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PS3 Review – Red Faction: Armageddon

June 4, 2011 Written by Tyler Minarik

Red Faction: Armageddon continues the franchise’s saga of the fight for domination over Mars, as well as its trademark brand of destruction-based gameplay. With its predecessor, Red Faction: Guerrilla, receiving generally positive reviews, Armageddon looks to capitalize upon the strengths of Guerrilla while taking advantage of the significant room for improvement. Join us as PlayStation LifeStyle finds out if Mars is worth fighting for, or if Red Faction: Armageddon is just as bland as the red planet’s surface.

Our new adventure plants us in the capable boots of one Darius Mason, the grandson of Red Faction: Guerrilla‘s protagonist, Alec Mason. In the 50 years that have passed since the events of Guerrilla, the Red Faction has established itself as the governing power on Mars, albeit with a few difficulties along the way. One especially swollen bump is Adam Hale, a notorious figure who leads a cult hell-bent on taking control of Mars for themselves. As the game opens, Darius is working with the Red Faction to put a stop to Hale’s latest plan, destroying the giant Terraformer that allows Mars’ surface to be habitable. Unfortunately for Darius and his fellow people, Hale succeeds in destroying the Terraformer and disappears in the process, driving everyone underground.

10 years pass, and we rejoin Darius, who is simply struggling to make a living alongside his fellow townspeople. Life on Mars isn’t easy, so Darius is willing to accept jobs that pay without question. Of course, someone decides to take advantage of this, and Darius is soon tricked into releasing a horrifying alien threat which had lain dormant underground for an unknown length of time. The creatures are relentless, and soon Darius is fighting not only for his own survival, but that of his people.

Red Faction: Armageddon makes a major departure from Guerrilla in several ways, most significant of which is probably the linear structure of the game. While Guerrilla was an open world experience, Armageddon keeps the pace going almost non stop by always giving the player designated objectives over the course of 20 levels. As a result the story is more fleshed out than previously, the pace is faster, and the game focuses much more heavily on combat than simply destroying everything in sight. Destruction is still a core element here, but it’s now much more integral for progressing in battles, especially thanks to the inclusion of clever new weaponry.

The most significant of these weapons is the new Magnet Gun. While the sledgehammer has been a staple weapon for bashing enemies heads in as well as busting shortcuts through walls, the Magnet Gun easily replaces this with incredible power, and huge amounts of fun. With unlimited ammo, the magnet gun can fire two anchors successively. The first anchor attaches to any enemy or destructible object, and is forcefully attracted to whatever the second anchor is fired at. Whether you’re using this to make enemies head butt each other to death, or to turn a towering building into the largest projectile ever seen, this tool makes combat dynamic and exhilarating. The innovative weapon easily turns your entire environment into a weapon, and throughout the entire game it somehow rarely, if ever, grows old.

Many weapons return from Guerrilla as well, such as the Nano Rifle, Assault Rifle, Charge Launcher, and Rocket Launcher; and other new ones join the mix too. Twin Banshee pistols pack an incredible punch, while an Energy Grenade Launcher obliterates organic material, leaving surrounding buildings intact. A Plasma Cannon on the other hand will blast an enormous hole in nearly anything it’s aimed at, and a Singularity Cannon fires a tiny black hole which sucks in everything nearby before violently exploding. One major improvement that makes using all these weapons more fun is a tweak to the controls. Instead of awkwardly holding a trigger to select a weapon, this time all equipped weapons are mapped to one of the four d-pad buttons, making switching between firearms mid battle fluid.

Surprisingly for a third person shooter so focused on combat, Armageddon completely ditches the cover system from Guerrilla, instead only allowing you to duck behind low walls. That’s okay, though, since usually those walls don’t last long, and the system is replaced by something much more powerful: the Nano Forge. While the Magnet Gun is the highlight weapon that lets you take advantage of the destructive properties in Red Faction, the Nano Forge lets you put it all back together after you’re done. Inevitably while in a fire fight underground the only ramp out will get blown to smithereens, leaving Darius stuck for a moment. However, walking near any damaged structure while holding the L2 button puts the Nano Forge to work, immediately repairing anything that once stood there. Not only is this useful for escaping various areas, but it also allows Darius to replace any cover once destroyed, giving him breathing room from the alien onslaught.

The Nano Forge doesn’t stop at just making repairs. As the game progresses Darius can collect scrap metal to make upgrades to his abilities, as well as the Nano Forge, which eventually yields four special powers. Initially an impact ability allows him to forcefully push enemies away and break through walls. Later a shockwave skill suspends any surrounding enemies in the air temporarily, leaving them completely vulnerable to attack. A bubble shell can be used to defend Darius from projectile fire, which also eats away at any foe that steps within the field. Finally a berserk mode temporarily increases Darius’ attack strength, accuracy, and speed, to make him the ultimate warrior on Mars. Other upgrades such as health increases and weapon damage are available, as long as players keep an eye out for hidden scrap metal caches hidden throughout each level.

Darius also encounters several vehicles throughout the game, which help to mix up the flow of the levels, and offer unprecedented power against the alien horde. The first of these is the LEO suit, a humanoid shaped mechanical suit that allows Darius to charge his enemies relentlessly, while unleashing chain guns and missiles for mass chaos on the battlefield. Later a spider-like walker will be encountered, equipped with heat seeking missiles, or even powerful lightning cannons. Eventually an aerial combat vehicle called the Inferno GX can be piloted, which sports a rapid fire cannon and seeking missiles of its own. Each vehicle has unique controls, and offers a fun break from the intense fighting which occurs while on foot.

The new underground environment Armageddon takes place in is certainly a change from the bland red landscape of Guerrilla, but by the end of the game it still begins to feel tired. About 90% of the game takes place in caverns of varying sizes, most of which are populated by human structures ready to be torn apart in combat. While the colors and visual aesthetics change throughout the game, ranging from magma filled areas to ones populated with large pink crystalline structures, its easy to still feel like moving from cave to cave can be a monotonous experience. At some points its hard to tell one area from another, since rock walls are always bounding Darius into a certain path. It still provides more variety than Guerrilla‘s repetitive environment, but not much. Luckily, most of the time you’ll be completely preoccupied throwing buildings in your enemy’s paths, making this draw back slightly less noticeable.

Red Faction: Armageddon‘s campaign is a short, but thrilling romp, with just enough of a story line to keep you shooting. Clocking in at about 8 hours in length on the normal difficulty, it will likely leave most players craving more. Luckily an Infestation mode and Ruin mode are included to continue the anarchy. The Infestation mode is a fairly standard online cooperative affair, pitting players against wave after wave of increasingly numerous and difficult enemies. 16 stages are available, 8 of which are “DARK” versions of corresponding levels. Each has 30 waves, and beating any wave will allow players to start the game at a later time at the highest wave beaten. All upgrades purchased in the single player game carry over to this multiplayer mode, although they still require being unlocked by progressing seven waves per tier of upgrades. Each player can select one Nano Forge specialty for their load out, and combining powers with good team mates is a necessity for making it through the harder rounds.

Ruin mode requires the online pass that comes with a new copy in order to be accessed, but strangely the only thing online about it is a leaderboard. The mode is quite similar to Guerrilla‘s Wreaking Crew mode, pitting players in an arena where after choosing their load out they are tasked with causing as much destruction as possible in the most stylish way they can. Chaining up explosions rewards bonus points, and large amounts of quick destruction grant bonus time. Each round only lasts a minute, so you’ll need to plan carefully which weapons to use and what order to blow things up in to achieve the highest scores. There’s only a handful of levels here, and like Infestation mode playing more unlocks new weapons and levels, but it won’t take long to work through them. As the lightest content wise of the three modes, it’s hard to recommend buying an online pass for Ruin unless you’re already a big fan of the Wreaking Crew mode from Guerrilla, but it is fun to unleash Armageddon on a few maps with unlimited ammo.

In the end it seems odd, and a little disappointing that Volition chose not to include any directly competitive multiplayer mode, especially after the unique flair of the one in Guerrilla. However, the modes available do provide plenty of fun and gameplay, making Armageddon well worth playing. Destroying everything in sight has never been more fun, and the redirection of the franchise makes for an overall improvement on the Red Faction formula. The revamped controls make it easier than ever to take advantage of the tools at hand, and the linear campaign makes for a tighter, more exciting story than previously. If there’s any real complaint to be had here, it’s that it ends too soon, but with a couple buddies on hand, the Infestation and Ruin modes should still occupy plenty of time. If you’ve always enjoyed demolishing things in real life, but prefer not to be fired or arrested, then Red Faction: Armageddon is definitely the way to go.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Destruction Based Combat is Chaotic Fun

+ Cool Weapons, Especially the Magnet Gun

– Short Campaign, No Competitive Multiplayer

7 out of 10

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