Red Faction: Armageddon 3 Years-Later Review
Reviewed by: Guest_Jim_*
Reviewed on: May 21, 2014
We have at last come to the end of the Red Faction franchise, unless its new owner, Nordic Games, decides to invest in continuing it. It is in fact that possibility that gave me the impetus to review the franchise, as a franchise collection is to be released to gauge public interest. Unless that happens, Red Faction: Armageddon will stand as the finale to the franchise that started over ten years ago.
I will go into greater depth later in this review, but Red Faction: Armageddon has an interesting place in the franchise as it is a third-person game, like Guerrilla, the game before it, but is a linear action title, like the first two games in the franchise. Like all the games though, it uses a form of the Geo-Mod Engine; more specifically version 2.5. This engine allows for arbitrary destruction of objects and structures, so if you are ever for want of a door, you can make one for yourself. It may be worth noting that in Armageddon, the terrain cannot be destroyed.
Red Faction: Armageddon takes place on Mars, years after the previous games. In fact the playable character is Darius Mason, the grandson of the playable character from Red Faction: Guerrilla. After an incident that devastated the surface, everyone on the planet had to flee underground, and because of Darius' involvement in the incident, he is not well liked by just about everyone. Caught in the middle of it again, Darius must do what he can to save the people of Mars, and hopefully redeem himself.
The game has an M rating from the ESRB for violence, blood and gore, and strong language. It has earned that rating and if such content is inappropriate for you, then there is a good chance this review is as well.
Should we return to Mars once more, or leave the Red Planet to its orbit, uninterrupted? Let us find out.
Being only three years old, it is not particularly surprising that the graphics are pretty good. You may be able to pick out some spots with stretched textures, but during my playthroughs, none ever leapt out at me. The same can be said of the models, which is definitely nice to see and say. Everything looked well detailed and designed to me, from the structures to the enemies.
One issue I did have with the presentation was that it was very often quite dark. This caused me to run around fairly often with the Nano-Forge activated, as it produces a strong enough glow to reveal the area. Of course the darkness is not too surprising, as much of the game takes place underground. Turning up the Gamma settings does help, but I personally prefer to avoid changing most settings like that, for fear that the change can lessen the graphics. However, that does not appear to be the case in Red Faction: Armageddon; I still did play it with that particular setting at its default. Fortunately a number of the enemies emit light, so spotting them and their projectiles will not be too difficult.
As the entire franchise is known for its destructive capabilities, it is important that the associated graphics look as good as possible. It may be necessary to suspend your disbelief as you see walls and larger portions of buildings ripped apart and thrown about so easily, but the actual appearance of them is quite nice. The inertia may seem off, but other than that it is a pleasure to watch as objects and structures crumble and fail because something was ripped out of them, or thrown into them. So many objects can be picked up and hurled about to great effect and great satisfaction.
The flip-side to that destruction is your ability to rebuild just about anything using the aforementioned Nano-Forge. This tool can be used to repair every structure and non-vehicle object you destroy, save two types. Explosives will never be repaired, so you cannot make unlimited use of them, and infected buildings. Besides that, you can rebuild whatever you wish, whether it is to explore or just to leave the world the way it was when you found it.
Speaking of explosives, explosions in Red Faction: Armageddon are very satisfying as they throw fire, debris, and heat distortion about. They may not last long, but they are impactful sights that look alive, if only for a brief moment. Burning fires look less alive, but do not look bad. The only issue I have with them is how wispy and thin they can appear. They are not lacking for detail, but being able to so easily see through them does fail to make them all that believable to me.
Time to talk about performance, so here are my computer's specs:
- Processor: AMD A10-5800K @ 4.40 GHz (44.0x100)
- Cooling: Corsair H110
- Motherboard: ASUS F2A85-M PRO
- GPU: EVGA GTX 770 2 GB
- PhysX: EVGA GTX 570 1280 MB
- Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 4x8 GB (32 GB total) at 1866 MHz 10-10-10-27
- PSU: OCZ Fata1ty 750 W
- OS: Windows 7- Professional 64-bit
I played Red Faction: Armageddon at its maximum settings under the DirectX 10 & 11 option in its launcher, except for motion blur. It is my personal preference to have this disabled. That being said, the game performed perfectly and never dropped from 60 FPS that I could see. Even at times that a large number of physics objects had to be calculated, the game did not skip a beat. That is not to say it ran perfectly, though.
On multiple occasions Red Faction: Armageddon did crash. At first these crashes only occurred when starting cutscenes, and a fix suggested online is to set the game to run in a Vista compatibility mode. This did succeed in fixing that issue for me, but it still did crash a few times after this. The exact causes of these crashes I do not know, as they seemed to randomly occur during regular gameplay.
While these crashes were definitely annoying, the compatibility-mode fix did work for some and the others were not common enough for me to consider them a large issue. An issue yes, but not something I would say should deter anyone from playing the game.
Overall I found the graphics to be very satisfying and the handling of destructibles and their physics was no exception. Combined with the game's exceptional performance, the graphics are definitely a strong point for it. It would be nice if I could have diagnosed and fixed those random crashes, however.
As mentioned in the introduction, Red Faction: Armageddon features the grandson of the main character from Red Faction: Guerrilla. In the beginning he is a member of the Red Faction, which appears to be the military and police force for Mars. Darius himself is apparently a rather frustrating individual though, but one that can be trusted to get the job done. Sadly he is not always the brightest person.
A group of cultists on Mars seeks to take control of the planet for unknown purposes, and its leader, Alan Hale, has history with the Mason family. When the cultists storm the terraformer, Darius is among the Red Faction forces sent to secure the facility. However, a mistake he makes allows Hale to damage the terraformer and shut it down. Though Darius is not directly responsible for this, a point his commanding officer makes in an audio recording, everyone blames him for being forced underground to escape the dangerous atmosphere. He also blames himself to a degree, but continues trying to live his life as a demolitions expert.
Years after the terraformer incident, Mason is hired for a job at what at first appears to be an old Marauder temple. Before long he learns it is more than just a temple, as it predates the Marauders, and that the people who hired him are actually the cultists, and Alan Hale. Before learning this, he completes the job and releases previously dormant Martian species that are not particularly pleased with the existence of humans.
The remainder of the game follows Mason trying to determine what happened, what the creatures are, rescuing who he can, and ultimately stopping the creatures. The path does have some twists and turns, but nothing too terribly surprising. One thing that is interesting is how much Red Faction: Armageddon calls back to the first Red Faction. Without spoiling much, this is not the first time humans have encountered these creatures apparently, but last time the humans fared better.
Beyond Darius Mason, there are three other characters that play a large role in the story: Kara, a Marauder and very close friend of Darius; and Sergeant Winters, his former commander. Both do what they can to help Mason, without blaming or even questioning him much about his involvement in what happened. The third character is S.A.M. or the Situational Awareness Module that is attached to Darius' arm and drives the Nano-Forge. Despite being a machine, it does have a personality that leads to some amusing banter between it and Mason. S.A.M. does play a fairly important role in the game as a character, as without it Darius would have no one to talk to as he explores caves and abandoned areas.
As I played through Red Faction: Armageddon this most recent time, I got a feeling I am not sure I had before. There were a number of events within its story that seemed to have been given more focus than necessary, at least when considering their treatment as a whole. This gave me the feeling that Red Faction: Armageddon was not intended to be the last game in the franchise, but actually a new beginning for it. I think that some of those events were focused on to make them hooks for future games to latch onto. For a non-spoiler example, Hale and the cultists' relationship with the Mason family is not explored very much, but is very present here. Perhaps the plans for later titles would have delved into this more.
Altogether the story is only slightly impressive to me. It is good, does its job of driving the game well, and does a very nice job of connecting to the other games. For someone familiar with the franchise, these references I suspect will be welcome. It does have its flaws though, such as those apparent hooks, because if you notice them, they stand out as unusual. Of course if my suspicion is correct about why they are present, then later games would have smoothed over those hooks, but as it is now, they are a little awkward.
One final thing I do want to mention, at the risk of spoiling part of the game, is a rather large plot hole. The humans on Mars were forced underground after the terraformer was shut down. (Spoiler incoming.) At the end of the game though, you return to the terraformer and repair it with your arm-mounted Nano-Forge. If that is all it took then why was it never repaired earlier? It does not seem like the Nano-Forge would have been a unique piece of technology at the time, so why was a team not sent to fix it and return the people to the surface, or just a team to support Darius as he repairs it? I have no answer for this beyond suggesting it is best to overlook this issue and enjoy the game otherwise.
Like the other games in the franchise, Red Faction: Armageddon is a shooter with a destructible world. This can have some interesting affects on gameplay as that destruction can be used to great advantage. If you come up against an enemy the size of a house, you can respond by throwing a house at it. If you come up against an enemy smaller than a house though, you can still throw a house at it.
For anyone concerned about running out of houses, or destroying needed stairways, there is no need. You have access to the Nano-Forge for almost the entire game, and it has the ability to repair almost any damage you or your enemies cause. I must admit I love using that tool and have actually used it to completely repair what damage I have caused, just because I can. Also it works very well with one of my two favorite weapons in the game.
The magnet gun is one of the first weapons you get after the prologue mission. It fires two projectiles, and once both are attached to objects, the first gets pulled to the second along with whatever it was attached to. You can hurl enemies into walls, walls into enemies, move enemies away from you, or pull them in closer with this one weapon. The best part, for me at least, is that it has unlimited ammo, and in just about every game, I do what I can to avoid wasting ammo. Without any way to waste this weapon's ammo, I can just have fun with it.
Despite my love for it though, the magnet gun is not very powerful, and sometimes other weapons are needed to take down large enemies. Red Faction: Armageddon has a good selection to choose from, including high-powered rifles, assault rifles, explosives, and some interesting beam weapons. Once the plasma beam warms up, it can cut through almost anything, from structures to enemies. The singularly cannon does not disintegrate enemies like the plasma beam, but it can take out a sizeable group of them. Neither of these are my other favorite weapon, by the way, but I will get to it later.
One thing that some may notice is that it does not take too long before you come across all of the various enemies. While repeating enemies can hurt some games, Red Faction: Armageddon has some ways to keep it interesting as you progress. First and foremost are the differing arenas you fight in, which force you to adapt your tactics. Sometimes you will be fighting in buildings, which provide plenty of mass to throw around and at your enemies, but its small size forces you to be very aware of your surroundings. Fighting out in the open is a very different experience as now you may have to hunt for cover and deal with enemies in all directions.
One tool that I definitely liked in the game is the radar in the top-center of the screen. At first glance it may look like a simple compass, pointing you toward the enemies, but it is actually more complicated as it gives you 3D information. Enemies that are above and below you will have their dots appear above and below the horizontal line. In dark areas this is very helpful as it will let you aim in the right general direction, before you can actually see the enemy.
Another very fun thing in the game are the different vehicles you get to drive, especially the walkers. Some of these are like powered suits of armor, with guns and rocket launchers, but others are large and very intimidating vehicles, with very destructive weapons. My other favorite weapon is one of these walker weapons and it is called the Napalm Laser. I am not sure about the reasoning behind that name, but when you fire it you can trace out a path with a beam, and soon explosions will erupt along the path. What makes the weapon even more enjoyable is that you can actually unlock it for general use with the in-game cheats. You can actually play through the game with that instrument of destruction.
As you may have noticed, I actually do not have many complaints about this game. I find it to be just a fun and enjoyable experience throughout. However, one complaint would be that it is a little short, as it only took me seven hours and 38 minutes to complete the review playthrough. To be fair though, that is the third or fourth time I have completed the game (though I have not played it for two years prior to this review) so I am well familiar with what it can throw at you. For someone less familiar with it, you may be able to expect closer to eight hours, but that is still not long. The New Game+ playthrough option and cheats do help with that.
It should be noted somewhere that not everything is carried over by virtue of the New Game+. Some things are actually just tied to you, so you will retain them when replaying the normal campaign. These include the salvage currency you have collected, the upgrades you have purchased, and the cheats you have unlocked. You can reset your salvage and upgrades, and disable the cheats, which I did, but you are still able to replay the normal campaign with benefits from previous playthroughs.
Simply put, I find Red Faction: Armageddon to have a very fun and enjoyable gameplay experience. It has been engineered to let you develop a play style and I never felt like it was too punishing. Really it is just fun.
Path to Ware DLC:
Representing the only campaign DLC for Red Faction: Armageddon, Path to War takes players through some of the events prior to the terraformer being taken offline at the beginning of the main game. It is told through the eyes of Mallus, Adam Hale's lieutenant; a Red Faction soldier; and Darius Mason. With Mallus you see what it took for the cultists to successfully storm the terraformer, and with the Red Faction soldier you see how hard the Red Faction fought. Also you get to drive around in a tank, which is pretty awesome.
The first mission as Mason also takes place at the terraformer, but the second actually occurs during the timeline of the main game. It is when Mason confronts Mallus and at last deals with this cultist.
Along with providing you with more background to the events of Red Faction: Armageddon and the chance to drive a tank, this DLC gives you two new weapons to play with. Unfortunately those weapons are restricted to the DLC missions and cannot be brought into the base game.
Providing on about an hour and a half of additional gameplay, Path to War is just as fun as the base game, but is almost like a curiosity. If you are interested in the additional story, it is worth playing, but otherwise, it can be skipped.
Additional Game Play Images:
From Path to War DLC:
Is it worth returning to Mars with Red Faction: Armageddon? In my opinion it definitely is. The game looks good, runs great, and is just a fun experience. It empowers you to cause as much destruction as you want, but also allows you to rebuild afterward. It takes many of the mechanics of the franchise and raises them to a new and enjoyable level.
I mentioned in the introduction how it has an interesting place in the franchise, and now I will explain what I meant by that. I can remember when Red Faction: Armageddon first came out how a lot of people panned it and dismissed it for one reason in particular. It is not a sequel to Red Faction: Guerrilla. After that game, many were expecting another open-world, sandbox experience, and instead we received a very linear shooter. While I can understand the disappointment many felt, this game is still a fun and enjoyable member of the Red Faction franchise, and one worth playing.