I was a big fan of Red Faction Guerilla. It was a refreshing change from the games of the day. You could even drive trucks through buildings, leaving holes shaped like trucks in them. It satisfied an itch that I’ve always felt games should scratch – namely testing my skills at demolishing buildings using nothing but a sledgehammer and a toothpick. The game was an open world one and its only flaw was that once gone, the buildings were gone forever -or at least until you restarted the game. OK, there were other flaws. Side missions were either really awesome or tediously boring, and the open world felt a little too under populated for people used to the vast urban sprawl of Grand Theft Auto or Saint’s Row.
So when Volition announced they were working on a new Red Faction and were in fact taking the action underground I was both optimistic and hesitant all at the same time. Lets see if change is good.
The protagonists of Guerrilla, Alec Mason and his galpal Samanya got married and had a kid. They named him Darius and then they bestowed on him the Nanoforge. Anyway, this Mason character seems to have bad luck following him around like a lost puppy. He manages to screw up and not save the day at the beginning of the game. Then a little later he gets duped into unleashing the hordes of Martian aliens who have been residing beneath the surface of Mars all this time. He wakes up three days later and has to fight his way back to the underground city of Bastion in order to, he hopes, warn the Red Faction and somehow save the day. When this proves to be unrealistic, he takes it upon himself to find the man responsible, bring him to justice and end the threat the aliens pose.
Having taken the gameplay underground for the most part, the game is a lot darker than before. The game has taken on the feel of a survival horror game. There are, of course, portions of the game set inside buildings and such, when the lights are on, and so forth, but there is definitely an attempt to heighten the drama by making it harder to see, and it works really well.
The Red Faction games have always had a gimmick going for them. The first one had it’s terrain deforming graphics. Guerilla had destructible buildings and now this one has the ability for your character to repair damage. Some of this damage will be inflicted by you, some of it will be damage from the aliens and or whomever else is shooting at you. It’s an interesting feature which was previously only found in the multiplayer portion of Guerrilla. Now that they’ve found a way to include it in the single player they have done an excellent job of incorporating it into puzzles and such. In fact you use the destruction to your advantage. Where before you might hesitate to fire a heavier weapon at someone standing in front of a mission objective, now there is no hesitation, as you can kill them and repair whatever damage you might have done.
The characters all look excellent. I do have to question why capes have suddenly become in fashion on Mars though. It seems like half of the cast were wearing them at one point or another.
The voice acting is well done, the music is well done and the sound effects are outstanding. There is nothing at all I can say about the audio which would sound even remotely critical, so I’m just going to move along.
By taking the game underground, the developers have gone and focused all of your attention on a more confined space. Or at least that’s how it seems. When you really look at what was going on in Guerrilla, there were probably just as many enemies coming at you as there are in this one. What has changed though is the way your enemies move, the way they attack you, and the way you target them. Human enemies act as you are used to from the old game, so nothing new there. The Martians, however, fly around the screen, they teleport, they cloak, they try to get behind you to rip you to pieces. If you were forced to use the old control scheme you’d likely get very annoyed at the gameplay. Fortunately the control scheme has changed.
In order to give players more of a chance against these new foes the button layout has changed. The weapon selection has moved from the Right Trigger to the D-Pad and crouching has moved from L3 to the Triangle button. Melee, when not in the form of a sledgehammer, is now on one of the analogue stick buttons. Most importantly though you now have a semi-target lock ability mapped to one of he bumper buttons. It doesn’t stay locked, but it will move your gun sights over the nearest enemy on screen. This allows you to keep up when things start to go bonkers and your ammunition is needed.
Because the way you expend your ammunition has shifted so dramatically they needed to change the way you gather it too. In Guerrilla you had to find ammunition caches, open them up and take what you wanted. That worked. The game was a bit slower, it felt appropriate. Here however the frantic pace of the game somewhat demands that you be able to instantly pick up ammunition. Armageddon does this in a few ways. There will be ammunition spread around the different levels of the game, in small and large amounts. Small ammo packs will have some ammo for your smaller guns, while large packs will fill anything you have to the brim.
Finally, and possibly most importantly, the developers have nicked a few functions from the Jedi in Star Wars. Specifically you are given fairly soon into the single player game a Force Push like function called Impact, which supposedly sends out Nanites from the Nanoforge strapped onto your wrist in much the same fashion that Jedi send out Medichlorians to control the Force. There is also a Shockwave function you can upgrade to, which stuns enemies for a brief period of time.
The game comes with three different gameplay types. You have the standard single player campaign, you have Infestation mode where you and up to three other players fight off hordes of enemies that come at you in waves, and you have Ruin mode, which is much like the old Wrecking Crew levels from Guerrilla.
In all modes you earn salvage for doing things. The salvage you earn in single player can be put towards upgrades in multiplayer, and vice versa. You can also use salvage to purchase cheats and such as unlimited ammunition for your weapons. Upgrades can include bigger clips, defence shields to recover your health, stronger Impact or Shockwaves, increased damage from Headshots and many other things.
Once you complete the single player campaign it can be played from the beginning in a New Game+ which carries all of your weapons and abilities forward
The game is well paced, and subsequently well balanced. The developers do a great job of introducing you to the plot and the gameplay, and each time it starts to look like things might be getting boring, they switch it up on you, either by throwing you into a combat walker or on a turret or with a fighter plane in a level very reminiscent of days gone by in Descent. Towards the end of the game you run into a level that does become a bit of a meat grinder, with aliens attacking you nonstop for minutes at a time, but otherwise this is one well balanced game.
In some ways the game feels like a remake of Doom. No seriously. While it may not be a First Person Shooter, the same frantic pacing and adrenaline boost can be found here as could be found in that ancient forerunner of modern gaming. The game is set on Mars and not on Phobos, but even the story is similar. Something or someone opens the gates of hell, and you are forced to fight for your life and find a way to make things right. Even some enemies look a little bit like what I remember Doom‘s larger opponents looking like.
Even though I feel this way, I think the game is being very original. The whole Earth is the bad guy motif that Red Faction has been enduring for three games now needed to change. They could move the time forward another fifty years but I’ve fought Earth so many times in that universe it needed to change. By giving the story a boost of alien invasion it made for something far more entertaining.
The addition of Infestation, Armageddon‘s Horde/Survival mode, also adds to the enjoyment, and I like the direction the developers took when they added this functionality into the game. It’s not however the most original.
I finished this game in one evening. Started it at 10 PM. Finished it at 6AM. I knew I was gonna be hurting the rest of the day and not one damn was given.
Do you ever want to just go on a bug hunt? Did that Starship Troopers movie just make you want to go waste some giant aliens? Have you ever wondered what lies beneath the surface of Mars? Do you miss the days of games where you can feel like an army of one, mercilessly slaughtering enemy forces who dare to stand before you?
Before the game launched, Volition announced that if certain requirements were met they would include a special weapon in the final game. That weapon would be a Unicorn that farted rainbows of destruction named Mr. Toots. Those requirements were met and you can unlock the special weapon by finishing the single player game. Mr. Toots is awesome, but a little bit over emotional. Not that I can blame him. You hold him in a very intimate way and squeeze when you want him to fire. Only the boys at Volition. They are, after al,l the fine people who brought us Saint’s Row.
Originality: Very Good
Final Score: Incredible Game
Short Attention Span Summary:
Volition have a long storied history of making fantastic games and this is Volition at their best. Excellent game. Change it seems, is very good.