"We wanted to push destruction even further in Red Faction: Armageddon and make it more of an intertwined part of the gameplay" says Jasen Whiteside, the lead artist on Volition's new Mars-based epic. And from what I've played recently, their goal has already been reached... and then some.
One of the criticisms of Red Faction: Guerrilla is that the world is too open and trekking across the red planet is a right old grind, but top of the agenda for this sequel is to streamline the whole game so it makes sense why you're constantly blowing the crap out of stuff. Don't worry, Red Faction: Armageddon isn't turning into a corridor shooter - well not entirely, more on this later - but it feels more like a game than the original, which had a tendency to stray into 'tech demo' territory.
I recently had an extensive hands-on play at THQ's Gamer's Week in New York and it's all shaping up very nicely indeed. But rather than bore you with reams of texts covering every nook and cranny of Red Faction: Armageddon, here's a quick-fire list of the five things you need to know about the game...
1. Play it your way
OK, this sounds like a generic comment that comes in a PR handbook but from what I've played this rings true. With the wealth of weapons on offer and a few cheeky powers which new man, Darius Mason - the baldest man on Mars - has at his disposal.
Integral to playing it how you like is the ability to chop and change weapons at the special stations you'll find dotted about the place. Here you can pick your specialist load out, assign them to D-pad directions and then set off in search of murderous fun. You'll also be able to upgrade your weapons here so as to make short work of the alien scum you come across.
So whether you're all about slinking from cover to cover in order to dispose of your enemy or prefer to bring the house down on people with high-powered explosives, there's an option for all of us.
2. There are a lot of tools of destruction
As you'd expect, Red Faction: Armageddon has a fine array of weapons to raze enemies and the scenery to the ground. My favourite so far has to be the powerful laser. Imagine a hot knife cutting through butter but the knife is a nuclear powered laser-beam of death and the butter is, well, anything else. Just squeeze RT and a line of destruction fires out and leaves you to guide it around and cut away the foundations of structures or simply scythe down packs of bad guys within seconds. Ouchy.
The magnet gun, which is essentially the tethering trick used to tie things together in Just Cause 2, adds a whole new dimension to the action. Just blast whatever you want with the first shot - enemy, explosive barrel, building and the like - and then fire a second shot to send that object hurtling to that location as if attached by a contracting elastic band. The first thing I did with it was pull a building down on four aliens at once. I was so proud at this I turned to give a cheeky wink to whoever was watching me play. Nobody was.
There's also the devastating singularity bomb, which explodes and drags everything nearby into it's swirling vortex of doom. These are just a few examples of weapons in the game, but variety wise, you'll be hard pressed to find a finer set than the ones in Red Faction: Armageddon.
3. The robo-suit is full of win
A big exo-skeleton isn't exactly breaking new ground for games, but when you throw in the destructible environments of Red Faction: Armageddon it certainly adds a new dimension to the stomping mechs.
It has auto-lock rockets that can target many enemies at once and also a chain gun to really finish the job. To be honest, when you're inside the suit it feels kind of like cheating because you're nigh on invincible. Still, we're sure we'll come across far tougher aliens than the one we did at this preview event, so it's likely you won't have an easy ride for long.
The best part about the mech we controlled (apparently there will be more than one design in the game) was the weighty feel it had to it - especially when kerb-stomping foes with it's mighty metallic legs. I took great pleasure in punching the crap out of a buildings foundations until it toppled down too.
With talk of more vehicles, suits and heavy duty machinery to play with throughout Red Faction we're hopeful it will keep the action ticking along brilliantly.
4. It's not all about blowing stuff up
Nano forge technology - sounds complicated but in layman's terms it means rebuilding destroyed structures, instantly.
Darius has a fancy wrist-band that allows him to repair anything he likes. Well, not living things as that'd be weird. Not only does it form parts of missions, including one I played which involved returning power to several generators using the device, but it's also handy for creating cover.
I came face to face with a spider-like beast that's barely scratched by standard assault rifle fire, so I had to run to cover and pop out to gradually wear it down. Sadly, the enemy could blow cover to smithereens and gun Darius down with ease. But thanks to the nano-forge you're able to repair the much needed barriers to give yourself some breathing time.
5. There's personality to the proceedings
Despite Darius Mason looking alarmingly like TV's most hyperactive 'celebrity', Louie Spence
, he actually has a personality. One line quips and some charming dialogue between him and his radio contacts, especially during a particularly tense battle where the advice is to simply run from the aggressor, make for an interesting plot. So not only will the story tie more to the destruction but the plot has an extra depth of interest to it by adding a human touch, which makes all the difference.