by Josh Butler
reviewed on PS3
Break on through
Given that Red Faction’s environmental destruction was originally a response to the oddity of locked doors proving a challenge to heroes armed with heavy explosives it seems a backwards step to punish the player with mission failure for taking any approach other than total annihilation (especially when enemy clearance is rarely stated as a mission objective). The widespread use of this archaic mechanic does guarantee frenetic, bloody battles throughout the game but it soon begins to feel more like a butcher’s busywork than a mercenary’s fight for survival.
This time that mercenary is Darius Mason, grandson of legendary freedom fighter Alec Mason. Fifty years after Mason Senior’s political struggle and ultimate victory over the enslaving Earth Defence League, Mars’ inhabitants are forced underground when Darius fails to prevent the destruction of the terraformers which sustain human-life on the planet’s surface. Years later, Darius again finds himself pitted against the strange cultist, Adam Hale. The same man that once outsmarted him and now intends to further disgrace him in the face of an increasingly desperate human population.
Even in its establishing scenes, Armageddon’s plot proves repetitive and incoherent and ultimately irrelevant, amounting to little more than a series of vague incentives to travel from MacGuffin fetch quest to generic switch to be pressed (with plenty of monster closets in-between). Familiarity breeds contempt, and as you become more and more aware of the superficial game-life extension the less inclined you feel to play its game. Ability enhancements inject some variety in to the proceedings, but with each level of skills unlocked at a specific stage of the game this too becomes formulaic.
Laws of attrition
Visually, this game is both an impressive spectacle and a mundane trek through samey locals. In full battle enemies will be dynamically utilising environments and throwing all manner of fireworks in your direction with only occasional slow-down, and yet in a following encounter the same enemies will be climbing the same dull architecture giving little feel of progression. Voice work – whether in cutscenes, radio communications or discovered audiologs – is delivered with emotion and character and Darius himself is an easily likeable protagonist. The only issue is the lack of material the story gives them to work with and so interaction between the few recurring characters becomes a shallow, objective delivering affair.
The difficulty curve is irregular and after turning off the ridiculous auto-aim you will still find yourself giving more thought to whether you should raise or lower the difficulty than what tactics to use against the throng. Even slogging through a harder difficulty will only amount to 8-10 hours of repetitive gameplay and the humble multiplayer offerings of obligatory horde mode ‘Infestation’ and mindless destruct-a-thon ‘Ruin’ add little value.
Red Faction: Armageddon is fantastic fun at first, with little substance to reward further play. A great rental perhaps, as the short-term experience offers an involving run-and-gun alien blaster which is comparable to existing releases yet also individual enough to warrant interest. Ultimately the long-term experience doesn’t hold up, and the finely-crafted production crumbles due to poor support.
A varied and novel shooter experience.
Quickly devolves in to cheap repetition.