Blowing stuff up is fun. There I said it. It appeals to the Cro-Magnon inside of me, cutting through thousands of years of evolution in the process. So where do I turn to meet this primal need that wells up inside of me? Well to Red Faction of course. The Red Faction series has always been about knocking stuff down. While other games list environmental destructibility as a feature, Red Faction has it as a focus. So with this franchise’s wonderfully explosive history in my mind I grabbed my oversized sledge hammer and delved into the latest entry, Red Faction: Armageddon.
Being a fan of the series, Armageddon was high on my wish list. However this anticipation soon turned to apprehension when it was announced that Armageddon wouldn’t be an open world game like its predecessor, Guerrilla, but a return to the linear nature of the first two instalments. This was a huge risk by creators Volition. I loved Guerrilla for its giant destructive sandbox and it was praised by gamers and critics alike for this feature. Removing this for a focused, story based third person shooter could be seen as a step back. Well, fear not fellow gamers I am here to tell you this is not the case. If I had only one word to describe Red Faction: Armageddon it would be “fun”.
It was clear from my opening 10 minutes with Armageddon that destruction was still high on the priority list for Volition. In that time I managed to shoot three story high explosive barrels, knock down towers with a sledge hammer and get hold of a weapon that simply vaporises anything its projectile touches. The Geo-mod engine was once again the star of the show with buildings crumbling, fuel tanks detonating and vehicles exploding without a single hit to the frame rate. The game incorporated this amazing technology well, encouraging me to blast, implode, knock down and smash my way through levels and objectives.
All this destructive ability would have been wasted if the game didn’t give me the tools to exploit its full potential. Luckily the developers recognised this and gave me some of the greatest weapons ever seen in a shooter, all of which were designed to leave massive damage in their wake. While I was offered the usual selection of pistols, machine guns and shotguns, it was the more unusual selections that led to the most fun. The Magnet gun was clearly the number one choice when it came to destroying buildings. Using this weapon was simple. Shoot the weapon twice, first shot into a destructible item, second shot into anything else. The first shot is then dragged to the second at a great pace, crushing any thing, person, alien, in between. Getting inventive with the Magnet Gun was one of the most original and entertaining experiences I have had with gaming in recent times. The other explosive weapons were all equally entertaining. Coupled with the ability to destroy any manmade item, even staple shooter weapons such as the rocket launcher take on a whole new meaning.
The story in Armageddon, while basic and chock full of sci-fi clichés, was entertaining enough to pull me through. Following the story of Darius Mason, the grandson of Alec Mason, hero of Guerrilla, I was led through a tale of aliens, lost love, crazy cultists and rebelling townsfolk. The voice acting is great and it really sold a story we have all heard before in a convincing and entertaining manner. I especially liked the voice of the main character. His delivery was spot on regardless of how cheesy the line was. At about eight hours long I felt it was a good amount of time to spend with Darius and his cohorts and they never overstayed their welcome.
The biggest problem I found with Armageddon was how little there was to do after the main game had finished. The online multiplayer is another version of Horde mode from Gears of War. It was simply not enough to hold my attention. Shooting wave after wave of AI controlled aliens is only entertaining for so long and with no way to compete against another human, I lost interest quickly. With the potential for some great Uncharted style multiplayer coupled with the ability to level buildings, it’s a shame that the developer didn’t spend some extra time fleshing out its online offerings.
Armageddon also gave me a few other options to state my demolition urges. Ruin mode seems to be a concession made by the developers to fans of Guerrilla. It provides a small map in which I simply got to destroy every building in site. There is a free play and a timed challenge mode but it was nothing more than a fun 10 minute diversion and once I had completed all 6 maps I felt little need to go back and revisit this mode. The other option is Story + mode which allowed me to redo the story but with all the weapons and upgrades I had unlocked in my previous play through. I might revisit this mode in the future but at this point in time playing through the story once was enough.
In all, I had a blast while Armageddon lasted. Destroying buildings never gets old, making the game’s flaws easy to forgive. As a fan of the franchise I am happy to say this is another entertaining entry. While it won’t win any game of the year awards, Armageddon delivers exactly what the series has always promised, an outlet for the destructive Neanderthal in all of us.