There are few fictional character types as instantly familiar as the space marine. He is the stoic, beefy Alpha Male who talks as straight as he shoots and has few qualms when it comes to eradicating intelligent alien races with greater speed and efficiency than the entire human cast of Avatar. Such is the power of the human imagination that we have invented him, reinvented him, endlessly reiterated him, and grown to tire of him long before our space travel could progress enough for him to come to exist. With each new appearance as a game protagonist, he takes another small step for marines, and a giant leap towards going the way of the 90s animal mascot and becoming extinct.
Which is why you may feel understandably burned out when confronted with Red Faction: Armageddon; a third-person cover-shooter set on an arid Martian landscape populated with hordes of extraterrestrial foes to annihilate. After Red Faction: Guerrilla’s sandbox free-roaming its successor takes a decidedly more linear approach, following endless tunnels and caverns in much the same way Dead Space does corridors or Gears of War ruined streets.
The twist on the format is the series’ trademark Geo-Mod engine, allowing for comprehensive environmental destruction. Re-tweaking the impressively robust physics of the previous game you are again able to apply your creative vision to the often generic landscapes – hammering a supportive beam to topple a structure on approaching enemies or rebuilding a tactical flight of steps using the simple ‘colouring in’ tool.
The dynamics are intuitive and add much-needed individuality to an otherwise familiar shooter experience. It gives you license to experiment with the gravity gun’s ability to attract any point A to any point B or blast the generous distribution of explosive barrels just to witness their effect on the surrounding architecture. Glitches can arise in the form of buildings standing on a prodigiously strong section of plumbing or a flung object frustrating with an erratic trajectory, but the toy-box is otherwise well-rounded and its novelty lasts long after the game’s other elements cave to traditional shooter fare.
Armageddon’s best experience is an hour in. There is no particularly spectacular set-piece at this point, rather it is around this time that you become experienced enough with the arsenal of weapons and tools to carve up an eclectic mix of carnage unique to you. Here the game is a joy to play – alien hordes swarm around you and whatever combination of abilities and weapons you use feels like a natural and effective method of dispatching them. It’s only after prolonged play that the cracks begin to show.
Using the same destination path-markers and radio instructions as the previous game but not its free-roam gameplay, Armageddon can feel like a rather blinkered experience. You will often find yourself led in to an open area whereupon you will be attacked by seemingly endless waves of inhabitants and tasked with clearing the room before proceeding. Often the odds will appear insurmountable, but if you decide discretion is the better part of valour and retreat you will be punished for leaving the combat area, making the various staged battles feel like monster closets despite the clearly labelled exits.
A varied and novel shooter experience.
Quickly devolves in to cheap repetition.