You’re on Mars. Actually, you’re in it, to be precise. Yes, you’re underground. It’s dank, dark and borderline creepy. Just as you were going about your own business of well…stumbling in the dark, you realise you’re not alone. You’ve chanced upon a vicious hoard of cultists. Instead of taking them out one at time, you launch a few well placed grenades, bringing down the buildings around them and leaving the freshly created rubble and laws of physics to rain death. It’s a glorious symphony of brick, mortar and dust that reaches out to you and tugs your heartstrings in that oh-so-satisfying way, like just after you’ve polished off an entire pizza.
Red Faction: Armageddon is a game about blowing stuff up. That’s all it’s about, really. Sure there’s a semblance of a story, a setting, a protagonist, a few supporting characters, and an antagonist, but it’s all just window dressing on a game that revels in destruction. Much like 2009’s Red Faction: Guerrilla, there is an emphasis on wanton chaos. For this we’re all the better. However, to fill up space in a review about a game that could be surmised in one line (i.e. blow shit up), RFA takes place on Mars and has you as Darius Mason, grandson of Alec Mason, the hero of the last game. Incidentally, he looks like the fourth member in a boy band that would also feature Starkiller (Force Unleashed), Cole McGrath (Infamous 2) and Alex Mercer (Prototype). He’s more or less your one-dimensional action hero without the wit or swagger of Nathan Drake seeing how he managed to unknowingly unleash a violent ancient alien race upon all of Mars and now has to clean up the mess that includes dealing with the aforementioned cult that worships these beings.
As is custom with any Red Faction game, you’ll find yourself creating more of a mess than cleaning it up. From destroying multi-storied structures to blasting aliens through walls, RFA is a visceral experience through and through. It’s a throwback to older games where you face wave upon wave of disposable monsters to cater to your ever growing bloodlust. Gameplay is purposefully run-and-gun, rather than the run-and-cover mechanics we’ve come to expect from modern day third-person affairs such as Gears and Uncharted. That’s not to say that it is outdated; rather it works quite well in sync with the level design and setting that allows you to ravage your surroundings as your enemies can do the same. No use hiding behind cover which is bound to expire very, very imminently.
But it’s not all old-school. There are a few new touches that are its own. For starters, you can snap onto potential targets with the click of a button, and you can not only destroy everything around you, but you can also re-create it for cover with the nanoforge – a sort of sci-fi swiss army knife of bad assery, in the odd event that you find yourself swamped and low on ammo. In addition to this, you can use your nanoforge to stun your enemies, create a protective cover around yourself, and ‘Impact’ that allows you to crush anything in your path, from walls to aliens. Think of these augmentations as making you the ghetto Mars version of a Jedi (with a hammer instead of a light sabre) and you have the right idea. It’s fitting since your main adversary – Hale, who thought it would be a good idea to unleash these aliens, looks like a Sith Lord reject from Phantom Menace.
Star Wars force-fitting (and puns) aside, there’s an expansive arsenal of 14-odd weapons. Ranging from the classic rocket launcher all the way up to a magnet gun that melds two targets together, they ensure that you have a lot to play with. My personal favourite is the singularity cannon. It allows you to create black holes anywhere and suck up unsuspecting foes in style. Apt for those scenarios when you’re heavily outnumbered by large, lumbering inflammable aliens (read: most of the time). Also, you can upgrade weapons, abilities and health as well from a variety of service stations that pepper the game world. All of these elements result in a game that’s a lot of fun to play with destruction playing a lead role in it all.
In terms of pacing, there rarely is a dull moment, with liberal sprinklings of vehicle sections that have you piloting a variety of mechs, an aircraft, and even a mining cart. They add a sense of scale and novelty to an already great game. My only grouse with RFA is that the endgame seemed a tad prolonged, ending a good 30 minutes after it should have, clocking my playthrough at around 7 hours. Barring that though, it’s been quite a ride; one you’d definitely get on again because once you’re done, the nice people at Volition have added a new game plus option that grants you unlimited ammo and unlocks some cool new weapons. If you’re bored and have three other friends with the game, you can check out Infestation, RFA’s version of horde mode or firefight, with you squaring off against waves of monsters to crush. If you’re all alone, there’s Ruin, which lets you decimate whole areas within a specified time limit. Both are nice additions, but not necessarily as fun or integral as the game’s single-player campaign.
In terms of eye candy, it’s nothing special. In fact, it looks quite subdued, with a muted colour palette. The subtle look and feel doesn’t do anything to dilute the unadulterated enjoyment that the game delivers consistently. Here, demolition is king and graphics are of secondary importance.
On the whole, Red Faction: Armageddon is a sweet single-player romp that’s worth your time and requires no knowledge of its predecessors to enjoy, especially at least at Rs 699 for the PC version (which is surprisingly lenient on older systems). It’s is a fine game, but the tragedy is many of us will pass it up for more obvious options that are frankly a lot worse.