Dull levels and an even drier script make Red Faction: Armageddon a not so thrilling third-shooter experience - and that's in spite of the exciting potential of the magnet gun...
Sadly, Armageddon's greatest achievement is making a game centred on smashing buildings with a gigantic space mallet less engaging than knocking thumbtacks into a corkboard with a pin hammer. Quite a feat.
Red Faction Armageddon: Closed world
Taking an open-world game set on the expansive, surprisingly colourful surface of Mars and squeezing it into a series of dusky caves was never likely to work well. And - surprise surprise - it hasn't. At its best, RF: Armageddon is a sub-standard third-person shooter. At its worst it's a prime example of suffocating genericism and baffling design decisions.
Over its eight hour or so course, you may find yourself having fun for one or two brief moments, but the far more frequent emotions are disappointment, frustration and déjà vu. Also, is brown an emotion? Because you'll feel brown. Once you've played the first hour, you've seen it all.
Red Faction Armageddon: Caving in
New to the Red Faction series? You've picked a bad place to start. At the end of the previous game, Guerrilla, the titular group of freedom fighters won their battle against the Earth Defence Force, thus liberating Mars.
Now, 50 years later, things aren't going so well. In the opening scene bad guy Adam Hale - so evil he has face tattoos- destroys the planet's Terraformer.
That's the structure which provides Mars with a liveable atmosphere. So now you, Darius Mason (grandson of Guerrilla protagonist Alec) and your ragtag clan live underground, away from the lightning storms, tornadoes and intermittent light drizzle. Sadly, being saved from inclement weather means your in-game environments are dull like a Bargain Hunt marathon. A succession of caves bathed in colours ranging from reddish-brown to brownish-red, it's impossible to tell at a glance whether you're at the beginning or the end - such is the monotony.
And the enemies don't help, as aliens are nothing more than random variations of 'ugly, spindly mess.' Some glow red and can jump around a bit, some glow green and lumber slowly towards you, some glow orange and scuttle along the floor. None really require any specific tactic to defeat, and all take a hugely frustrating amount of bullets to put down.
Red Faction Armageddon: Mars Bore
Missions are dull, too. One tasks you with repairing the Faction's water pumps, which equates to this: trudge in, blast countless aliens, hold L2 next to some glowing objects, trudge out. Even then, you can't repair anything until every last bug - even that bastard cowering in the corner - has been killed, despite you standing in the correct spot to trigger the repairs.
Although 'new' weapons are introduced fairly frequently, they're only slightly tweaked versions of what you've got. As with the aliens, the difference is largely meaningless; what colour blobs fly out of their nozzles, basically.
Red Faction Armageddon:
In an effort to make weapon choice tactical you can carry more ammo for the weaker guns, but even the bigger weapons lack any real punch, unlike the ones seen in the Modern Warfare 3 trailer.
Even the magnet gun, a much talked-up new feature, is a let-down. The premise - attach one magnet to object A, another to object B and watch A smash B into a pile of C - sounds a sure-fire winner. But it's sunk by a severe problem: sound design.
Sound is an often-overlooked aspect, something you only really notice when it's exceptionally good - for example, as it is in Dead Space - or when it's awful. And this is abysmal.
When crashing an entire building to the floor elicits nothing more than a muffled bump - even in the echoing spaces of a cavern - you know you're in trouble. It not only undermines the destruction but the atmosphere (there isn't any left) and the combat, too. If this sounds negative, it's not because Armageddon is gaming's lowest ebb - sadly there's plenty worse out there - but because it should have been so much better.
Red Faction Armageddon: Verdict
A big budget entry in a strong series, this is a seriously misguided change of direction. If you're a destruction-loving agoraphobic with a penchant for identikit aliens, you just might enjoy yourself. But everyone else will only appreciate it for the irony - all Armageddon does for Red Faction is smash it to bits.