When it comes to THQ, there's a few crown jewels in their crown of franchises, but few have delivered the destructive goods for over a decade. Red Faction is that franchise. After a fun but flawed excursion into open world Mars in Guerilla, Red Faction is returning to its more linear roots with its sequel, Armageddon.
We already talked about the multiplayer that we enjoyed for an afternoon in THQ's sunny San Francisco event, but before that, we spent an entire morning playing the latest build of the game's single player, causing destruction for several hours and working our way through about 30 per cent of the game.
The game takes place two generations after the events in Guerilla, where the Red Faction took on the evil and corporate EDF. The focus is completely changed, as the common folk on Mars have been forced underground. As the grandson of Guerilla's protagonist, you play as Darius Mason, a Red Faction member who unwittingly unleashed a swarm of killer Aliens within the tunnels under Mars. It's up to you to fight your way through the infestation and save the day.
As mentioned above, Armageddon is a much more linear experience than Guerilla, but that just means a better destruction engine and less time driving in bland Martian landscapes. Since the game takes place in more enclosed areas, this allowed Volition to up the GeoMod engine a notch, resulting in even more realistic destruction of buildings and creatures alike. The challenge seems to be stemmed more from the sheer amount of enemies than anything astonishing going on in the AI programming. Still, different enemies have different behaviours and patterns to keep you on your toes.
You'll have many tools at your disposal to unleash the hurt and sudden eviction notices. My favourite was the Magnet Gun. When you fire the first shot, it leaves a powerful magnet. The second shot launches a second magnet that attracts the other magnet and anything unfortunate enough to be attached to it. This lets you do this like launch aliens into the environments, rips walls and supports into your enemies or other structures, and so on. It never got old saving ammunition and destroying the environment with this little beauty. Other weapons include various energy based plasma weapons, standard assault rifles, shotguns, rocket launchers and sniper rifles. All were fun to wield and made for some difficult choices when you can only bring four weapons along with you.
With all the destruction of the environment going on, it would a frustrating mess if you collapsed your only way through the level. With a push of the left bumper button, Darius can instantly repair anything put in front of him. It took a little suspension of disbelief, but it was worth the leap to be able to continue through the levels.
Complimenting your arsenal are a slew of Nanoforge abilities that are essentiall ly like magic spells. Different Nanoforge abilities allow you to push enemies back, make them float helplessly in the air, create reflective energy shields and things like that. A few seconds of recharge time, and you can use the ability again.
The game also features an experience system in the way of salvage. By grabbing salvage from wrecked structures and dead enemies, you'll be able to upgrade a slew of Darius' skills and gadgets. A tiered system keeps you from bypassing too many early skills. In a nice touch, upgrades earned in single player will also carry over in the multiplayer modes.
Graphics were solid, and the environments were surprisingly carried considering the subterranean setting. Our demo actually ended with a firefight on the Martian landscape during a lethal Martian storm. Darius and supporting characters alike animate very well, with solid facial animation. The frame rate also stayed mostly constant, even when the environment was coming down around itself.
With over a quarter of the single player campaign already under our belts, we can say with full confidence that Red Faction: Armageddon will satisfy destruction junkies when it is released this June for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and the PC.