I really mean it this time… I will not fall into the same trap again. Unlike the last Red Faction outing almost exactly two years ago, I’m not going to let a single “get your ass…” (well, you know) joke creep its way into this review. Yes, Red Faction: Armageddon takes place on Mars and yes, the game delivers the same thrills it always has with its new destructible environments, fascinating weaponry and enemies. What remains to be seen is if it also delivers a fine storyline with compelling characters amidst the expected backdrop of futuristic Martian communism and subsequent uprisings. Perhaps, by the end of this review, both the quality of the game and what the hell that last sentence meant will be clear to everyone… we can only hope!
Players assume the role of Darius Mason, the grandson of Alec Mason, our hero from the previous game. Fifty years have gone by since the events leading to the EDF overthrow took place, and times have been relatively peaceful. Enter Adam Hale and his apocalyptic cult. With one act of terrorism (destroying the Terraformer), Hale renders the surface of Mars uninhabitable and drives the colonists underground, leaving them to rebuild their entire society in the underground caverns. Darius moves on with a shell of a life, the guilt of not being able to stop Hale when he had the chance slowly eating away at him.
Unfortunately, the paragraph above is about as exciting as the story gets. Yes, there are a few plot twists and turns, a bit of a romance thrown in for good measure and several attempts to make the player care, but in the end you just don’t. The vast majority of the game’s story is told in cutscenes that interrupt the flow of the gameplay, and as such they fail to really make the player feel anything for the characters plight. “Hurry up and finish yourself off, Darius! I need to get my “swerve” on, too!” (this line from Chappelle’s show kept repeating in my head again and again as I waited for a cutscene to end so I could get back to blowing things up… odds are some of you out there will hear it as well.)
What Red Faction: Armageddon gets right, as one would hope, is the unbridled destruction. While this entry in the series is not as “open worldly” as RF: Guerilla was, the sheer fun of blasting apart the environment and killing your enemies with it makes up for it. When you can use a plasma cannon to topple entire buildings in one blast or take out a group of enemies by using your singularity cannon to “remove” the support beams of a tower and send it crashing down onto them, you’re in for a real treat of a time. The mayhem is only limited by your ability to figure out how and where to use a weapon. Almost everything in the environments is somehow destructible or pliable, and it’s quite a feeling of accomplishment when you figure out new ways to unleash destruction.
It is because this aspect is just so damned fun in this game, it draws more attention to the fact that the mission and level design is so hit-or-miss. Some of the objectives and mission locations are downright dull and drag on forever. This will then be followed by a mission or sequence of intense action and excitement and then fall back to two more objectives that contain little-to-no fun at all, and almost no environmental action to play with. It is almost as if the developer is making the player pay a toll for the excitement by making them slog through a lot of content filler that isn’t interesting but pads out the game’s playing time. There are even several vehicle and mech-suit missions peppered throughout the game, and these are a blast once you manage to get to them. Darius’ skills also include the technological ability to rebuild things after they have been destroyed, which is also a nice twist on what has come before.
So, after all of this talk, is it worth it or is this trip to Mars destined to fail like another Mars Polar Lander? Join the faction, my friends. Red Faction: Armageddon delivers on its promises, even with the uneven level design, soap-opera storyline and bizarre objective choices. The sheer fun to be had with the game’s fascinating weaponry and visually stunning scenes of destruction is what makes the series so popular to begin with, and in this respect it is worth every penny. I wouldn’t worry about any “units of measurement” landing screw-ups and just climb aboard and get your ass to… DAMN IT ALL!