Making a sequel after a successful game must be tricky. Striking the balance of old and new must be quite the burden, but skilled developers must find a way. Red Faction: Armageddon is the sequel of 2009’s Red Faction: Guerilla, but only in name and universe. Armageddon ditches almost all of Guerilla‘s strong points in favor a new, direct route. Change isn’t always good and this sequel seems to drive this point home.
Set some time after the events of its predecessor, you play as Red Faction soldier Darius Mason. Darius doesn’t seem too bright, as he is tricked two times into doing the bidding of the evil, bug worshiping cultists. Mars’ surface is uninhabitable, thanks to Mason so the masses must flee to underground. That wasn’t enough, as he was manipulated once again into letting loose a whole new breed of aliens to feast on the Martians. Being blamed for the recent hellish alien outbreaks, Mason is on the run from just about everyone, save for a few, and trying to fix what he did in the process.
Forgive me if that sounds a bit boring because it is. The actual narrative make up isn’t a train wreck, it’s just plain boring. Darius isn’t bad, ranging from tolerable to somewhat funny. He was probably front and center in “Nathan Drake impression class” everyday, as he spouts out clichéd one-liners in just about every scene reminiscent of a less-witty Mr. Drake. It’s not entirely off-putting, but there were points where I was predicting what he would say next. Everyone else, even though there aren’t many, is forgettable. You have a stereotypical-but-endearing commanding officer and a girl companion and that’s about it. There is a bad guy that looks like Quan Chi from Mortal Kombat, but he is only present for a few scenes so he lacks the hatred needed to drive forward. I didn’t really hate him but then again, I didn’t even remember who he was until it was too late.
Guerilla, in its essence, was about grabbing your trusty, ass-kicking hammer or rocket launcher and letting loose on buildings. Excellent physics and stunning deformation of the architecture in Mars’ open world led to satisfaction that no other game could not achieve. So, in short, breaking shit was, looked, and felt awesome. You’d think a sequel would expand on this fundamental idea, right? Well, I guess you would think that because that makes logical sense.
I’m not against change, but some aspects don’t deserve to torn out. Armageddon still somewhat has destruction in it, but there is a problem: you’re underground for almost the entirety of the game. Caves don’t exactly allow you let your inner wrecking ball out because every environment is extremely cramped. There are long stretches of the game where there are no structures to destroy, leaving the action to fall back on the shooting. This would be okay if the shooting was remarkable, but it isn’t. Endless waves spawn out of sphincters in the walls, with the same generic aliens that are a pain in the ass to shoot because of their annoyingly-high mobility. Combat, like the story, is just simply boring and generic. Guerilla‘s shooting was passable, but it wasn’t focused on as much. There are cool weapons, like the magnificent magnet gun and black hole gun, but somehow they can’t make the combat anything less than a chore. Shoot the red dudes, smash the yellow dudes. Rinse and repeat.
Some destruction did make its way to the underbelly of Mars, but it just done in any meaningful way and sometimes can get annoying. “Annoying” as in a “I just fell to my death because the ground broke” kind of way. Since everything is made of paper mache and spit, most structures break in a one or two hits… even the floor. If one shot hits the right part of the floor, it will give and you will end up watching the loading screen as you are being reset to last checkpoint (and some are pretty far from each other). Death isn’t always the result, but inconvenience is, making a climb up destructible stairs a hellish chore as you can be sent to the bottom too easily.
There was a glimmer of hope within the dark caves of Mars. I was tasked with destroying a few key buildings for some unknown reason. Once I laid charges and saw them go kaboom, I got giddy. I had pleasant flashbacks then of Guerilla when I’d do that about every thirty seconds and have a similar reaction. But after my short lived glee, it was back to the monotonous shooting.
There are a couple other modes other than the disappointing campaign, with one winner and one loser. Ruin is the saving grace of these modes, as it focuses solely on open destruction. You and your arsenal are placed in an environment to go nuts and break everything. I really enjoyed this mode because it takes the handcuffs off, but the full trial of this mode is only available if the game is new, renters and used game buyers be damned. The other mode is another co-op wave based survival mode called Infestation. I had a hard time with this mode because the combat is just not good enough to support a mode focused on it. I’ve done a genocide’s work of shooting those red aliens in the campaign, I don’t need to do more.
Red Faction: Armageddon misses the point. A core idea of open destruction is so unique and fun shouldn’t be taken out just for change’s sake. It’d be similar if the next Grand Theft Auto was transformed into a racing game. Now would it be the end of the world? No, but by focusing on the wrong aspects it would feel soulless and monotonous, something Armageddon doesn’t seem to pick up on.
+Some weapons are cool
+Ruin mode is great fun
-Destruction has been majorly downplayed
-Combat is repetitive and monotonous
-Environments are cramped
-Enemies repeat often and spawn endlessly sometimes
-Story is boring
Final Score: 6.5/10