Red Faction: Armageddon Xbox 360 Review
What the hell, Volition?
Red Faction: Guerrilla was one of the most underrated of this generations batch of free-roaming shooters. An open-world Martian terrain sounds pretty dull on paper, but when you factor in the GeoMod 2.0 technology, which allowed for fully destructible buildings, and some of the most ridiculously inventive weaponry to do the destroying, and you had one of the most fun games available on the 360. Even the multiplayer, so often the tacked on token gesture of the genre, contained all of the building-smashing awesome of the single player. Ramming yourself through a wall – into the unsuspecting enemies hidden behind it – was one of the amazing ways you could kill the opposing team in what was one of the more unique deathmatch games in recent memory.
So, here we are. The sequel. Time to take all of the excellent ideas of Guerrilla and refine them, throw in a few more ridiculous weapons and maybe give the graphics a new shine. Why on earth Volition have decided to strip this sequel of almost everything that made the previous game so good is beyond me.
Seriously, WHAT. THE. HELL?
A brief introduction ends with the destruction of Mars’ terraforming device, causing all sorts of weather-based nightmares to occur on the surface and forcing the survivors underground. This somewhat ridiculous plot device is just Armageddon‘s way of saying “sod your open world environment, it is linear caverns and corridors from here on in”. So, there’s no more planning attacks on bases, no more calculated decisions as to what tactics you use, no vehicles to drive around, no towering buildings to collapse. Just level after level of third-person shooter tedium.
Apparently, the tunnel systems are the ones made by the ancestors of the current group of Mars dwellers, giving a nod to the original two Red Faction titles. Perhaps this is Red Faction going back to its roots? Sadly, its roots were a dull first person shooter, wandering around unmemorable tunnels, once the original GeoMod gimmickry had run its cause. It also assumes that you, the player, actually care about the plot and timeline. I defy you to tell me the plot details of Red Faction 2.
Then there’s the new enemy – one so uninspired they didn’t even name it. After being disturbed during the introduction, these insectoid martian beasts go on a rampage, giving our hero a guilt complex in the process. They’re largely fast moving, can stick to walls and dealing with them usually boils down to running backwards while shooting, rather than adopting and kind of real strategy.
The rival enemy soldiers in Red Faction: Guerrilla were hardly the most exciting opponents, but they used cover and didn’t just rush you down, so you could take a more considered approach and do fun things, like bringing a building down on top of them, or evaporating the wall they were using as cover. Now it’s just run run bang bang fuck off with your host Mr. Baldy McSpacemarine. Aren’t we all bored of this sort of thing by now? It is getting to the point where I’m thinking about going into hibernation, only to be woken when I live in a world where the protagonist in action games isn’t Jason Statham’s charismatically retarded brother from the future.
The weapons are still Red Faction‘s strongest suite. The new Magnet Gun is a particular highlight. By shooting at two items, the first is propelled towards the other, increasing with speed and damage over distance. This can turn anything – a fence, barrel, even an enemy – into a custom wrecking ball. Thing is, much like everything in Red Faction: Armageddon, their entertainment value is somewhat restricted by the new limitations imposed on the game environment. Imagine spotting an enemy complex whilst hidden beside a small shack. Imagine then using this magnet gun to THROW the entire shack into the side of the complex, enemy soldiers scattering from the hole you just created. Stripped of the open-world environment, you can’t get close to the scope offered by Guerrilla. A couple of sections threaten to entertain in the same way, such as sequences where your objective is to destroy a large structure – how you go about doing that is entirely down to you and your choice of weapon loadout – but still falls disappointingly short.
As you wreck stuff, you pick up salvage which can be used to upgrade Mason’s abilities. As always, you can’t afford all of them so you have free reign over his advancement. Do you pick ones that play to your strengths or maybe ones that hide weaknesses? Character advancement also carries across all modes, so all the time you put into the multiplayer mode can net you skills back in your singleplayer campaign save.
The multiplayer, much like everything else, has had a considerable chunk removed from it. Gone are the competitive team-based deathmatches that were so much fun. They’ve been replaced with Infestation mode – essentially the “horde” mode of gameplay that is becoming so popular these days. Thirty waves of enemies come at you and your buddies, who have to keep a series of generators repaired lest you fail the mission. The destructible environments offer a small amount in the way of unique tactics, but up against these aliens, it again quickly turns into a hectic blast ’em up. Not completely without worth, but certainly far less interesting than what they offered previously.
Speaking of what they previously offered, the pass-the-pad multiplayer mode Wrecking Crew has returned, only this time called Ruin mode. You get dumped in an area full of buildings, choose your weapons and get to work on destroying as much as possible against the clock. A lot of fun, but again, stripped of content. Only one Ruin mode type is available, as opposed to a few different rule sets you could play with in Guerrilla, and with only five maps to wreak havoc upon, if you don’t get caught up in the online score leaderboards, Ruin mode runs out of steam very quickly.
Occasionally, the combination of blasting and destroying clicks and it becomes a lot of fun, but it doesn’t last. Before long you’re traversing the same dull tunnels shooting at the same dull enemies. The worst thing about Red Faction: Armageddon has noting to do with how it plays – it is a perfectly serviceable third-person shooter. The complete lack of originality is the killer, here. Okay, so being open-world is hardly groundbreaking, but Guerrilla let you destroy loads of stuff as you roamed around, and then gave you increasingly more entertaining ways to do this. The open-world environment encouraged you to make up your own tactics based on what you could find – be that weapons or scenery – and allowed you to do it. This is certainly a more polished game, but it is completely by the numbers. Bald space marine – check. Turrets – check. Back story doled out via audio logs – check. The few remaining unique things it does have have either been scaled back considerably or removed entirely. It just does nothing to court your attention in the slightest, and should probably sit on shelves among all the other faceless sci-fi third-person shooters until they’re unceremoniously dumped in the bargain bin, where you can fish out a copy from among all the unsold copies of Fracture and Haze.
A better journalist might make a little comment here, just to wrap things up, about how you were fighting for freedom in Red Faction: Guerrilla, yet as a gamer you had it all along. Despite liberating Mars at the end of that game, find yourself more restricted than ever in the follow-up.
I’m not that guy.