Red Faction: Guerilla was an outstanding redux that turned an adequate first-person action series into a immeasurably more refined and entertaining third person one. Guerilla was a big success, but it speaks volumes about its development team Volition that they clearly had no intention of merely reheating their newly successful formula for a follow-up. Although Armageddon maintains the gameplay perspective, it ditches the sandbox world (and the overly simplistic colour palette) in favour of a more linear adventure that gives you access to a hefty number of extremely cool toys, and then encourages you to run riot with four of your favourites. It’s a blockbuster game to the core, consistently peppered with large-scale action sequences; all of which are open to be shaped and tinkered with by the player.
It also feels unmistakably like a Red Faction game, despite how readily it poaches from other movies and videogames from the same genre. The score couldn’t possibly sound any more like Vangelis’ Blade Runner music if it tried, the nifty achievement/trophy counter has clearly been inspired by the one seen in Gears of War 2, Darius Mason is basically Riddick and the world – the dank underground parts of it anyway – owe a strong debt to Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall. None of this matters for two reasons; all of those elements work perfectly in context, and the addition of some highly inventive new weaponry is the game’s real trump card, with much of it is bound to inspire other developers from hereon in.
Easily the most enjoyable of all of these is the new Magnet gun, and it’s a tool that most players will equip from the get-go and never discard. Volition are clearly aware that utilising the Magnet gun is where the real fun is to be had and it comes with an infinite supply of ammo, very tellingly. You can use it to fling enemies into the distance – an act that kills the weaker species, or allows you to tackle tougher ones later if you become swarmed – or you can use it to pull heavy duty bits of scenery apart, with the option to use them as projectiles. Its predecessor’s entirely destructible landscapes have sensibly been imported, and there is still nothing quite as satisfying in modern videogaming as dismantling a large building with a few shrewd moves.
If you want to play through in a much more straightforward fashion, you can always equip – and then upgrade – the familiar likes of rocket launchers, plasma beams and sniper rifles. Armageddon’s other ingenious new tool is Mason Jnr’s ability to completely rebuild destroyed scenery. This is occasionally mandatory; you’ll need to re-assemble numerous dilapidated staircases in order to progress, and some missions task you with rebuilding things like broken down energy generators; but as with the Magnet gun, being a bit creative lifts the experience tremendously. It’s one thing to seek cover when the action becomes too overwhelming, but it’s quite another to use your initiative to build your own bunker from the busted shards of a decrepit ammo crate.
It’s also a game that’s riddled with collectibles, all of which contribute to a pot of ‘Salvage’ points that can be dipped into in order to upgrade both Darius and his firearms. The search for Salvage never ceases to be coercive primarily because you don’t really have to search too hard for it, which is one of the biggest headaches for any gamer who compulsively pursues a 100% completion statistic. The game’s rigidly defined pathways don’t allow for a great deal of exploration, but the story is structured like a relentless action rollercoaster anyway, and side-quests would unquestionably be something of an unnecessary distraction.
The hardcore are going to want to disable some gameplay stabilisers that are in place right from the start – including a snap-on targeting system and constant on-screen hint messages – and the Nightmare difficulty setting is well worth experiencing if you’ve got the skills. Infestation mode is an enjoyable multiplayer Horde-alike, but the lengthy campaign – which you can revisit with your complete arsenal in tow once you’ve finished it once – is the real draw here. Volition could have rehashed their previous Red Faction title and people would have probably been more than happy. But thanks to their valiant efforts, Armageddon is most definitely superior.
Red Faction Armageddon is out on for PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.