I’ve never played a Red Faction game before. I’d heard all about the great fun my friends had with the environmental destruction in the last game, but just never picked it up. When I heard that this new Red Faction was going to include even better destruction physics, I knew there was no way I could miss out on it. Fortunately for me, Armageddon lived up to the hype. A solid story teamed with excellent player-created carnage, as well as a decent multiplayer mode, makes Red Faction: Armageddon another strong entry in the franchise.
Set in a distant future where human colonies populate Mars, Red Faction: Armageddon puts you in the role of former soldier Darius Mason. A few decades after his father helped restore peace to the planet, Darius finds himself in a similar situation. Unfortunately, that means taking on hordes of actual Martians who are none too happy to find humans inhabiting their planet. The game’s linear story will take you across the vast wastes of Mars, but a majority of your time will be spent underground. The plot moves quickly, and is fairly action-packed. There were a few moments where I’d hoped the game would slow its pace a bit to expand on some characterization and backstory, but as an action game, there are some sacrifices that have to be made in order to keep the heart rate up.
Of course, you’re not playing Armageddon for the story. You’re playing it for the rampant destruction you can cause with all the amazing weaponry Volition has created. There are more than a dozen different armaments to find in the game, and while some (shotgun, assault rifle) are along more traditional lines, the most interesting are those that can alter the environment. The moment you get your virtual hands on the Magnet Gun, and throw an enemy the length of a football field away, everything becomes right with the world. It’s the game’s most versatile weapon, thought there are some others that cause destruction with much greater spectacle. Both the Plasma Beam and Plasma Cannon wreak deteriorative havoc with great aplomb, and the Singularity Cannon is always fun to use when you need to take a building down quickly. Every player will find a load out that suits his destructive tendencies, and the frequent weapon lockers allow you to swap out arms whenever you feel the desire.
Darius also comes equipped with the Nanoforge, which enables him to manipulate nanomachines to his gain. You can repair virtually anything you’ve broken in the world, and the device also comes with some nifty offensive abilities. Shell and Shockwave are a bit more passive in their use, but both give you short-term protection from enemies in close proximity, while also dealing light damage. Impact and Berserk are the more aggressive powers you’ll earn, and the two abilities serve to make you a formidable protagonist. All of the Nanoforges powers can be upgraded with Salvage, Red Faction’s in-game currency. There are multiple tiers of upgrades you can unlock, and every bit of Salvage you earn carries through all the game’s modes. You do get your abilities in the multiplayer Infection, but you have to earn many of the more powerful ones by surviving long enough.
Infection is the only multiplayer mode this time around, though it can be played online and off. Similar to Gears of War’s Horde mode and the various Zombies games from Call of Duty, Infection pits you and three others against thirty waves of Martians trying to kill you. There are eight different maps, with variants you can unlock, bringing the total to sixteen. Each of the Infection maps takes place alongside the story, as you play as characters helping Darius in ways you don’t see during the single-player campaign. Some maps do task you with defending buildings or generators from being destroyed, and those can get pretty hairy once you get beyond the first dozen waves. Like the other titles that have similar modes, Infection is a fun way to spend a few hours, though I can’t say there’s much draw in coming back repeatedly. Armageddon’s other online mode is Ruin, though that is a single-player affair where you’ll be trying to score the most points by leveling an entire map. Again, there are a handful of maps, and leaderboards to contend with, but mileage will vary on this mode depending on how hungry you are to be ranked up high.
Though the open world is gone, the attention to detail remains. Armageddon is a good-looking game, even when you’re purposefully trying to destroy everything. What Volition has done here with the look and feel of the game should be commended. Despite having a very clear path and objective at hand, I never really felt like I was being run down a cattle chute. There are just so many constructs to interact with along the way that it’s easy to get lost in the moment of bringing down every last object standing. Only a few times did I encounter issues where I was stuck inside something I destroyed, which was annoying, but forgivable given just how much freedom you really have to let loose. The voice acting is solid, and the score is appropriately epic and subdued when it needs to be. There is a New Game + option available once you complete the main story, but other than unlocking some hidden weapons, there isn’t a lot left to go back for.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Red Faction: Armageddon. Who would have thought so much fun could be derived from giving players the ability to lay waste to all that was before them? Armageddon has plenty to offer both longtime fans and newcomers like myself, and though the online multiplayer isn’t particularly robust, it is fun. Quite frankly, that’s all that matters. I wish there was a bit more incentive to replay the game, but as it stands, Red Faction: Armageddon is a game that’s definitely worth playing at least once.