Red Faction: Armageddon Xbox 360 Review
Publisher – THQ/Syfy Games – Developer – Volition – Genre – Action – Players – 1-4 – Age Rating – 18+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3
Volition’s Red Faction series is known for one thing – the GeoMod technology that allows destruction of the playing environment. However, the series has undergone a radical change. The first two instalments were first-person shooters. This changed with the open-world Guerrilla, which took a third person view behind its protagonist Alex Mason. And now we return for the fourth game, sticking with the third-person view.
There are three main modes – the single-player Story, the multiplayer Infestation and the single player Ruin Mode that has to be unlocked with a code included in the packaging. (Note that this means second-hand purchasers will have to take up the option of buying a code via Xbox Live to enjoy this mode).
First up is Story Mode. Darius Mason, descendent of Alex and a highly skilled engineer, is taking part on a mission to protect the Terraformer that keeps the atmosphere of Mars breathable and under control. After a battle with a scout walker and learning how to repair (using the Nano ability), the cultists succeed in destroying the Terraformer. The action moves five years on, with the people forced underground by the extreme weather and duststorms. Working as a mercenary, Mason is hired for a dangerous job. Using his exoskeleton and its Magnet Gun, he is sent down into a mine to destroy a Marauder artefact – only to be double-crossed and left for dead. With his S.A.M (Situation Awareness Monitor) detecting unknown lifeforms moving in, Mason finds himself a target as he fights back to the safety of Bastion and the story unfolds.
Infestation is the online mode and has a number of maps with two different objectives, each map based on part of the main mission with a side story tying it in to the main event. Survive is a straightforward case of survival against wave after wave of increasingly strong enemies. Defend requires the players to protect structures from enemy attack, repairing them as they become damaged. Up to four players can take part, via Xbox Live or system link. Salvage and upgrades earned in the multiplayer can be applied to the character in Story Mode (and vice versa). Completing five waves on each of the initial eight maps opens up their “dark” equivalent.
Ruin Mode gives a small number of maps to destroy in any way you can. The player can explore in Free Play, or dive into the Challenge. Here a “par score” has to be beaten to unlock the next map or extra perks. The key is continuous destruction, blowing up explosive barrels and maintaining the score multiplier.
There is a definite feeling of Dead Space about the Story mode of this game, from the GPS showing the way forward to the enemies themselves. In some ways that is not a bad thing, to be inspired by such a good game, but it comes across as a step backwards from the open-world freedom of Guerrilla. Graphically, this is not in the top tier of current console games but the frame rate is steady and there are some good visual effects. Sound is pretty average, perhaps the best aspect being the many audio logs that can be found and listened to. Multiplayer also draws heavily from other recent FPS games and works well with little online lag and a straightforward lobby system. But, as with the Ruin Mode, what it really needs is a little more variety.
Destruction has always been the hallmark of the Red Faction games, and there is plenty of it. However, the linear nature of the gameplay can detract from the experience. Set pieces often result in difficulty spikes, and the underground setting for much of the game has its drawbacks. Unfair deaths are quite common, with enemies taking out a platform underneath you and grouping themselves in an awkward way. The control method has some clumsy aspects too, including having to use the left thumbstick to toggle sprinting and the vagaries of tapping the left trigger to switch targets.
Volition have put together a very competent game with a decent storyline and plenty of action. For fans of the series this is worth picking up, for others it is certainly one to put some time into.