Returning to its more traditional style, Red Faction: Armageddon goes back to the linier corridor shooter, leaving Red Faction: Guerrilla’s open-world approach a distant memory. But despite this reversal – which will no doubt concern many fans – Red Faction: Armageddon is a great third person shooter than takes full advantage of its linearity.
Red Faction: Armageddon is a tighter experience than Guerrilla. The narrative leaves very little opportunity for exploration, confining you within sizable areas but with no option for deviation. And the result is absolutely exceptional pacing. You follow Darius Mason – grandson to Guerrilla’s Alec Mason – as he serves under the military guerrilla group Red Faction, in their continuing quest for freedom on Mars. As events unfold through your actions a dormant alien presence is unleashed on the citizens of Mars. It’s not the most original narrative and the villain of the piece is over the top but it still has a certain charm to it to immerse you. This is helped by a decent script which, for the most part, is well delivered but primarily the delivery and pacing of the narrative is what keeps you engaged until the end.
Over the six to eight hour adventure, you’ll swiftly move between locations and set pieces at a pace that makes it almost impossible to feel tedium. The action is focused underground with only the occasional aboveground section, but it’s surprisingly varied. Caverns, settlements and stray facilities subtlety change the environment. Heavily built up human settlements, an organic alien presence on the walls, crystals and lava filled caverns all provide enough visual flare to successfully make each area feel fresh and different from the last. It’s downright impressive level design.
Additionally, elements of tense travel as you fearfully suspect attackers to pounce, intense actions sequences on foot and in vehicles including mechs, as well as group battles and basic button and lever pushing puzzles, effectively keeps the juxtaposition of gameplay as varied as the locations. With this delivery so expertly constructed as well as story threads being tied up swiftly – which makes a wonderful change – It’s difficult not to enjoy the experience. Despite the concerns of linearity and the addition of aliens, Red Faction: Armageddon offers a different but equally as enjoyable experience as Guerrilla.
As you combat the aliens, the human cultists and the main villain you’ll use your trusty Maul hammer which tears through structures like butter, as well as a decent cache of different weapons, each with their strengths and weakness against certain targets and for certain situations. Then there’s the magnets gun. You fire once to mark the material, and a second time to mark its destination, and then watch it fly through the air and crash into its target. It’s a unique and imaginative weapon with significant scope of use. Flinging enemies at objects, structures, other enemies, and vice versa, is satisfying, effective, and undeniably fun, and it’s destructive capabilities on structures is cathartic to say the least. The rest of your arsenal run the gamut from assault rifle to black hole generator, offering up great variety, and a certain secret weapon is unlocked upon completion which is wonderfully amusing and destructive, as well as purchasable cheats like infinite ammo and Nano Forge energy for your second playthrough.
Your Nano Forge is another unique tool, allowing you to reconstruct any destroyed structures. Its use varies from rebuilding structures such as bridges, upgrade stations for your Nano Forge and weapons, and power generators in order to progress, to restoring cover for protection and using Nano Forge abilities. Impact lets out a directional charge to push enemies back and tear apart structures. Shockwave is an area of effect ability elevating enemies for a few seconds. Shell creates a protective barrier around yourself, and Berserk enhances your weapons damage for a short duration. Each Nano Forge ability can be purchased and upgraded through the upgrade stations, along with equipping any found weapons to your four available slots, and upgrading health, accuracy, etc. Moreover, the abilities gradually become more crucial to your survival as you progress, they’re useful and not just there for show and by the end you’ll be relying on them heavily.
The multiplayer has been stripped bare to two modes, Red Faction: Armageddon’s version of Hoard mode, as you and up to four other players aim to survive wave after wave of enemies, Infestation, and Ruin mode where you can tear apart areas to your heart’s content, competing in challenges or off the clock for its cathartic charm. The singleplayer excels at variety but the multiplayer keeps things small scale, but appropriate. Infestation works well and fits the core premise and so does Ruin mode. THQ should be applauded for their restraint in not adding an incongruous multiplayer setup.
Red Faction: Armageddon takes the series forward in a new, arguably risky, direction, and succeeds. The narrative is engaging and brilliantly paced, and whilst the multiplayer lacks content, it’s relevant to the universe. The initial grief felt for the omission of an open-world structure is quelled and justified by the experience on offer and provides more than enough reason to go beneath.
MLG Rating: 9/10
Platform: Xbox 360/ PS3/ PC Release Date: 10/06/11
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Red Faction: Armageddon for review purposes by the publisher. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.