What's the best way to kill a squishy alien thing? First thing you might think of is by drilling it full of holes with a machine gun, perhaps peppering it with shrapnel from a shotgun blast or even turning it into goo by blasting it with a rocket.
In Red Faction: Armageddon, you have these options and all are valid, but the best way is to just dump a building on top of the alien. If in doubt, crush its skull with the ceiling. It's what sets the Red Faction series apart from its third-person action rivals, and without the whole scenery destruction (and repair) gimmick, it's really quite generic.
Luckily, it's a good enough gimmick to see us through the game and is utilised effectively in the Ruin mode, which sees you attempting to destroy as much of a level as possible in a bid to earn points and get yourself onto a leaderboard that's bound to be topped by someone who's found an exploit or cheated shamelessly.
The meat of the game is in the single player, except the Ruin mode and a boring Horde-esque co-op thing where waves just keep coming yadda yadda. As Darius Mason, the baldest man in the universe apart from Southampton's Richard Chaplow, you're thrown into a revolutionary struggle between fanatic Martian separatists, the Red Faction soldiers looking to stomp on the rebels and, eventually, a series of grotesque alien creatures that are unwittingly unleashed upon the caverns of Mars.
There are two direct comparisons we can make to the previous Red Faction game, the first being that this one is set primarily underground, so the whole 'red' look of the Martian world has been replaced with a far more generic underground environment.
At times, there are some impressive area to explore, like one particular large cave that departs from the norm and shimmers with a greenish-blue hue, but generally its brownsville here, and not in the reddish way of the previous game.
So visually fans are going to be slightly disappointed, but the second area for comparison is the controls, which feel much smoother (on the PC version, anyway) and the annoying sluggishness of Red Faction: Guerilla has thankfully not been repeated here. It makes the experience much more enjoyable when you're not fighting against the controls or feeling like your character's moving through treacle.
As for the combat, there are three main prongs, the first being using the regular arsenal of shotguns, automatics and rocket launchers. Few of them feel that punchy and enemies tend to take too long to go down for this reviewer's liking, especially considering how many there are at times.
They respawn too, if that's something that might make your teeth itch, and although you can generally destroy pods that they spring from, this doesn't always happen, so you'll have to figure out when you can finish them off or when you need to just have it away on your toes and make a run for it.
The second prong is that of wading in with the Maul, the famous power hammer thing that can knock down walls with ease. This does feel strong and meaty in combat, especially in combination with the nano-powers you can unlock, such as a Force Push-type wave attack and a shield that protects against ranged enemies.
The melee attack prong is a more satisfying way of squelching your enemies, but it pales in comparison to use the magnet gun (or the more powerful normal weapons) to rip apart the environment and toss massive lumps of rock and/or metal at, through or onto your foes. As mentioned before, it's easily the best part of the game and you'll probably discard the other weapons in favour of just using the magnet gun once you've got used to it.
It is easier to use the magnet gun with the mouse and keys, certainly, so it might not be as popular on the console versions. It's easier to be precise and, more importantly, quick with your shots, as using it leaves you relatively defenceless against enemy attacks.
Regardless of the control issue, it makes RF:A more strategic and tactical, having to think about effective ways of throwing the scenery about, which bits to destroy and to leave, because you'll need to keep some scenery around to provide you with (temporary) cover.
Destroying scenery also provides you with salvage points that can be used in the inevitable in-game store to unlock new abilities, allowing you to develop a personalised style of play. You can make yourself harder to damage, make it easier for you to do damage or just unlock abilities like the shield and such.
This and nearly all the other features in RF:A are seen in nearly all action games nowadays, and it's only really the devotion to destruction that keeps the game from being just your average third-person affair. As mentioned before, it's a very good gimmick though, so however average the rest of the game is, it's always fun to just tear buildings to bits.
It's difficult to recommend RF:A at a full price point purchase, even with the destruction. One admittedly excellent feature isn't enough to make a game worth 30 quid (more on consoles) and so it's only really fully recommended to those who've really bought into the Red Faction series before or perhaps if you've not played that many third-person games recently.
To those who have, there's not much here to warrant an early purchase. It's a solid game, it's on the good side of average, and there's nothing really wrong with it, but it doesn't have enough to it beyond the destruction. Get a good deal or just wait for a sale.
EDIT: I've perhaps been a little unfair on the 'redness' having had time to think more on the subject. It's still basically contained underground or in non-red environments, but I just want to clarify that there are some outdoor bits. Just not many of them, in the grand scheme of things, for plot reasons.
- Tear that sucker down!
- Ruin mode
- Feels and plays better than the previous Red Faction
- Other than the destruction, it's rather generic
- Most of the weapons lack punch
- Lacks the 'red' of Guerilla, environments are (mostly) visually unexciting
The Short Version: It's all about the destruction, as without it, Red Faction: Armageddon's really rather average. Still, it's all good when a building collapses on your head.