Violition Inc., developers of Red Faction Armageddon, made a bold decision when they elected to move away from the open world sandbox of destruction that was Red Faction Guerrilla. Instead they have produced what is effectively a corridor-based shooter, with fewer structures to destroy. Red Faction Armageddon is short, linear, clichéd, and at times more than a little frustrating. It’s also rather good.
The player takes the role of Darius Mason, grandson of Alec and inheritor of his family’s bad luck. Not long into the campaign Darius is tricked by nefarious cult leader Adam Hale, resulting in the destruction of the terraformer and forcing the indigenous population underground (there goes the sandbox). Darius is promptly tricked a second time into reopening a foreboding mineshaft, thus releasing a “long-dormant” race of hostile aliens (the Plague), intent on consuming the remaining subterranean inhabitants.
What follows could easily have turned into a generic fps with a story we’ve seen a hundred times (which, in a way, it does). What saves Red Faction Armageddon is the tech it’s built on. The Geo-mod 2.5 engine is the star of the show. There are limitations on what you can destroy, but visually it’s never been better. Virtually any manmade structure in the game can be destroyed any way you see fit. Having completed the campaign you’ll come away wondering why every fps on the market doesn’t use this engine. It’s a joy to behold and the mass destruction never get old, even in an 8-10 hour campaign. Darius is also equipped with the Nano Forge, which is basically one big undo button. A nice little gadget that rebuilds structures in real time, allowing you to progress down the numerous corridors despite having wrecked every bridge/building onscreen.
The run-and-gun nature of the campaign could have gotten real old real quick, but Violition have another trick up their sleeve. It’s also the main reason to buy the game. Prepare yourselves for The Magnet Gun. Having read a number of reviews comparing the enjoyment of using the Magnet Gun to Half-Life 2’s Gravity Gun, I was somewhat sceptical, but I’m happy to report I was wrong. Oddly, this seminal weapon is provided early in the campaign. There’s no boss fight or near-impossible task to overcome, you’re just handed it (albeit strapped to a Mech). The gun works with a two shot mechanic. Fire the first magnet at point A and the second at point B, then watch them converge, slamming together whatever they’re attached to. Simple, effective, innovative and consistently entertaining. There are new weapons on offer in every chapter, but chances are you’ll simply fire a few test shots then revert back to the magnet gun. Tasked with bringing down a bridge? Simply make point A an alien beastie’s head and point B the bridge support. Tasked with clearing a volcanic chamber of its flesh-eating inhabitants? Simply make point A an alien beastie’s head and point B the lava pit. You get the idea. Best of all, it never gets old.
Graphically the game is strong, the story is entertaining and the destruction is as satisfying as it should be. Come the end of the campaign you’ll be ready for something new, as when all’s said and done Red Faction Armageddon is a one trick pony, but it’s a hell of a trick.