|System: PC, PS3, Xbox 360|
|Release: June 7, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
If there's anything we can glean from pop-culture about the fate of humanity, it is that any mission to Mars we undertake will end in disaster. 2009's Red Faction: Guerrilla showed us how dangerous it was to live on the surface of Mars, and this year's follow-up, Red Faction: Armageddon, will show us how terrible it is to live underneath the surface of Mars. Sure, it's a slight change of scenery, but at its core Red Faction has something simple to teach us: Mars is bad.
We were recently given the opportunity to play Red Faction: Armageddon for the better part of a day, logging about three hours with the game's story mode as well as some intermittent time with both Ruin and Infestation modes. There is certainly a lot to see and do in Red Faction: Armageddon, and while the game looks like it is shaping up to be a memorable successor to surprise-hit Guerrilla, if you think it's going to be piggybacking off its successor, think again. Armageddon is a whole new beast.
Let's talk about the single-player experience first. The narrative follows the saga of Darius Mason, the grandson of Guerrilla's protagonist. Unfortunately, Darius accidently caused Martian bugs to go after the humans who have settled underground, and between the humans clamoring for Darius' head and the Martians attacking everything in their path, Darius is in a pretty tough spot. The game certainly recalls past events in the series, but if you never played Guerilla, the game never penalizes you for it, and so much time has passed between the two games that you won't feel lost at all.
Although the narrative is quite cohesive, Guerrilla fans may be a little disappointed with the structure of Armageddon, which is almost completely linear. Though the linear function serves the story well, if you are looking for something on the scale of Guerrilla, it doesn't look like Armageddon will deliver.
However, though the game lacks the explorative nature of its predecessor, from what we've seen it will more than make up for it in terms of both gameplay and narrative. The biggest recurring theme in the gameplay is that of deconstruction and creation. There are two big factors at work here. On the one hand, you have the game's signature weapon: the magnet gun. This gun essentially allows you to take two things, be they structures, debris, or enemies, and smash them together. The destructive possibilities for this weapon are nearly endless, as you can smash enemies into each other, destroy buildings by magnetizing the ceiling to the floor, and magnetize pesky Martians to the ceiling. I actually tried to play the game without using the magnet gun for awhile, and I have to say that clearing a horde with just a shotgun or grenade launcher just doesn't cut it most of the time, and the magnet gun (and it's conveniently unlimited ammo) will be your go-to weapon for pretty much every firefight you find yourself in.
However, the game features a large creative element as well. Our main man Darius is equipped with special nano-tech that can re-construct destroyed elements in the environment. This comes in handy, as much of the Martian underworld is in disarray, and you'll have to build walkways and pathways to get to the game's various goals. The creative element isn't as free-form as the destructive force that is the magnet gun, but it still provides an interesting gameplay dynamic. It's also something that you'll have to constantly remember, as forgetting to reconstruct bridges can land you very quickly in a pit of angry enemies just waiting to tear you apart.
In addition to the main single-player mode, we were also able to check out both Ruin and Infestation modes. Ruin mode is a simple mode that encourages you to destroy as much as possible in the environment within a specific time limit. Though it sounds easy in theory, finding enough to destroy on a grand enough scale to get through each time gate is certainly a challenge. Do well and you'll climb up the online leaderboards. Do poorly and you'll be kicked out early. The mode is simple, but effective, and works well if you just want to play a short burst of Red Faction.
Infestation mode is Armageddon's take on a traditional multiplayer mode, and sees you teaming up with four other players as you take on increasingly large hordes of enemies. You can choose your load-out weapons in the mode, as well as a special ability to go along with it. The mode definitely gets points for intensity, and you'll have to really cooperate with your teammates if you want to succeed. Though my team was spread out around quite a large room, I frequently found myself yelling to them and trying to signal them as best I could (without drawing too much attention to myself) so we could work together to get ourselves as far as possible. This mode definitely has some strong potential, and although comparisons to Gears' horde mode are certainly inevitable, I think Infestation will stand well on its own, especially when you factor in the extreme cooperation fostered by the mode.
I was certainly impressed by Red Faction: Armageddon, and can't wait to see more of it when it releases next month. The single-player experience is extremely solid, and though it is a lot different than Guerilla, it has enough going for it to stand extremely well on its own. The game certainly has blockbuster potential, and I've got a feeling the full version will deliver on the promise of what we've seen thus far.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Senior Contributing Writer