Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Red Faction Armageddon

Post-Launch Review
Red Faction: Armageddon (PC)
Developer: Volition, Inc
Publisher: THQ, SyFy Games
Released: June 7 2011

Armageddon is the fourth and final installment in the Red Faction series. Armageddon exchanges Guerrilla's open world for a more linear third-person shooter experience. Darius Mason, descendant of several Red Faction heroes, is tricked by cultists into releasing bug-like aliens from beneath the surface of Mars, throwing the colonists into a fight for survival against the unending hordes. Using the Mason heirloom, the Nano-Forge, Darius teams up with his personal AI unit SAM, former love interest Kara, and friend Winters to strike back against the bugs and the cultists.

At Launch
Armageddon received mixed to average reviews. The PC version scored the highest with an average of 75%, while the XBox and PS3 versions scored a few points lower. All reviewers agreed that gameplay was a lot of fun; however, opinions on the plot and linearity were mixed.

Post Launch
One DLC pack, Path to War, was released. It contained four new single player missions, plus some new weapons and achievements.
The Good
Spoiler alert: the nano-forge is the coolest thing in the entire game. It played a bit of a role in Guerrilla, giving you a single weapon and a (rather large) bit of help in the final cutscene. In Armageddon, however, the role of the nano-forge has been greatly expanded. Darius gets all kinds of cool unlockable abilities based on the power of nanites. He can repair destroyed structures, create a shockwave to knock back enemies and shatter buildings, erect a bubble shield to reflect projectiles and damage nearby enemies, give him a berserk damage boost, or suspend nearby enemies in mid-air.
The repair feature is by far the coolest. In Guerrilla you often had to worry about whether or not you'll need that bridge, but in Armageddon you can just fix it if you need it. I often find myself reconstructing entire buildings just because repairing stuff is cool.
Plot & Characters
The “humans find ancient aliens on a planet they colonized 100 years ago” plot has been done before, but there are some nice differences and details to make it feel fresh and mostly cliché-free. This mostly has to do with the fact that the bug aliens are not intelligent, at least not in a meaningful way. The plot remains solidly about the human characters, without going into any moral qualms over who has the right to live on the planet or whether it's wrong to kill the aliens. Hale and the cultists release the aliens both due to their crazy religion, and as a personal vendetta against Darius and the Mason family. The aliens are the primary danger, but the cultists are the villains, with motivations tied to the main characters.
The weapon selection is pretty big, with a lot of variety. You can carry any four weapons with you, and you unlock more options as you progress through the game. Of course you get some standard stuff — assault rifle, dual pistols, shotgun, rocket launcher — but there are also some really cool variants from the standards.
The real standout is the magnet gun. With your first shot you attach a magnet to a moveable surface or object, and the second shot sticks a second magnet to your target. When the second shot connects, the target of your first shot is pulled toward the second magnet at high speed. You can use it to tear apart buildings, hurl explosive barrels at enemies, or even toss enemies into each other. It's a very powerful and versatile weapon, and better yet, it has infinite ammo!
It's kind of like Half-Life 2's gravity gun, but instead of pulling an object to you and chucking it at a guy, you cut out the middleman and just hurl the one thing straight at the other thing.
The vehicles are a blast to play, particularly the LEO exosuit with its homing missiles. They make you feel extremely powerful, and as a result the game throws tougher challenges at you, which just makes you feel even more badass when you overcome them.
Salvage & Upgrades
As in Guerrilla, exploring and causing destruction nets you salvage, which you use for upgrades. Instead of Guerrilla's mostly weapon-based unlock system, Armageddon opts for a character upgrade system, where you unlock new powers and bonuses for Darius and the nano-forge. There are some expected upgrades, like health and damage bonuses, but there are also some pretty neat powers to buy and upgrade.
Didn't realize this shot was blurry until I was finishing up the review. CURSES.
I'm surprised at how realistic the faces look. Textures are very detailed, and there's more facial movement than I've seen in many games, including cheeks and eyebrows. Although, on the other hand, Kara (aka the only female character) gets a bit less texture, presumably because the developers were worried that people wouldn't think she looks pretty if she had pores.
New Game +
In new game + you get to keep all the weapons and upgrades you've unlocked, plus you gain access to cheats that you can purchase for salvage. I played NG+ on insane mode and found it easier than normal mode with cheats and all abilities unlocked, but I had ridiculous levels of fun.

The Neutral
Path to War
The DLC is only okay. All the fun gameplay is there, plus they give you new weapons to tinker with — but it's just four missions that are essentially a plot-light, retrospective “here's what happened at this point in the story that was skipped over”.
Infestation mode is Armageddon's horde mode. It seems fun enough, but I'm putting it in neutral because I didn't have anyone to play it with. You can play one player, but it gets hard pretty quickly without any help.
The Bad
Plot Holes
Two major, MAJOR plot holes show up right at the very end of the game, plus a more minor one throughout.
Spoilers ahead, so skip if you don't want them.
Minor plot hole: the cultist Adam Hale totally hates the Mason family and that's half his motivation to unleash the bugs. But we're never really told why he hates them. In the DLC we get a few lines about how during the events of RF Guerrilla, the Red Faction saved the planet but forgot about some of the little guys? Or something? I don't really know.
First major plot hole: Earth air poisons the bugs, so Darius sets out to repair the terraformer to kill them all. But the human characters have been breathing unassisted all game to no ill effect. So what does the terraformer do to the air that harms the bugs?
Second major plot hole: if Darius can just spontaneously decide to fix the terraformer with his magic nanomachines, WHY DIDN'T HE JUST DO THAT WHEN IT FIRST EXPLODED.
The Verdict
Recommendation: Play it.
Armageddon is a lot of fun and doesn't require much knowledge of the past entries in the series. It might be a good idea to read a plot summary of the last few games, but it's not really necessary. Gameplay is a blast (literally), the plot is solid (except the end), the weapon selection is great. The game looks pretty good with DX11 features enabled, and still runs efficiently. If you have a few friends to play with, I imagine you'd have a blast with Infestation mode. It's currently $30 on Steam, with the DLC priced at $7. The core game is totally worth it, but maybe skip the DLC at that price unless it goes on sale.

1 comment:

  1. The first major plothole is explained by S.A.M. The terraformer was designed to keep the weather system in check, and without it there are constant super storms. The actual explanation was that the aliens thrived in the highly ionized atmosphere, and a more placid earth like one caused them to die (probably because they harvest energy from it or something). Also, plot hole #2 is actually alluded to in some of the holotapes. It's actually a plot point more than a hole. Collect all the holotapes :)