OnLive: Red Faction: Armageddon Review
Game: Red Faction: Armageddon
Developer: Volition, Inc.
Publisher: THQ, SyFy Games
Available on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, OnLive (Reviewed via OnLive)
The Red Faction games have always been fantastic experiences – the first two blew me away with the addition of GeoMod technology adding destructible environments to games, something which hadn’t really been seen before. It’s now 10 years since the first Red Faction game and we’ve got Red Faction: Armageddon, a game that still uses the GeoMod technology, albeit an updated version. But does this new iteration of the franchise bring anything new to the table, or is it the same tried and tested formula that’s always been a part of the Red Faction series of games?
This game was reviewed entirely through the streaming service OnLive and is available for a 30 minute demo by clicking the banner below:
STORY: The story for Red Faction: Armageddon revolves around Darius Mason, the grandson of Alec Mason (the hero from Red Faction: Guerilla) and takes place 50 years after that previous game, starting off with a mission to protect the terraformer, a machine that keeps the atmosphere and climate of Mars at a level that humans can tolerate. The mission is a complete and utter failure forcing the population of Mars deep underground in order to survive. There are things underground that human-kind was never meant to come face to face with, for reasons that will become clear throughout the course of the game.
From the moment you find yourself underground the game take a very tried and tested approach to the story, the people blame Darius for what happened at the terraformer and for their current situation and Darius, sick of all the blame (while secretly agreeing with them in typical emo fashion) sets out on his own mission to right the wrongs he started. The story is good enough to keep the player interested for the duration of the game but it’s nothing special, the GeoMod technology will keep people playing the game until the end much more than the story will.
GRAPHICS: Just like everything else in the game, the graphics are serviceable, Red Faction: Armageddon uses an updated version of the GeoMod 2.0 engine that was used in Red Faction: Guerilla and therefore looks a little bit better than its predecessor but not by a huge gap. The most impressive visual aspect of all the Red Faction games has always been the ability to deform and destroy the environment and that’s no different with this new entry into the franchise. Almost everything that you can see in the game world is destructible in some way, you may not be able to take it down completely but 90% of the time you’ll be able to do a considerable amount of damage to it.
The same problems with the whole destruction aspect that was apparent in Red Faction: Guerilla are still present, players will still be able to take down three legs of a structure with only four and still have it maintain its stability somehow, but there’s no denying that going around smashing thing up with a massive hammer is pleasing, both mentally and visually. Via OnLive, Red Faction: Armageddon looks as good as it does on any console and it doesn’t seem that any graphical element has been toned down to allow easier streaming of the game, if you’ve got a decent enough connection to be able to play OnLive in the first place then you’ll be able to play Red Faction: Armageddon as it was meant to be played and viewed, with no problems.
SOUND: The sound has never been the reason why people keep playing Red Faction games. There is music in the game, and when something particularly dramatic happens it swells as you would expect it to, getting a little bit more impressive in the process, but for the most part it’s just there and a lot of people probably wouldn’t notice it. The voice acting is done well and all of the voice actors perform their parts without sounding overly cheesy, which would be easy to do considering the setting for the Red Faction is Mars. In terms of the sound aspects of Red Faction: Armageddon, the most impressive things are the audio recordings that can be found dotted around all areas of the game. These help to immerse the player in the world and are all recorded to a high standard as well as all being relatively enjoyable to listen to.
GAMEPLAY: Most of Armageddon revolves around destroying items of the environment that just happen to be in your way, it could be a pipe, a wall or even a vital piece of a structure that’s holding something very important up, but whatever it is, Darius Mason and his trusty maul will be able to take it down without many problems at all. Just like in the previous Red Faction game the player will be able to reconstruct items of the environment for various reasons, maybe there’s a lift whose power source has been destroyed, no problem, just fix it. This mechanic very rarely comes into play as something that’s actually useful though, most of the time I found myself using it to rebuild a building that was particularly fun to knock down. Not the most efficient use of my time, or Darius Mason’s futuristic technology.
While some of the gameplay elements centre themselves on the classic tropes of puzzle games, trying to figure out how to get up onto a ledge that you clearly need to get to, figuring out how to clear the rubble from a collapsed tunnel – that sort of thing – unfortunately about 90% of the game just falls foul of the same problems that its predecessor did; it’s just a run and gun game. A lot of the time when playing Red Faction: Armageddon players will find themselves walking to a new area, clearing it of the thousands of enemies that literally come from nowhere (for some reason that can come through solid rock thanks to the use of little portals), fix something that you need to fix, collect something that you need to collect, or some other form of menial task and then make your way back to where you started. This is rinsed and repeated over and over again until the final credits make their appearance.
Red Faction: Armageddon is by no means a bad game, it’s just a game that has been done time and again, the only thing keeping it apart from other games in the genre is the use of the GeoMod technology, but even that has been utilised better in previous games in the series. There seemed to be a lot more problems with it this time around, bridges collapsing under the weight of the main character, for no reason at all, walking into a building only to have it randomly collapse on you, etc. These all help to turn the player away from what could have been an amazingly fun game but, thanks to the plethora of bugs, repetitive gameplay and the fact that a lot of it is spent in the dank and dismal underground tunnels of Mars, it is just rather average.
Ruin Mode is where a lot of the fun comes from, in this mode the player get to set themselves a time limit, or just play in Free Play Mode and cause as much destruction as possible. Players get to pick whichever weapons they want to use in order to create the destruction and then they’re just left to their own devices. A lot of the time Ruin Mode is more fun than the actual game but, just like with the main game mode, it gets a little boring after a time. People will come back to Ruin Mode more often than they will the main game though. One important thing to note about the OnLive version of Red Faction: Armageddon is that Ruin Mode is always available. With the console version of the game players had to buy the game new or enter a code in order to gain access to this area of the game; this is not the case with OnLive.
LONGEVITY: There’s not much in Red Faction: Armageddon to keep people coming back for the long term, the story is adequate and lasts for a good 10 or so hours but once it has been completed there’s no reason for players to complete the entire thing again. The upgrade mechanic is quite fun and people may come back to try out different perks on a second playthrough, but the game itself isn’t fun enough to warrant it and only people who really love the game will be able to endure a second or third playthrough. Ruin Mode might get people to come back more often than the main game itself, it’s always fun to blow stuff up, especially when that “stuff” has got GeoMod technology attached to it, so the idea of being able to blow off some steam by spending time destroying stuff is a fun little idea.
VERDICT: Red Faction: Armageddon is a game that could have taken the ideas from Red Faction: Guerilla and made something that was truly amazing. However, for reasons that will remain unknown, Volition, Inc. decided to base that vast majority of the game underground, this makes what could have been an interesting Martian world something that is totally uninteresting and frankly, downright boring. There are interesting parts throughout the game, especially when it comes to the story – and destroying buildings with a massive hammer will never get boring in my opinion – but the Red Faction games have been getting more and more stale over the last few iterations and Red Faction: Armageddon proves it. They’re not bad games, they just need a little shaking up, and fast.