Red Faction: Armageddon Hands-On Preview

You're going to need a lot of bullets.

Destruction. That’s one word that just about sums up what made Red Faction: Guerilla entertaining. If you came across a structure filled with enemies, the answer was to just whip out your biggest toys and blow the whole place to pieces. But what if you could take that concept of destruction and reverse it? That’s a challenge that THQ took on with Red Faction: Armageddon, and it’s one of the many things that is making the title look like another solid franchise installment.

Introduced into Armageddon is the Nano Forge 2.0, which will allow plays to rebuild any structure that has been laid to waste by either the player, enemies, or forces that struck before the player’s arrival. This gives players more freedom to destroy whatever they desire and not have to be extremely careful about blowing up a stairway or ramp they needed to use. At the same time, however, it throws all caution to the wind and doesn’t make players see any consequences of their actions.

But what has to be one of the best parts of this ability to rebuild is in gunfights. During a boss battle with a tank-like vehicle, all of my boxed cover was getting blown to pieces around me. Had they just been destructible, I would be nothing but a pile of burning meat on the floor. With the help of the Nano Forge 2.0 however, I was able to reconstruct the boxes and avoid the killing blow. The boxes also served as a good way to stop the vehicle in its tracks, enabling me to get around it and fire off a few free shots before diving back to cover.

When it comes to taking out those bosses and other baddies, Armageddon does a good job of giving you the tools to do so in a wonderfully varied manner. From the simple assault rifles, pistols, and shotguns to the more flashy and destructive weapons, Armageddon knows how to let you pack a punch. The biggest standout of all is the Magnet Gun. The Magnet Gun acts a sort of a pseudo gravity gun. Players will shoot one object, then a second. When that happens, the lighter of the two is flung towards the heavier. This can be used to take the bottom off of an entire structure, or drag enemies into explosive deaths. Either way, it’s immensely satisfying.

There are some nifty features to help players out during the game. The most prominent of which will be the game’s aim assisting system, which will auto-target enemies near your reticule with a quick squeeze of the trigger, a la Call of Duty. Each weapon’s clip amount will be shown on the right side of the reticule, dwindling as you unload it upon your opponents. This will help you to stay focused and make knowing exactly when to reload much easier. The game’s GPS will also helpfully guide players to their next objective if lost by showing a trail of tiny orange pillars in the direction you need to go.

The aliens are smarter than the cultists, but don't expect Halo-level enemy AI.

Not everything is a positive wave of awesome in Armageddon, though, as the game does have its fair share of problems. For starters, the enemy AI is not very ipressive at this point. The Marauder cultists don’t tend to like cover all too much and tend to stand either in open areas or strafe into them with the hopes of taking you out. Safety for their own well-being is not on their minds. This was expressed tenfold when a Marauder with a rocket launcher saw me get in his face after coming up a set of stairs. Instead of doing the common sense thing and running backwards to actually fire the thing from a safe distance, the cultist let lose a round. The ensuing explosion killed himself, nearly me, and utterly obliterated the metal walkway we were on. Even if I can rebuild it with the Nano Forge 2.0, that kind of destruction due to AI idiocy is just annoying. Once the game gets to the aliens the enemy AI does pick up and get better, but it still won’t be anything that jumps out at you.

Something else that really stood out as a massive red flag was the complete lack of any lip movement or facial expression from characters during cutscenes using the in-game engine. The scene I witnessed had Darius Mason helping a wounded soldier and getting information from him. While Mason’s back was turned to the camera, the soldier’s face was clear as day. His face remained stagnant while his voice rang through the headphones. This is a massive no-no; I completely lost all connection to the events of the story the moment I noticed.

One final issue that came up during the demo was mech combat. While the controls and encounters were smooth and fast-paced, the fact that most of the game will take place underground in caves and mines, like this exact sequence, made the experience feel cramped. With so many large objects taking up the limited level space things can get chaotic quickly, rendering the camera unable to really keep up. While it didn’t really break the game or make it frustratingly difficult, it did feel extremely uncomfortable. A disappointing result to a promising feature.

What to make of Red Faction: Armageddon and just what the final product will be like is uncertain. The HUD, controls, weapons, destruction, and reconstruction elements are all great and can be an absolute blast. Unfortunately, bad cutscenes, shoddy enemy AI, and cramped mech battles hurt it and have the ability to eliminate any sense of immersion. The game is still four months away, so hopefully the majority of these issues won’t be in the final product. We’ll all find out whether or not that’s the case when the title arrives in May.


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Author: Mike Murphy View all posts by
Mike has been playing games for over two decades. His earliest memories are of shooting ducks and stomping goombas on NES, and over the years, the hobby became one of his biggest passions. Mike has worked with GamerNode as a writer and editor since 2009, giving you news, reviews, previews, a voice on the VS Node Podcast, and much more.

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