environment and Armageddon is no exception. Entire buildings will collapse, walls will be blown out, and you’ll generally feel like you’re playing as a one-man wrecking ball. Powering this wanton carnage is an entertaining arsenal of futuristic weaponry. Sure, if you want to get into a building without such silliness as using the front door, a simple hit of your trusty mining hammer will do the job. Dual pistols, machine guns, and rocket launchers are available, but if you really want to make an impression, you may want to bring out Armageddon’s signature weapon: the magnet gun. Making use of every single drop of the game’s physics-powered engine, the magnet gun is limited only by how creative a master of mayhem you really are.
Overall, the game presents you with a nice cache of destructive tools, varied enough to prevent weapon boredom from setting in too early in the game. Armageddon also provides the player with some “superpowers,” such as shockwaves and whatnot, but the firearms are so effective I sometimes spent hours completely forgetting I even had these abilities.
I’m quickly becoming rather bored with every recently released shooter’s obsession with throwing in a few on-rails or turret sequences into its gameplay. Red Faction: Armageddon is yet another culprit of this annoying fad. It seems to me that these sequences sap the gameplay of its momentum, but your mileage may vary.
Multiplayer is enjoyable if not revolutionary. Armageddondoesn’t feature your usual competitive modes such a deathmatch in either the solo- or team-based variety. Instead, the game provides players with the current industry standard: a Gears Of War-style horde mode, here renamed Infestation. As usual, you’ll have to defend a small zone from constantly increasing waves of bad guys that continually augment both in numbers and in toughness. While Armageddon does nothing new with the mode, it’s always a nice way to kill an hour or two.
There’s also an optional Ruin mode, only available to players who purchase the game new. If you bought the game pre-owned, you can still purchase an unlock code online. Ruin takes full advantage of the game’s environmental destruction effects, tasking you with destroying as much of the scenery as possible within a set amount of time. You can compare your score on leaderboards for bragging rights.
Red Faction: Armageddon is essentially the same game as 2009’s Guerilla as far as the graphics are concerned. You won’t notice a huge leap forward in either set design or textures. Most of Guerilla’s weapons were bullet-based firearms, so visual feedback in combat was minimal. Not so in Armageddon. Battles are filled to the brim with shiny weapon effects, ray blasts of all colors and landscape-deforming explosions. Players will get more instant gratification out of Armageddon’s firefights than those found in Guerilla.
Planting some charges on a building and blowing it sky high or shooting off its support pillars one at a time and watching it tumble to the ground is still oddly fulfilling. Nobody does grand-scale destruction like Red Faction and this holds true for Armageddon. Weapon feedback is very gratifying; you’ll never get tired of punching large holes into things.
One interesting visual mechanic new to Armageddon is the repair gun. It’s inevitable that the player will accidentally ruin parts of the game terrain needed to reach a waypoint, say blowing up a vital bridge for instance. The repair gun allows Darius Mason to reassemble the components of a shattered structure in an almost Lego-like manner. It’s fun to watch and it’s a pleasant gameplay quirk overall.
All in all, Armageddon is a nice game to look at. It’s no hardware-molesting juggernaut like Crysis 2, but it certainly pushes a lot of pixels around.
The Verdict: [rating:3]
Red Faction: Armageddon is a good game. Not a great game, just a good one. It’s worth either purchasing or renting and you’ll definitely get your money’s worth out of playing it. Like all games in the Red Faction franchise, it’s a solidly made, entertaining, worthwhile piece of gaming that won’t win any awards, but, hey, with gameplay this decent, who needs prizes? It’s a superb, middle-weight shooter.
Your faithful reviewer,
I wonder if that three-breasted Martian hooker wants to share a pint of Haagen-Dazs with me? Oh who am I kidding? That movie is 20 years old, can you imagine how saggy those things are by now? (shudder)