Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Blow the place up and be home in time for Corn Flakes, 4 Aug 2011
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Red Faction Armageddon - Commando & Recon Limited Edition (PS3) (Video Game)
For those of you who don't remember, Red Faction was a series of first person shooters about freedom fighters on Mars on the PS2 that were well received back in the day for their solid gameplay and having a remarkable physics/destruction engine. The third game, Red Faction Guerilla, was released earlier this gen and was a wild departure in that it was a third person sandbox title set on the surface of Mars (with a breathable atmosphere obviously) where you were given incredible freedom to explore and destroy to your heart's content. It was a truly unique sandbox title and one I have a lot of praise for. So it only makes sense that Volition would follow the model of the well received third game and make another third person game... although perhaps ironically given the subject matter of the series' running story, they have removed all freedom from the game and turned it into a corridor third person shooter. See, William Wallace was very very wrong... they took our freedom quite easily. Volition 1, Scotland 0.

Taking place several years after Guerilla, you once again control a member of the Mason family as he and the rest of the Red Faction military attempt to stop a terrorist cult leader from destroying the Martian terraforming machine that makes Mars' atmosphere liveable. By the end of the prologue level, you fail to save the machine and the story jumps forward several years more to find all the humans on Mars are now forced to live underground in shanty towns straight out of that bit in Demolition Man where Sly Stallone eats a rat burger. At this point Mason has left the military and works as a scavenger of sorts, and when he is hired to help with the excavation of a newly discovered structure deep underneath Mars he becomes caught up in a battle against wasteland dwellers, disgruntled townsfolk, crazed cultists and a long dormant alien race awakening from the core of Mars. That's a simplified summary as there is a fair bit going on and Mason's relationships with various supporting characters are key to the plot. As stories go it serves it's purpose well enough. It's certainly entertaining for what it is, which is more than you can say about the vast majority of anything bearing the logo of the crap factory that is the "SyFy" channel. It plays out like some sort of mash-up of Starship Troopers, Aliens and Total Recall and seems to have a real love of giant robot spiders. The only real issue I have with the story is the ending, which may resolve everything neatly but it does so with the aid of a pretty significant plot hole that feels like a total cop out. Beyond that though: it works.

The game plays like a more polished version of Guerilla, but of course without the sandbox overworld in it anymore. So you've basically got a linear third person shooter with the shooter mechanics of a sandbox title... which ends up pretty much as you might expect. It can be quite stiff and imprecise feeling a lot of the time, with a heavy reliance placed on an aggressively locking on crosshair that is a total pain to try to precision aim with. I can't remember the last game that was so difficult to line up a head shot that I played. Once you adjust to it and start using more heavy duty weaponry most of the time though, the game does get pretty damn fun, with some of the weapon designs being superb and functioning in tandem with a deeply impressive physics engine perfectly to provide a shooter that provides satisfyingly destructive gameplay the likes of which you very rarely see. It's certainly much more impressive to behold than Guerilla in action, but with the sacrifices made to the game structure and the sheer linearity of it all you'd kind of hope it would be. The addition of Mason's magic wrist computer that lets you instantly repair anything you damage or destroy may appear a stupid gameplay mechanic to add, but considering the linear level layout combined with the intricate destruction possible and the destructive scale of some of the weapons it is an absolute necessity, as it's all too easy to be ambushed by a group of enemies on a catwalk or something only for you and them to destroy the pathway completely in the ensuing fight, leaving you the tedious job of rebuilding the pathway from scratch. It's fast enough to do, yes, but you will end up doing it A LOT and it isn't exactly the most fun part of the game. There are also numerous "vehicle" sequences scattered throughout the game to beep the proceedings varied. These consist mostly of two types of vehicle: A big robot spider and smaller mech suits. The sequences involving these are just excuses to ramp up the destruction for a while(Which is a good thing) and while I have to admit I did miss some of the high speed Mars mobile "cars" of Guerilla, I did really like the Mech suits. They're very small(Barely much bigger than Mason himself) but pack a real wallop, and provide the opportunity to go all Kool Aid man on the walls of buildings with it's charge maneuver that tears through everything you run into. OH YEAH! The gameplay here may not win any awards for originality, but the game is satisfying to play and mostly pretty fun... even if it can get quite repetitive and feel distractingly linear if you've played Guerilla. The loss of that sandbox structure really does take away more than it gives here in Armageddon.

Technically, while it may not be the prettiest game ever to look at(Though it does still look pretty enough I should add), Armageddon's physics engine is completely unparalleled it's intricacy. Blowing out the supports on a large building and watching it topple onto your enemies as well as any buildings beside it never becomes a boring visual. It does take you out of things a bit when you realise the ever present tunnel walls, floors and ceilings are invulnerable, whereas everything else within them is freely destructible. Obviously this is to ensure you don't break the game by blasting your way into an unassailable crater in the ground and the like, but that make it any less a distracting inconsistency in the engine. The game's performance is also rock solid thankfully(See what I did there?). The soundwork boasts a well judged old school science fictiony score that fits the mood of the game perfectly and the voice work is above average. It's a well put together game if nothing else.

To be clear, Red Faction Armageddon is without question an enjoyable game. It's unoriginal and repetitive, yes, but there's definitely a decent game here. The problem is that it feels like far too much of a step back from Red Faction Guerilla. It's technically more impressive and more polished yes, but the game has far far less to do is a completely linear experience this time around. I can understand why Volition decided to go in this direction with the series, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Worth a play for sure, but don't be surprised if it only lasts you a third as long as it's predecessor. If that doesn't bother you though, then by all means: Get your a** to Mars!
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