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Feature review: Red Faction: Armageddon

I’ll never understand why Red Faction: Guerrilla didn’t make a bigger splash in the gaming world than it did. I honestly thought a game allowing us to create such realistic, large scale destruction by levelling entire buildings would have more appeal. But RF:G seemed to be more of an alternative to the mainstream shooters, which seems  to be traditional for the franchise.

It’s a great pity, considering what the game achieved. Red Faction has always been about destruction, and I remember being blown away by the realistic physics Guerrilla featured. I stared slack-jawed as buildings collapsed brick by brick and girder by girder. The fact that these complex, realistic physics weren’t applied only to important structures that were meant to be destroyed, but to every structure in the game, no matter how small – even your own bases – well… that just made it even more impressive.  I never got tired of knocking down the key support structures on a building and watching it slowly collapse under its own weight. The destruction wasn’t mindless either, the “weaken the regime, strengthen the resistance” context meant that destroying enemy bases was a meaningful act with tangible benefits in the game.

Developer: Volition, Inc.
Publisher: THQ
Platforms: PC | PS3 | Xbox 360
Website: www.redfaction.com

That wasn’t an attempt to squeeze in a mini-review of a game I didn’t get to write about, I just had to tell you all that so you know where I’m coming from on the recently released sequel, Red Faction: Armageddon. While the GeoMod 2.0 engine is still present, all of the beautiful, realistic destruction it allows seems to have been relegated to a collateral damage role. You can still destroy everything in sight and watch it collapse in a very satisfying way, but it’s no longer the point of the game. The focus has officially changed from blowing up the bad guys’ facilities to fighting waves of alien invaders. Oh yeah, aliens, that’s a new one for the Red Faction series, too. Previously, it’s always been humans fighting humans, but now we’ve got aliens to contend with.

This time, players take on the role of Darius Mason, the grandson of Alec Mason and Samanya, the heroes who fended off the oppressive Earth Defence Force and fought for Mars’s independence in the last game. Once again, war has reared its ugly head on Mars. Darius serves as a soldier fighting against a dangerous new renegade faction led by a maniacal general. This general destroys the terraformer, the machine that makes Mars habitable, forcing the inhabitants to take refuge under the planet’s surface, in the massive caverns hollowed out over hundreds of years of human habitation. Apparently not content to force everyone underground, he then tricks Darius into unleashing an ancient, dormant alien menace. These ugly, Parktown Prawn-like aliens swarm through the underground caverns, tearing up human settlements wherever they find them.

Just great. Looks like Darius has got his work cut out for him cleaning up this mess. Unlike the last games, RF:A is a not an open-world type of game, but a straightforward shooter. In each mission, you are plonked down in a massive new stage, told what you need to do, and pretty much left to it. Instead of a map, a holographic line appears on the floor, showing the way to the next objective – which is something a lot of games are doing lately. I guess maps are like, so last millennium. Along the way, you’ll be attacked by waves and waves of enemies, but luckily you have quite an extensive arsenal of weapons to use against them. The weapon locker concept has been kept in the game, meaning that once you’ve found a weapon, it will be added to the weapon locker indefinitely.

Darius also has a trump card: the Nanoforge, an important item that fans of RF:G will remember, that he inherited from his grandparents. This device grants him the god-like ability to rebuild destroyed structures by simply waving his hand. You can be sure that there are plenty of mission objectives where you have to repair damaged power generators, pumps and so on using this ability. It’s also great for rebuilding cover to hide behind, or fixing paths you might have to travel on. Did some clumsy enemy blow up the walkway you need to pass? No problem, just walk with your hand of God outstretched and watch things rebuild themselves instantly. There are no limits to the use of this ability, which is good, seeing as how most buildings on Mars are apparently constructed from marzipan.

The Nanoforge also grants Darius several Jedi powers. Well, actually, they’re not Jedi powers, but they may as well be. He can project a wave of force, which knocks down and damages anything in its path, including buildings; he can lift his enemies up into air; he can create a shield around himself that he can shoot out of, but nobody can shoot into; and he can temporarily power himself up to take less damage while dishing out more. As Darius goes through the story, completing missions and fighting the relentless waves of enemies, he’ll collect salvage, which can be spent at upgrade stations to upgrade his weapons and his Nanofroge abilities. There are a lot of upgrades to choose from and they’re expensive, so you’ll have to decide carefully about how you want to play.

While the shift from open-world guerrilla warfare to linear shooting did bother me at first, I quickly got used to it once I realised that, as a linear shooter, RF:A is actually pretty gripping. I still enjoyed watching buildings collapse as a by-product of my explosive firefights, and I enjoyed rebuilding them with the Nanoforge even more.

Once you’re done with that, there are a few multiplayer modes that may or may not interest you and a destruction-based mini-game where you compete to see who can demolish a building in the most efficient way. The graphics are awesome and run at full 1080p, and the sounds and music are suitably epic. All in all, a worthy addition to the Red Faction lineage.

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  • r34p32

    i liked the red faction g for like 3hrs then it just got repetitive which leads to boredom so sorry never finished it never will sold it the 1st chance i got . Mind u most sandbox games are boring grand theft auto is a prime example

  • http://www.nag.co.za Geoff Burrows

    Sandbox games are what you make of them, and if you’re unable to find/make fun in them, you’ll have a bad time. I don’t find GTA boring at all, and have replayed San Andreas a number of times.

    Anyway, so do you prefer Armageddon to Guerrilla then? I’m the other way round, and don’t enjoy the corridor shooter aspect of Armageddon over Guerrilla’s sandbox play.

  • Matthew Vice

    Well, it seems that some people just don’t gel with open world games – they feel like they don’t know what to do.

    Personally, if I could have my way, I’d have the open world-ness of RF: Guerrilla back. I love the parktown prawns, though, let’s keep those. I also love the improved graphics, the 1080p at a blazing frame rate and the improved shooter controls. That’s good too.

    So yeah, at first, the lack of an open world environment did bother me a bit, but I have such fun fighting enemies amid buildings made of cardboard that I quickly got over it. It does feel a bit less sophisticated than RF:G for it, though.

  • http://www.themousetrap.co.za JamesDonaldson

    Red Faction Guerrilla was good, problem was 95% of the people who play it have to use “-nod3d10″ in a shortcut because the game uses a flawed and unnessesary directX10 engine. Then there was the bug where many people (me included) couldn’t get past the intro because under certain conditions of the graphics settings (ambient occulation and anti-aliasing x8) the patrol ship on the first map doesn’t show and the game breaks.

    Otherwise once that was sorted I had a blast, I just wish they had more multi-story buildings. I also wish I could figure out a use for the bombs you find that attach to vehicles – I wasted 3 and didn’t bother with the others.

  • Matthew Vice

    Luckily, us console version players didn’t have to put up with that.

    Oh, and those Ultor bombs are really just collectible busy work – but they do make quite a dent in those really big buildings. Hell, one time, I collected an Ultor bomb just before going on a big base destruction misson, so I rolled the car in the base and blew it up. Damn near destroyed the whole building. But they’re a real pain to set up and you have to do it before hand, so their use is limited.

  • CC4444

    awsome

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