Thursday, 23 February 2012

Red Faction: Armageddon [PS3]

Urgh. With so many elements going in it's favour, it's sad this game got it SOOOO wrong.

The destructo-scenery adventure moves from surface to underground and goes all shadowy. 
Oh, and now there's tons of splatty aliens that need splatting.

Lots of big guns to take down lots of big monsters - the system works.
Total Recreation
The plot to Armageddon is that the human colonies on Mars are being overrun by aliens. Well, actually they're being overrun by locals - and the aliens are all getting killed and eaten (that being us humans). This has something to do with what one particular alien - Darius Mason - accidentally did while on a mission. He was duped into it by some evil-doer who needs to be brought to justice and the human military are powerless to help. Basically all of this is relayed in cutscenes that are acted out by wooden CGI characters, while the rest of the time you run from dark cave to darker cave blowing things up and shooting aliens.... er, locals..... er..... monsters (damn you political correctness).

Darling Darius - this is pretty much how he delivers all of his lines in the game's cutscenes.

In the end, you are aiming to restore an atmosphere to Mars which will kill off all the ali....monsters and let the lovely humans live happily ever after on the monsters' homeworld. Hang on a minute..... Is this really a game where humans invade somewhere, kill off all the locals and the big Hollywood finale is the hero smiling as they all die? Yes. Yes, it really is.

To summarise, the plot is pretty boring - exactly like Total Recall only with all the mystery, Schwarzenegger and triple-boobed prostitutes removed. Oh, and you don't get the girl at the end. She dies. [Spoiler Alert] It wasn't a surprise to me and I doubt it'll come as a surprise to you.

This is Kara - Darius's honey. She dies. Surprise surprise.

Good Looking, So Refined
Actually the enemy colouring and visual style isn't too bad - each monster has a pattern and markings that make them easier to distinguish against the dark backgrounds and from each other. There is a hell of a lot of dark backgrounds though, so they really needed some colour in the mix just to prevent serious eye strain. The monsters do stand out from each other well enough and it makes for a better spectacle when they come flying towards you - which they will do roughly every ten seconds.

There's yellow ones and red ones. I'd deal with the big one first though.
The mix of colours in the aliens starkly contrasts with the bland and depressingly bleak set of environments that you have to fight your way through. All the caves are black and brown, all the buildings are grey and black, everything is just dark and colourless. This can make things a bit of a chore to get through: 

  1. Head down the corridor to the base, it's dark and grey. 
  2. Next run to the power generator, it's dark and grey. 
  3. Then run to the dark, grey escape tunnel. 


Somebody please turn the lights on! 
Or at least give me a paintball gun!

I can build a a rainbow... smash your face in too...

Lava Lamp
Then in later levels they throw some lava into the palette. Now this would be fine in theory - and certainly brightens the place up - except that the main grunt enemies are coloured in yellow and red. The lava therefore renders them impossible to see as it splashes around and the heat distorts your vision, so you're back to straining your eyes trying to make out where the hell the baddies are before they leap out at you. Aha! There they are!

While spicing things up slightly, the lava is certainly not an improvement.

Level and Game Design
As mentioned above, this is bland bland bland. I honestly couldn't pick out any of the environments that I played through, other than making educated guesses that there was a military base, a power generator and bridge at some point. 

The only tasks you will be expected to complete are as follows:

  1. Kill the monsters
  2. Blow up that target
  3. Go to point X
  4. Repair that target
That really is about it. Sometimes you're escorting some military guys, sometimes you're in a tank, sometimes there will be lava - but you'll still just be heading to a big flashing arrow, pressing the trigger button and running off down yet another dark corridor. Yippee.

This screenshot doesn't do it justice - usually it's a lot darker than this.

Use of Destructo-Scenery
Distinctly average. You can blow a very limited number of things up - not walls or floors or anything like that - and once you've blown a building up you'll normally have to repair it so that you can continue in the game. It's like when you get annoyed with your building blocks and smash them apart - it feels like you're a powerful giant - until a parent comes along and tells you to pick them all up.

The addition of the "magnet gun" is about the best thing I can say about the destruction - this works by latching firing two separate tethers, which then are drawn to one another. There is plenty of scope for fun there - fire one at a monster and one at the ceiling to watch it go flying - fire one at big tower and one at a building and they'll collide in spectacular fashion.

The only issue with this is that all of the places where you get to try this out are so dark and the buildings so drab and grey that it doesn't carry much impact - it just looks like a grey blob hitting a grey blob and forming a new grey pile on the floor. The destruction on show in the game's predecessor Guerilla was brighter, more varied and on a much larger scale.

Buildings still fall to pieces when the correct force is applied.

In order to get some proper destruction time, you'll either have to play the vehicle sections - which I'll get to later - or the separate destruction mode (known as Ruin mode). This is unlocked using a game code - so not sure if pre-owned gamers will actually be able to enjoy this. 

Ruin mode gives you a small map and a limited time, and you go nuts trying to smash as much as possible. In order to get the best scores you need to cause maximum destruction, but there is a fairly arbitrary points system associated with each building - massive structures fall and give mere hundreds of points, whereas one wall at the end of the map can be worth millions. Getting the best scores is therefore a case of "find the valuable structure and fire everything at that". 

Ruin mode feels like a tacked-on gimmick than a fully-playable game mode - nothing like the free destructive fun that you were able to enjoy in Guerilla.

Nano Forge Rebuild
The nano forge in action. It's blue.

The new piece of equipment in the scenery-destruction series? A device that puts it together again. Lame. If that really is the best that the guys at Syfy games could come up with to move the series forward then they really ought to give up now.

Not only is it a poorly-conceived idea, it was badly executed as well! There were several sections in the game where I thought "Yeah, this could be alright actually. Monsters are  blowing this walkway up and I have to navigate my way across, repairing it as I go". Could have been exciting, yes? Well it wasn't because it took 30 seconds to get across to the end of the walkway and that was the only section of it's kind in the game. What a missed opportunity - the one time the new mechanic works and they hurry past it as if they're ashamed of it. Well, yes, you should be ashamed. Poor show, Armageddon.

At least it looks a bit flashy when you are made to repair stuff.

Vehicular Fun?
Armageddon gets to the point where the vehicle sections are actually welcome - sort of a "Yes please, for goodness' sake just let me blow some shit up!".

Doesn't he look menacing in his giant metal suit?

Around 10 percent of the game is spent either in a walker suit or a tank... and your objectives are? Blow shit up. 

Yay! At least they got that right. Not that you'll be able to appreciate it much as all brainpower has been drained out of you in the corridor shooter sections.

In case you hadn't noticed by this point - Armageddon really drained all the life out of me. In fact, I'm having difficulty even writing about it because I found it that thoroughly boring. Bugger it. Here's some screenshots of shit being blown up:

This is actually from a spin-off vehicular game - Battlegrounds - but the idea is the same. Broom broom. Boom boom.

Armageddon is one long slog through dark corridors - there's just a real void in terms of diversity and personality.

Although this sounds on paper like a classic action-horror, or perhaps a bit like one of Arnie's finest works - it's thoroughly dull and ruins any appeal it may have had with it's repetitive tasks and bland environments.

Even the multi-player destructive fun and vehicle sections can't redeem what is a shameful addition to an already floundering series. They really need to go back to the drawing board and get their priorities right.

Here's a hint - number one is massive destruction. 
It is not caves and aliens... er... local monster thingys.

Between this image and the one below - doesn't this look like a soap romance between Daruis his grumpy alien wife?


Images in this review are copyright of THQ and can be found at: 


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