Let me be honest, I wasn’t all that excited about Red Faction: Armageddon. I thought the previous game was good, but had too many flaws to make it a compelling title. So when Red Faction: Armageddon showed up on my doorstep more than a week before the official release, I was in no rush to rip the packaging open and start playing. That was my mistake. Red Faction: Armageddon is one hell of a game and a significant upgrade from the first. The folks at Guerrilla decided to do away with the first game’s more open world approach, in favor of a more focused and targeted narrative. The result is a game that seriously delivers when it comes to awesome weapons, good gameplay and graphics, and a solid if not great story.
Red Faction: Armageddon takes place fifty years after the events of Red Faction: Guerilla. Lots of things have changed since then with the planets Terraformer being destroyed. The Terraformer was a massive device that when activated, created an Earth-like atmosphere on Mars. When it was destroyed it sent the planet into disarray. The planet was almost instantly engulfed by violent lighting storms and abnormally powerful tornadoes, which ultimately makes the planet’s surface uninhabitable. To survive, the colonists are forced to go underground and live in the old mines built by their ancestors. This is not how they imagined things, but as always they made do. The game heats up when the primary protagonist, Darius Mason, is tricked into reopening a mysterious shaft in an old Marauder temple. This releases some long dormant and ultra powerful creatures that begin to wreak havoc on Mars, and now Darius must join forces with the Red Faction to clear his name and save the people of Mars, as his grandfather did before him.
From a gameplay perspective, I think that Red Faction: Armageddon is highly superior to the original in almost every respect. They streamlined the game’s focus and built on a lot of the components that stood out in the original. The combat isn’t what I would categorize as superior, but I would say it’s decent. When you are in battle the key will be positioning. You will always be outnumbered, so rushing into a fight will almost never work in your favor. Play smart, take out the strongest enemies first, make them come to you, and for goodness sakes don’t let them surround you. Almost everything you see is destructible so don’t hesitate to use your ability to destroy the environment and use it as a weapon as well.
The game features absolutely great voice work and creates some fairly memorable characters. The game brings back the Nano Forge. This time it has been given a boost. In Red Faction: Armageddon you can use the Nano Forge as both an offensive and defensive weapon. When you are using it for offense, you can send out powerful bursts that will knock enemies back and sometimes kill them. On defense, the Nano Forge is great for rebuilding cover that has been destroyed. I guess you can think of it as a toned down and much less complex version of the upcoming Starhawk “Build and Battle” system. When things get hairy and your health is low, run into a destroyed building and use the Nano Forge to rebuild the structure around you.
This is where the game really shines. Red Faction: Armageddon features an absolute awesome array of weapons. In fact, I would say that the variety and uniqueness of the weapons in Red Faction: Armageddon are second only to the choices found in the Ratchet and Clank series. Your option of weapons literally goes from a basic set of 9MM Pistols, all the way to a weapon that literally creates a nanometer-sized singularity, that when fired, sucks in everything in its’ vicinity, and then explodes once it reaches critical mass. I won’t spoil it for you; I’ll just say that it’s my favorite weapon, though I think the most versatile weapon is the Charge Launcher.
When conventional weapons are not enough, that is when it is time to call in the big guns. These come in the form of some ridiculously awesome mechs. You will hear them referred to as “walkers” and “exos” most of the time, but these things are awesome. Most of them aren’t that fast, but with the kind of weaponry these things are equipped with, you won’t need to be fast. The sections of the game where you use these monster machines create a nice change of pace and has the aliens running from you once in a while.
The game’s multiplayer mode “Infestation” is perfect for Red Faction: Armageddon. The mode can support up to four-player co-op play, but if you really think you are tough then feel free to go at it alone or with one or two teammates, and see how far you get. Some folks will love this mode and others will probably not care much for it, but I think it fits perfectly with the theme of the game and is a nice change-up from the standard run and gun multiplayer modes we are getting used to. Another plus in this mode, is that any salvage and upgrades you earn are seamlessly crossed over into the single player mode and vice versa. So if you are having trouble earning enough salvage to get an upgrade in the single player, hop over to the multiplayer, rack up some points, get your upgrades, and then bounce back to the main single player campaign.
Red Faction: Armageddon is not without its faults though. I really didn’t care for the game’s weapons and ability management systems. In order to upgrade an attribute you have to get to an upgrade station, which I didn’t always like because it made it hard for you to fully leverage the points once you earned them. When you want to change weapons things work the same way, you need to find a weapons locker. This entire concept of weapons access is flawed because even though you have all these weapons at your disposal, you need to get to a weapon’s locker to change your weapons loadouts. The result is that when you get to certain parts of the game, you are at somewhat of a disadvantage because if you didn’t pick an appropriate loadout, you will have more trouble with certain sections than you should. I am of the position that the “weapon wheel” type setup provides the player the most flexibility, and would have made gameplay much more enjoyable and less frustrating. Speaking of frustrating, did I talk about the ending? As you know we don’t do spoilers around here, but let’s just say that the ending almost ruined the game for me. It just had too many components and just when you finished one really hard ass section and thought it was all over, it wasn’t. The final section of the game’s ending is drawn out way more than it needed to be and will definitely frustrate some gamers to the point where they will want to throw the controller a few times.
In the end, I have to admit that I enjoyed Red Faction: Armageddon much more than I thought I would. The game’s story definitely takes some twist and turns that I just didn’t see coming. I commend THQ and Volition on taking some major risk on both the core narrative and gameplay. Red Faction: Armageddon is exactly what we expect from a sequel. It is better than the original on every front. All in all, I really like this new movement from THQ. The quality of their games has really been improving lately, and we hope they keep it up. With that said, we definitely feel like Red Faction: Armageddon is an above average third person shooter, and for that we give it 8 out of 10.