Red Faction: Armageddon

The preview event for Red Faction: Armageddon took place at the, rather fancy, if not a little OTT, St Martins Lane Hotel in that there London town. I’d love to be able to show you the hotel itself (I did take a few arty establishing shots) but the hotel staff said I wasn’t allowed to take photos unless I’d gone through their PR people. Nuff said.

The event saw 20-odd Xboxes lined up in two rows, all with the game loaded. The room lighting was subdued and there was a certain amount of expectation hanging in the air.

We took our seats and were introduced to the main campaign mode of the game, at least we were allowed to play through the first chapter which took about 20-25 minutes for me and about 15 minutes for the guy seated next to me. He was fast! The cut-scene exposition tells us that our hero and main protagonist Darius Mason has made a bit of a boo-boo and allowed hordes of ravaging beasties to escape their underground prison and start using the Mars population as a sort of mobile buffet. Of course Darius didn’t mean for this to happen, he was apparently set up by an old enemy. We see our hero escaping an angry mob down into the sewers and we then have to guide him back up to the surface to meet with our female lead, Kara.

THIS is how you run a multiplayer session!

Along the way we are introduced to the various different types of beastie and are given the opportunity to test out the various weapons at our disposal for dealing with them. Here comes my first side-track.

Time has moved on on Mars since Darius’ grand-daddy Alec found and used the nano-forge to finally rid the colony of the EDF. Technologies have moved on too and the weapons section is where this is most evident in the game. Your nano-forge can still be used as a destructive weapon but you now have the ability to use the nano-beasts to repair stuff too. This is especially handy when you come across ladders or platforms which have been blown up along the way. It’s also useful when combined with the new weapon on the scene, the magnet gun. This clever little gadget allows you to target something – let’s say an alien monster who wants to bite your head off – then target something else – let’s say a nice hard rock face. The net result of this is that the aforementioned nasty, bitey alien is slammed into the rock face with a very satisfying thump and splat. Cool, very cool!

But if I scratch a little deeper these weapons add a new dimension to the thought processes when playing Red Faction: Armageddon, as Eric Barker, the Studio Manager of Volition who produced the game explained:

Eric Barker – nice guy!

The repair mode and the mag-gun add a new set of thought processes into the game. You start looking round and seeing wrecked buildings as a source of ammunition for the mag-gun just ready to be thrown around, or you use nano-repair and they can become cover where there, at first, didn’t seem to be any.

We’re seeing new styles of gameplay coming out of this with folks re-playing the game with the goal of only using the mag-gun, the possibilities have really opened the game out.”

Right then, back to the action.

As you make your way through the underground streets and buildings, laying waste to the nasties along the way, you will come across the next addition to the game, the “XO” Exo Suit. I have to admit, this was when I really started to warm up. The XO gives you a bucket load of fire power in the shape of machine guns and smart missiles, it also gives you a new way of destroying stuff, you simply barge through it. Walls, aliens, windows, the lot; I tapped my left bumper and blatted through. In fact as you progress you have to do this as some of the doorways are just that little bit too small. This is, of course, part of the learning curve for the rest of the game, but it felt good, and fitted well with our scenario rather than being a ‘now it’s time to learn something new’ exercise crow-barred in.

Now then, did I mention spawn-points? No, okay. On your display there’s a handy radar of sorts sat at the top of the screen. It shows, as red dots, the relative position of the aliens to you, the direction being the err… direction and their size representative of distance away. You will also see some orange circles, these are the alien spawn points and you’re well advised to lay waste to these as soon as possible, otherwise the bug-density gets a little heavy!

All looks clear… hang on, what's that shadow?

So, we’ve fought through various waves and types of alien, we’ve discovered what our new weapons can do, what can be round the corner? Ahh yes. The Boss!

In the level we were allowed to play, the Boss is called a Berserker and is frankly more than a little mean! He… it has a range of attacks including a charge which knocks you down and a ranged attack which leaves a cloud of corrosive nastiness hanging in the air – this should be avoided at all costs! This is where I found my first real use for the dodge ability my character had. By holding down the ‘B’ button and moving the stick over, Darius can jump and dive out of the way. My tactic with the Berserker was to unload as much ordinance into it as I could, dodge, run, reload and repeat before finally administering the coup-de-gras with a well timed Plasma Blast – BOOM, down and out! Nice! Actually it was my fourth attempt which produced the desired result, but I don’t want to talk about that, okay!? Safe to say that this is a game where running in and blasting doesn’t always work; again I’ll let Eric have a word.

With taking the action underground in Armageddon and we’ve created this 360 degree field of action, there are aliens on the roof, jumping from wall to wall and blasting up at you through the floor. Players have to be much more aware of their surroundings than they needed to be in Guerilla.”

He’s not kidding either. In the campaign mode I became more and more aware of where I was, not just what I was shooting at. The nano repair, the mag gun and the aliens dropping on me from the roof all made me take a good hard look around before storming in with guns blazing.

Finally I reached the surface and met up with Kara who matches up almost perfectly with the target demographic. I’m sorry girls but it’s true, the first thing I noticed was boobs… the girl got ’em! Now I’m not saying it’s a bad thing and I’m sure that Darius’ on-off love interest would be of the attractive variety – he’s not a bad looking dude himself, if you like the rough type – but the first scene with Kara in has her showing a lot of cleavage and I mean A LOT. After that she was more modestly covered up but the impact had been made.

This is the point at which my controller was wrestled from my sweaty grasp and I wasn’t allowed to play through any more. BOO! But the fun didn’t stop there, we had another mode to try. YAY! Actually this is a telling point. I wanted to play on, I wanted to find out what happened next, I wanted to explore more of the ruined planet I’d come to know in Guerilla. If a game can do this after 20 minutes, it’s got to have something going for it.

The Exo-suit. I loved this!

Another digression first, though. Those of you who have seen the box shots or read anything about Armageddon will have noticed that there’s a tie in with the SyFy channel (yes, I know stupid spelling and no real need for the re-branding from SciFi but there you go…) this is because there is a TV movie coming out which will span the gap between Alec Mason, our hero from Guerilla, and Darius Mason, our hero in Armageddon. Red Faction: Origins talks about the life of Jake, son of Alec and father of Darius. Here’s the plot line, courtesy of Wikipedia

Twenty five years have passed since Alec Mason led the Martian Colonies to freedom…and ten years since vengeful enemies killed his wife, kidnapped his daughter Lyra, and left a broken hero in their wake.

Jake Mason, Alec’s last surviving son and a ranger in the Red Faction Militia, had never abandoned hope that somewhere in the raw outlands of Mars, his sister was still alive. Now, just as a powerful new enemy swarms across the planet, he’s found her, only to learn that his long lost sister is one of them…a cold blooded soldier sworn to destroy the Red Faction and conquer the planet in the name of a madman.

Jake must now battle the relentless regime and somehow reunite a family torn apart by war.

I asked Eric about this, too.

I’ve been onto the production a few times and those guys are doing a fantastic job. The team has some of the same guys who did Battlestar Galactica so it’s got a great look and feel and they really made the world of Red Faction real.”

Sometimes we see games being turned into movies or movies turned into games and no consideration is made to the feel of the piece, there’s no translation done, it’s simply a drag and drop exercise. If you do that then, sure the core fan-base may like it but it’ll never go beyond that. The team doing ‘Origins’ understand that and they’re doing a great job of telling the story of Jake Mason, of bridging that gap between Guerilla and Armageddon.”

Okay, back to the game.

The game mode we were shown, and can talk about, is Ruin. This is a points-scoring mode where the idea is to smash as much stuff up as possible within a limited time and get the best score you can. It sounds simple and that’s because it is. But dammit if it’s not addictive! The profile I was using had a 20+ million points score set as its best so far and I wanted, oh how I wanted to beat it. I tried different combinations of weapons, different starting points, I tried being methodical in my destruction and I tried randomly shooting crap. Nothing, nothing I did let me get more than 18.5 million. This is the bit of Armageddon which you’ll play when you have a quick 5 minutes to kill and will end up being late… you have been warned!

The last thing I want to mention is the Geo-Mod engine which drives Armageddon. It’s been updated to version 2.5 and the updates have been designed specifically to… well I’ll let Eric explain again.

The new engine helps us move the destruction to the forefront of the gameplay which is really important for us now with the mag gun and the nano-repair mode. Players are now using the environment more, instead of trying for the head-shot, they’re using the plasma beam to literally drop the building on the enemy’s head. It’s really cool!

I spent a lot of time in the game at the event, but I didn’t realise that I had. A glance at my watch had me rapidly gathering my gear, thanking the Volition folks and heading off for my train. It’s good.

I enjoyed Red Faction: Guerilla, even though I didn’t think I would and bought it very late from a bargain bin. Red Faction: Armageddon is a title I would happily pay full launch price for because I know that I’m going to love it.







3 responses to “Red Faction: Armageddon”

  1. Mark P avatar

    Awesome read. Armageddon wasn’t really on my radar until now, even despite how much I loved Guerilla.

  2. John avatar

    I was really drawn into it, even just playing the first chapter. Looking forward to the Movie in May as well.. Eric B said he would expect that we’d get it in the UK at the same time as the US on SyFy.

  3. TimG13 avatar

    I’ve been looking forward to this one since it was announced. I wouldn’t say I loved Guerrilla but I did like it, and this one should be a more focussed experience since it’s no longer an open world. It’s good to see a series that doesn’t simply offer more of the same. Origins sounds interesting too; I’ll have to keep an eye on the TV guide.

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