Game Review: Red Faction: Armageddon A Lacklustre Blockbuster?

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It’s official: my favourite weapon is now a magnet.The original Red Faction titles pioneered destructible environments in video games with the Geo-Mod engine – a bit of software that let players blow gaping holes through walls rather than use the front door. Red Faction: Armageddon takes that legacy and brings it to a whole new level, letting players not just destroy their surrounding environment, but use it as a weapon itself.

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Players take control of Darius Mason, the grandson of characters from the last game. There’s the linking story. Oh, and they’re still on Mars. Otherwise, it’s all pretty forgettable after the terraformer that makes Mars inhabitable gets destroyed, leaving dear old Darius to take on the reawakened alien creatures of the first game.

Like the previous title in the franchise, Red Faction: Guerrilla, Armageddon falls prey to a bland story told almost exclusively through cutscenes and interspersed sections of gameplay that suffer monotony. But hey, a little less forced machismo in a shooter’s main character than most games out now is a respectable element (lame tribal tattoo aside).

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The main novelty to this third person shooter is the magnet gun that works a charm alongside the destructible environments and physics. Levels are built almost like a giant Lego world, where whole chunks can be pulled apart or smashed through, causing towers to topple onto themselves and crash over unsuspecting enemies.

 

The magnet gun lets players latch a magnetic pole to an enemy or structure, and the other to any other enemy or structure, letting magnetic attraction do the rest. Hurtling sheets of metal and stray fragments of walls suck through a kind of vacuum across rooms, taking out whatever’s in its path. The process invigorates what would otherwise be a pretty mild run-and-gun experience, and it’s addictive as hell.

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You’ve also got a handheld terraformer on your side that lets you rebuild terrain you’ve just smeared with alien blood, so you can take apart staircases in the name of destruction and watch them be rebuilt before your eyes by holding down a button. Thanks to this helpful little feature, you’ll never be left without ammunition – and better yet, you’ll never be glitched out of the game.

Auto-aim and a little leniency toward accidentally hurling slabs of steel at yourself makes the magnetic fun run smoothly, avoiding the irritating accidental suicide. But as addictive as this gameplay is, it leaves you scratching like a heroin addict when your sweet magnetic goodness is taken away for the more mundane pieces of level design that leave little metal to sling around the room.

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There’s an arsenal of original and devastating weapons for all these sections, including a black hole gun that shoots balls of desolation, absorbing and imploding surrounding enemies and fragments of walls that haven’t already been volleyball-fodder for your magnet gun. Cool guns aside, the game only ever really hits the sweet spot when you’re using the magnet gun, so patches that leave this gun useless can only be attributed to some poor level design.

It’s the Geo-Mod 2.5 engine that makes this game as fun as it is, almost like an experiment in what you should be able to do in a game where giant weapons and explosions reign. Unfortunately, the ‘.5’ means the upgrade on Armageddon’s predecessor is minimal (i.e. barely noticeable) and so didn’t warrant an all out 3.0 title.

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Mixing up the action with some vehicle control

Red Faction: Armageddon is a fun but forgettable title, with average graphics that are uplifted by greatly utilised physics. If the game was mapped out a little better with a more gripping semblance of story, it could’ve pulled together a lot better, but the novelty of magnetising chunks of wall to small insect-like aliens will still provide a solid few hours of fun.

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