Red Faction: Armageddon Hands-On Preview – Going Deeper Underground
Written Thursday, April 28, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
After the vast expanses of Mars' surface, with its acres of red dust, terraformed landscapes and dozens of vertiginous buildings to raze to the ground, it seems like an odd choice to shift all of that underground, essentially hemming in and restricting the potential for mass destruction. Or so you would think. If anything, the new subterranean Martian setting simply focuses Red Faction: Armageddon's wanton demolition, which as new hero Darius Mason, you have full control over thanks to a wrist-mounted Nano Forge device that enables you to easily repair any damage you've created. You can rebuild destroyed scenery as fast as you can smash it to pieces now, meaning restraint need no longer be a concern.
It's a seemingly small addition that busts the potential for destructive mayhem wide open, eradicating any fears that you might accidentally destroy an important walkway or overpass, breathing a new kind of freedom into Red Faction that you might not have thought possible within the confines of a Martian cavern. Stuck within the bowels of one such catacomb, our demo of the single-player portion of Armageddon tasks us with simply getting Darius Mason out to the surface by any means necessary. Thankfully, that involves indulging in and causing complete havoc, using an arsenal of weapons designed to tear apart, rock, metal and any other material you can care to think of. Thank goodness too for the repair grenade then, which can be thrown with a tap of L1 to quickly fix a larger area at once.
Hunted through the gnarled, twisting tunnels by mobs of colonists that Mason has seriously ticked off having been tricked into opening a gateway that has unleashed a dormant race of Martian monsters, it soon becomes apparent that Darius will have the odds completely stacked against him, as there's humans pursuing him and the vicious creatures that you unwittingly released are lurking in the darkness too. These Martian beasts scuttle around, climb the walls and hurl damaging projectiles at you, meaning that nowhere is safe from an impromptu ambush from the Swarm. They're nasty customers then, making your journey a dangerous one. It's fortunate therefore, that Mason has access to some incredibly funky weapons, like the Magnet Gun that can wrench structures apart if used effectively, or the good old reliable Mine Launcher, which is perfect for blowing up enemies with detonated sticky bombs. Naturally, there's still the old sledgehammer – called a 'Maul' in this one – as well as the traditional bullet-fuelled assault rifles and pistols, which still prove utterly invaluable for ripping up aliens and humans alike.
Finding the Leo exo mech is where the fun really starts though, letting you stomp roughshod through walls and reduce aliens to bloody chunks by unleashing a charge move with L1 or launching rockets with R1. It's heartening to see that Red Faction: Armageddon's mechs are every bit as exciting to control as they were in Guerrilla, providing a welcome reprieve from the standard third-person shooter action and destruction. Wreaking havoc in the Leo is a laugh and makes the rest of the demo a breeze. By the end however, we have to leave the mech at a bottleneck, where a boss battle with a heavy Behemoth monster beckons. Explosive weaponry works wonders here and once we've finished evading its fiery projectiles, plugging enough rockets and mines into its hide to bring it to its knees, the single-player demo concludes, as Mason exits onto the hostile Martian surface, with swirling dust clouds kicking grit into his eyes.
Moving on to Armageddon's Ruin Mode, which is the game's take on Guerrilla's Wrecking Crew, we get a taste of one of the external environments, as well as some of the destruction on a grander scale more in keeping with that found in the previous game. Like Wrecking Crew, Ruin is a frantic time attack where you must try and inflict as much damage to the environment as you can to rack up the most points within the allotted time limit, which can get incredibly addictive. The lack of backpacks transforms the dynamic somewhat, as you're entirely reliant upon your weaponry, but if anything this just makes things even more desperate as the seconds rapidly dwindle. Ruin is great fun and should prove incredibly competitive if you get friends competing with you for high scores.
Infestation Mode is the final part of our hands-on session, and it's Red Faction: Armageddon's take on Horde mode, with co-op play for up to four-players fighting off waves of the Swarm. Darius, his buddy Winters and his mission control aide, Kara are all playable, as are a host of other characters, so you can pick your favourite. Upgrades from single-player and multiplayer are shared between modes, meaning you can take them into Infestation, and you're also able to combine Nano Forge abilities to help you in an intense battle against the relentless waves of beasts, who will charge, stick to the walls, fire annoying things at you and try to outflank you.
You have a decent selection of weapons at your fingertips however, including dual pistols, combat rifles, sticky mines, your Maul, the Magnet Gun and more besides, but you'll find that destruction is very much a secondary concern here, relegating the novelty weapons to playing second fiddle to the more conventional ballistics. As a result, Infestation really plays out like any other Horde mode, although getting surrounded can happen very quickly, making teamwork more important than usual. Infestation proves that the Horde formula is still enjoyable in whatever form, and as such it's an interesting take on the four-player co-op mode. It's just a shame that the game's raison d'etre – destruction – isn't incorporated into this particular aspect of the game a bit more. It's still there of course, but it's essentially peripheral to the rest of the co-op action.
With its unique set of weapons and array of absorbing game modes, Red Faction: Armageddon is looking pretty good ahead of its impending launch. Factor in the new weapons like the devastating Plasma Beam, which can almost level a building with a single charged shot or the bonkers Magnet Gun, which takes two points and pulls them screaming towards one another in a shower of twisted metal and showering debris, and Armageddon could quite easily be the most raucous and entertaining Red Faction yet.
Red Faction: Armageddon is set to release on June 7th in North America and June 10th in Europe. That's right. It's been delayed by a week. Boooo!