Over the past few months, we’ve covered Red Faction quite extensively. Whether it has been the game, the movie, or Red Faction: Battlegrounds, I’ve been personally excited about this title for quite some time. Having played the original on the Playstation 2, does Red Faction Armageddon continue the legacy of solid sci-fi gameplay?
Kind of. There are a few hiccups here and there and we’ll get to those later on in the review. Red Faction: Armageddon is the follow-up to the Red Faction: Guerilla which received for the most part pretty solid reviews. THQ and Volition have taken the Red Faction: Armageddon marketing to the max, releasing a soundtrack, a tie-in film Red Faction: Origins, and the pre-order bonus game Red Faction: Battlegrounds. Plain and simple, Battlegrounds was awful, but luckily I was able to utilize the time I spent with Battlegrounds and stats I gained to assist me in my ranking on Red Faction: Armageddon, so all is not lost, right?
Armageddon features a linear storyline which is in contrast to the more open world environment of Guerilla. Some may knock linear style of gameplay, but I for one have had my fair share of sandbox games and like to be able to get from point A to point B without much getting in my way besides the obvious foe and environmental obstacles. Of course it has to be done efficiently in order for it to be successful. In the story, you play as Darius Mason (fans might remember Alec Mason from Guerilla–yup, they are indeed related) trying to restore order after a large disaster (caused by Mason himself) releases a bevy of bugs across Mars. Here’s where one of the first problems comes in with the linear style of gameplay. It is hard to say that I was “playing” through the game, as I was trudging through it. There are bugs, bugs and more bugs–the same bugs. Sure, you can change your weapons loadout to add some variety and there are some environmental interactions to shake things up a bit, but ultimately levels blend together. So while the story is solid, the overall progression of it fails to ignite anything more than a couple variations in objectives.
While progression may be so-so, the game looks great. Voice acting is on par with most titles which I think is something that THQ has strived for as they have perfect their WWE franchise which is often a make or break for a lot of fans. Character models and environments look great, and explosions and destruction really exemplify the carnage you have just caused. Video embedded in the game leaves a little to be desired. Through compression, there is some loss of quality where many of the videos appear pixelated and while it obviously does not affect gameplay, it just looks plain ugly. Sound is impeccable. When I game, I use ASTRO A40s equipped with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. You really cannot appreciate the sound of any game or film for that matter without using some kind of surround sound solution (whew, alliteration). The location of each sound is pinpointed to its specified location (which I guess is the premise of surround sound, right) down to the loudspeaker appearing in the upper left channel as you progress in the earlier stages of the game, as opposed to S.A.M, (Situation Awareness Module) appearing at mid-ear level.
Using Darius Mason feels solid. Controls are easy to use, and if you take advantage of the tools he has at his disposal (dodging, evading and using other abilities he acquires throughout the title) you can avoid bug attacks like a pro at the harder difficulty levels. The development team has done some pretty innovative things with the weaponry which makes Armageddon’s Ruin Mode an absolute ball to play, more on that a little later.
There is no true competitive on-line mode, which is kind of a dissappointment. The game has a survival mode called Infestation that features the bugs and maps you see from campaign mode which you can play with up to four players. As I said in my opinion of the campaign above, the levels kind of all mashed together at the end of it. You spend most of your time fighting off these bugs, and honestly, by the end of it you are not really looking forward to have to do it again.
The really gem in the game however is Ruin Mode (similar to Wrecking Crew for those who played Guerilla). To me, it feels like the destruction levels in the Burnout series, which I was particularly a fan of. In Ruin Mode, you just, blow levels to the ground for points using the various weapons in the game. What could be better than that? Watching the world you just had to trudge through crumble around you is a very satisfying experience. One has to wonder why Volition did not include more of these levels in the game as they are pure fun and I enjoyed this much more than the campaign.
Overall, Red Faction: Armageddon is a tough sell at 59.99. You’ll have fun playing it for a bit, but will ultimately become frustrated seeing much of the same things you saw in the levels you have already been through–killing off swarms of bugs, repairing areas and blowing stuff up. As I said before, I’m a fan of Point A to Point B titles, as long as they have some depth to them and unfortunately Armageddon for the most part does not. Ruin Mode is one of the saving graces of the title, along with some of the cooler weapons at your disposal, but the lack of competitive online multiplayer and dull game progression take away from many of the great aspects of the title.
REVIEW SCORE: 7.3/10