I’m determined to keep the Armageddon puns to a minimum in this review…so no Bruce Willis jokes, Aerosmith songs or comments about Ben Affleck.
The newest entry in the Red Faction franchise Armageddon leads off with the grandson of the formers games protagonist on a mission to protect the device that makes mars habitable. Needless to say he fails and everyone has to go hide underground because of the lacks of air, and horrific weather on the surface. He’s then tricked by some bad guys into opening a hidden chamber where loads of bugs live. It’s never really explained why there a tons of bugs underground, and one audio log and text in the instruction manual suggest they aren’t the old inhabitants of Mars, but aliens themselves, which just adds more confusion as to what the hell they’re doing down there.
Also as a note to silly story…you open one tunnel that’s blocking them underground…and then the bugs escape down a completely different tunnel which connects to human settlements. So why hadn’t they already escaped?
Theresa lot of new stuff to the series, from the repair tools and repair grenades, to the advanced powers of the nano forge…which include a Kinetic energy burst (means you don’t need the games signature sledgehammer anymore…not that you need it to destroy stuff anymore – see below), a power that suspends enemies in the air, a power that gives you a protective shield and the ability to go “berserk” and increase damage. Also new is the magnet gun, which is great fun. Its awesome to stick one to a monster and another to the ceiling 200 metres up just to get it out of your hair for a few seconds to reload. The combat walkers are also good fun.
Anyway, Red Faction is a game that has always been about blowing stuff up. And the superb physics engine from the previous game, Guerrilla, is still in place. On the first mission there are the familiar EDF bunkers, barracks and guard towers from the last game to blow up and everything feels great. With the ability to rebuild everything you destroy you are a little less carefully about blowing up walkways you might need. Blowing up buildings from under enemies, removing their cover still feels great.
However you then get to the second mission. And then the third mission. And every mission after that. These pretty much all consist of underground tunnels, or enclosed spaces shooting bugs off of walls. Anyone who’s played the mission “Cortana” on High Charity at the end of Halo 3 will feel right at home. It’s about shooting bugs that jump from wall to wall and shoot at you, walls which are generally curved and that orangey-red colour. And everyone now and then a beefy tank bug turns up. It just feels very familiar. And gets a bit boring. The one mission against human enemies is a refreshing change of pace, but is gone as quickly as it comes. Gone is the free range-ness of the last game to do missions as you want and mess around blowing stuff up. It’s now a series of linear corridor turkey shoots against the same bugs over and over again. Even the building destruction is mostly gone, and when it’s there it’s not enjoyable in the same way, as it doesn’t feel necessary. In Guerrilla missions of blowing up buildings and bridges, setting charges in key places and watching it come down was very enjoyable and rewarding. Now there’s only a few building you ever have to destroy, and most of those are very flimsy comms towers. As mentioned there’s no need to carry the games signature weapon, the sledgehammer because you’ll never need it unless you want to melee with the giant bugs
In here lies Armageddon’s main problem – It’s the little brother to a Guerrilla. It has the same mechanics and options available to it, but chooses not to use its best bits. By taking the emphasis away from destruction the game feels weakened. It’s not a bad game by any means; I’m playing it through a 2nd time now, and it’s still enjoyable. But unlike Guerrilla I won’t be keeping it or coming back to it
The destruction is still there…it’s just in a tacked on extra mode, set in small arenas against the clock or time free, but isn’t the same. Also you only get this mode if you buy a new copy, or pay a few quid extra for it, the games way of joining the increasing trend on games manufacturers fighting the pre-owned market.
Also clearly missing is the competitive multiplayer. In Guerrilla this was great, combining the destruction and carnage of the game with the world of online shooting. And it was good. In its place is a 4 player Horde wave survival mode, which doesn’t hold as much fun I must say. Again, its not bad, but feels like a poor cover up for the missing multiplayer.
In summary…it’s not a bad game. It’s just not an outstanding game. To me Guerrilla was an outstanding game. And that’s why once I’ve wrung the achievements out of Armageddon it’ll be on the trade in pile waiting for something good. And I’ll go back and replay Guerrilla for the 5th time. Because that game shows how it’s supposed to be done.