Red Faction: Guerrilla surprised gamers with its open-world approach and creative application of destruction options. Red Faction: Armageddon will surprise Guerrilla fans who haven’t been following preview coverage, because in many ways it does the opposite of Guerrilla: instead of an open world you get linear corridors; instead of tons of vehicles to tool around in, you get a handful of vehicles to use in specific levels (but the vehicles are all awesome); instead of human enemies you get (mostly) alien monsters. Armageddon is still a good game, but if you want more of the freeform mayhem Guerrilla offered, you may be unhappy with the new direction.
Above: "You are one ugly, muthaf-"
We’re not sure why developers Volition decided to do away with the open world – maybe they felt they’d done all they could with it. Maybe they got tired of human enemies and realized monsters are scarier in dark caves. Maybe the artists got sick of texturing red and brown mountains. Armageddon is what it is, but it handles its new approach always competently and sometimes expertly. The big question is: is “linear” a bad word to you? It isn’t for us, because we can enjoy the more focused experience of a linear action game. If being funneled down caverns sounds really unappealing, approach Armageddon with serious caution, but the game offers plenty of delights, especially if you enjoyed the destruction from Guerrilla, because the weapons in Armageddon get cuh-razy.
While there are standard weapons in the game – an assault rifle, a shotgun, some pistols, a rocket launcher, etc. – and which are mostly holdovers from the last game, their aesthetic design is top-notch. The guns have heavy punch and delicious sounds when fired; for example the Banshees are slow-firing, high damage dual pistols that just sound and feel flat-out nasty. This stuff is all well and good, but the real fun begins when you start acquiring the weird weapons. The favorite for many will be the Magnet Gun. First you shoot some destructible part of the environment (or an enemy). Then, you shoot some other part of the world – it can be a wall, enemy, or anything really. Whatever you attached the first shot to is then sucked toward the second shot. If you first shoot a building, a section of the structure will rip off and break into pieces and then the cloud of junk flies across the level.
With that one gun you can create a symphony of death. If you’re fast, you can have debris hurtling through a cavern from multiple directions like an underground hurricane, and anything caught in the middle gets torn up or slammed into the walls. The weapon is basically overpowered (it has unlimited ammo!) if you get creative with it, although luckily it isn’t the catchall weapon for the game because it just doesn’t kill swarms of close-range enemies quickly enough, or safely enough, since you can easily catch yourself in the maelstrom. It may not be as novel as the Gravity Gun from Half-life or the Portal Gun, but we never got tired of using it throughout the 8-10 hour campaign.
Above: The Banshees. Properly named, properly gangster
There’s also the Charge Launcher, which is like a souped-up version of the Mining Charges from Guerrilla: you can fire sticky bombs rapidly and then manually detonate them in quick succession. For precision area of effect work (sounds like a contradiction, right?) you can go with the Energy Grenade Launcher, which specifically targets biomatter, so you can throw explosives around with abandon and not worry about significant structural damage, which is important when you’re standing on a fragile catwalk and don’t want to make yourself fall to your death. If you are interested in structural damage, what could be better than the Plasma Beam, which creates a continuous stream of searing energy which disintegrates anything it touches? You can “draw” across the environment, cutting a tower in half like slicing through a banana. And finally there’s the Singularity Cannon, which creates a miniature black hole at the point of impact, sucking in all enemies and structural material before exploding it back outward. It’s awe-inspiring.
You also have a tool called the Nanoforge this time around, which changes up the idea of destruction completely, since now you can rebuild whatever you destroy. It can become a sort of obsession if you let it: just hold down the button and run around, watching stairs, catwalks, and entire buildings reform in seconds. It’s hard to resist making sure every inch of railing is intact. It also has some nifty secondary abilities that run on cooldowns, allowing you to repel enemies with a frontal blast, stun and float close-up foes, enter a berserk mode, and set up a shell to deflect projectiles. In the later stages you absolutely need to use these abilities to survive, which makes the game increasingly tactical.
Above: It's hard to tell what this is, but it's a huge walker vehicle you'll drive late in the game, and it's fabulous
Those aren’t all of the items in the game, but they are the most interesting. Yet Armageddon is all about toys, so the vehicles it makes available are all joyful engines of destruction. Whereas Guerrilla provided many different kinds of vehicles to drive, Armageddon offers but a few – but each one is unique and hilariously powerful. There’s the Exo suit, which is like a really small mech. It has machine guns and rockets, but its most endearing ability is a shoulder charge that lets you play linebacker with buildings. Nothing can stand up to its juggernaut bull-rush. There are two spider-like walkers with x-ray vision and some of the most evil anti-infantry weaponry ever. The bigger mech has something called the Napalm Laser – two words that have never been more suited to be joined. When you fire it, you can draw the laser across the ground, and then a moment later whatever the laser touched erupts in columns of fire. It just tickles the reptilian part of the brain that says “Huh, huh… boom.” There’s even a flying section of the game that reminds us of old-ass PC game Descent, where you fly through corridors and rain hell on poor little aliens.