Game: Red Faction Armageddon
Publishers: THQ, Syfy Games
Reviewed: October 2012
Genre: Third-person shooter
I have to ask myself sometimes why I always pick rubbish games to review. I have obviously found some enjoyment from doing so! The reason for even getting this game was because, after so many RPG titles (particularly Skyrim) I was after a bit of basic shooting action. So off I went to my favourite online shops of choice and picked out some cheap games. Games that, I may add, once would have cost up to 6 times more than what I paid for them. So really, I have to take that into account when considering the value for money of shooting games that often don’t last all that long.
Today, my game of choice was Red Faction: Armageddon. I think they chose that title because you’ll be wishing for Armageddon to come so that you wouldn’t have to play any more of the game! Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit, but to be blunt about the game before I even go into details, it is a pretty average, overly repetitive, button mashing gimmick.
The previous games in the series have concentrated on combat between human enemies, so to spice things up, the nice people who made this game decided they should add some alien monsters. Yeah!! Cool! The game starts off with you kind of doing the stuff that the other games would have you do: fighting other human enemies, in particular, an evil guy who wants to control the whole planet. For those of you with a brain, using the title of the game as a starting point, guess what planet that is? Yes, you got it, Venus! Oh wait…. No.. that’s not right. Umm, mercury? No… Jupiter. Hmm, I’ll get there in the end. Ah yes. Mars. The Red Planet!!
Mars has featured in various Hollywood blockbusters, and some films have been quite poor, while others have shown some promise. In the gaming industry though, the only game I can think of that really uses Mars as a basis for a game is the Red Faction series. It is a shame, as it is a setting that could be used to make a decent sci-fi game without too much effort. But clearly, the Red Faction people don’t understand the meaning of the word effort. Or at least how and where their effort should be focussed.
Right. Back to the story. It takes place on Mars, obviously, and involves some lunatic destroying the atmospheric air processors at the start of the game, meaning that surface life has become difficult after previously being made habitable, and the people of Mars are driven underground. A quick cut scene later and you are a few years into the future staring at a lady with far too much cleavage on display who you seem to be kind of chummy with. The camera seems to concentrate a little too much on these assets and was clearly coded by a horny teenager. Perhaps it is to distract the player from the already dodgy plot? Anyway, moving forwards, you get given a job to destroy something underground for someone claiming to be an archaeologist. But dang, that rascal tricked you! He’s really working for the evil guy from the start of the game that destroyed the atmospheric air fresheners. Hmm did I make a mistake? Anyway, you’ve now gone and destroyed some alien ‘thing’ that has kept a group of alien monsters underground for god knows how many years. What have they been eating in all that time? Dust?
For the next nine hours of the game it is an alien version of Serious Sam, with wave after wave of enemies, although not in the same numbers that Sam encounters, and also without any of the humour of that game series either. This game really is serious! The majority of the game is set underground going though tunnel after tunnel after tunnel after….. etc etc. Although some of them kind of look nice, it does get a little dull. Late in the game your big bosomed chum comes to help you, but alas poor geek fans she doesn’t last long. You quickly brush this off, our hero has no time for sobbing, and off you go to battle some big alien queen thingy. Not the type that was in the films directed by James Cameron, no, it’s more like David Cameron. This alien doesn’t quite die off though, so you have a short mission at the end where you do something you probably should have done several years earlier. You fix the Glade Air Fresheners, and the air is now nice and breathable for humans. Now why couldn’t our guy have just done that years earlier, why leave the poor sods stuck underground, all miserable and angry? Nope, no answer for that. But anyway, what of the aliens? Oh look, the aliens don’t like that air so much, even though they’ve been breathing it the whole game anyway in the tunnels! They all drop down and wither as though an application of weed killer has been applied. Yay! We’ve got them all! Hooray! Oh dear, I’ve just realised, I’ve given the plot away, and told you the ending! How silly of me to spoil such an amazing piece of literary crafting. What a naughty naughty man I am! Actually, I’ve hopefully convinced you that you won’t get this game hoping it’ll be an epic thriller, because it isn’t. Okay, so there are plenty of other rubbish plots out there in FPS land, but with Mars used as a focus for the story, I was hoping it’d be just a little bit more interesting than the dogs dinner dished up in this game. It does link things together, and the cut scenes do their bit to move things along, but it is especially weak to me. So that is that.
The game-play is largely a mixed bag, as it includes some interesting concepts that could have been used to great effect, but in reality just feel like they are there for the gimmick factor. The game is a third person shooter, and although I would have preferred a first person aspect for a shooter game, I soon got used to it, and it worked kind of well.
When I first played this game and discovered the destructible environments it had to offer, I thought this was an exciting new feature to the series, but from reading up a bit more, it has been a theme throughout the series, although, it has been made much better in the latest game. Although I have whined on about the weakness of the story, I should really say that the physics engine in the game is quite good, and the developers have made it so nearly everything can be blown up or chipped away bit by bit. At times, it can be quite a sight to see an entire area caving in on itself and then completely levelled. But what about if we needed that bit of stairs to get to somewhere? Well, the developers decided to give us a nano-tool that enables us to rebuild objects , and so it's quite handy to just blow the floor from beneath an enemy, and then rebuild it so you can travel across it yourself. Also included is a magnetic gun, that with one click enables you to select the object you want to pull, and another click selecting the target where you want that object to go. It is fun to use this to pull alien enemies around, and also to launch debris and architecture at them to damage them. So the game can do some things right, and the destructible nature of the game is used fully throughout the whole game. What the game doesn’t do though, is provide something a bit more to do with this amazing physics tech. Where are the physics puzzles, like the ones that games like Half Life 2 perfected so well?
The rest of your weapon load-out, which varies throughout the game, is standard fair sci-fi stuff, albeit mainly geared towards the more explosive range of weaponry. You can choose one melee weapon if you want, and clobber a few aliens over the head, but as they tend to hang around on ceilings or walls, it’s hard to always get up close to them unless they choose to come to you straight away.
Most of the game is pretty much a case of getting a cut scene telling you to go somewhere to get something or activate something, then putting you in some underground tunnels where a selection of aliens appear first on walls, then make their way down towards you. There are just a handful of alien types the whole game, and they pretty much behave in exactly the same way as each other, except being slightly harder to kill and looking a tiny bit different. Every time a new type appears, a cut scene shows it letting off a roar, before pitting you against one immediately after. I don’t know whether the developer wanted them to be scary or not, but as this game has no real atmosphere at all (quite literally, huh huh!) they don’t elicit any kind of emotional response from you as a player. For this reason, they just felt like things to shoot at, like in a shooting gallery, rather than being things that I dreaded. Even in great numbers, I never felt at any point in the game as though it mattered. It was just more fodder to kill. That is another big weakness of the game, as quite often, I was just mashing the fire button on my mouse letting off one explosive blast after another. While it was fun to see everything blowing up around you, it isn’t exactly cerebral stuff, requiring no real thought or tactics at all.
At certain points in the game, you can get a power suit that takes destruction and mindlessness to another level, as you become like a virtually indestructible robo-human with limitless ammo. While being a slight variation, it wasn’t in a way that made the game any more interesting to play. Later levels did add vehicles though, with a crab like walker vehicle providing a bit of fun, and also a briefly used flying craft, which being located underground, made it feel as though I was playing one of the old Descent games.
Throughout the game, you are given popup messages telling you about which buttons to press, and although I turn off these types of messages in most games, I kept them on with this one because I often found it handy, particularly when it came to using some of the features of the vehicles late in the game, as I found an alternate vision mode to pick out enemies that I may have not discovered otherwise. The game tends to be quite helpful overall, and I was never really stuck for what to do apart from a little bit in a later level. Although the game is pretty much linear, at this later stage, I was having to move through a network of underground caves and got a bit lost. It was at this point I discovered that all along there was a button which would enable a brief arrow path to appear to show you where to go, which I found quite handy.
Another aspect of the game is that you can upgrade yourself and your weapons handling ability throughout the game, by spending points you accumulate through picking up certain glowing objects on the ground, that are part of the debris after destroying a building for example. These upgrades involve simple things like making you reload quicker, or producing a more powerful shot. By the end of the game, I was virtually fully upgraded. I’m not sure if this system added much, as the enemies felt about the same difficulty throughout the game really, the latter levels being slightly harder I would say.
I’ll have to mention one of the more odd sub-missions in the middle of the game. You have three generators that are damaged, and a force field that is up. Now, this bit doesn’t quite add up, but you have to repair the generators, and the force field goes down. Since when does providing power turn something off? Lets put it in perspective; if I put a battery in my torch I expect my torch to light up, not suddenly switch itself off!
As I’ve already mentioned, the destructible aspect of the game is very good, and runs very well too, as I experienced zero performance issues despite destroying a whole level. This part of the level design is therefore positive, but it seems as though the developer didn’t think about providing much variation. There are a few outside levels, but even they are pretty much walled in affairs, so feel just like the underground tunnels of most of the game. When the game is not putting you through tunnels, you’ll be in an almost arena-like cavern area full of things to destroy, and with aliens coming from all angles.
Graphically, the texturing is okay for the most part, but nothing special. Lighting effects were also alright but nothing that hasn’t been done in any other game already. The one thing I have to say the game did do really well though is with colour. While the levels themselves are usually relatively bland, whenever you go into combat, the enemy attacks, and your own weapons often produce a rainbow spectrum of colours making this game one of the more colourful games I have played.
Due to the fact you are pretty much always in constant combat, you will often be experiencing this wonderful colour rather than the drab basic background. As expected with a game called Red Faction and located on Mars, a lot of the colour palette is focused on red hues, but there is at least a variation in the intensity of the reds used, so that it isn’t always a rusty red-brown. In fact I barely saw much of the typical Mars colouring, and if I hadn’t known, this game could have been based on any other planet in the galaxy and even Earth, as it just didn’t feel all that Mars-like.
|Hooray for colour in games! Even if it is psychedelic!|
There is very little ambience of note in the game, and a week after finishing the game, I can’t even remember anything of it. Whereas a game like Deus Ex had great ambient sounds and music that I’ll never ever forget, whatever sound was in this game must have been very weak, as I can’t remember a thing about it at all after just a few days!
Upon completing the game, you get a new comedy weapon called Mr Toots, which is a horse that looks like it has come straight from My Little Pony, and is squeezed under the player characters arm to fire a rainbow fart from its backside. I’ll admit, on first viewing it did make me smile a little, and the light hearted nature of it would fit I well with the mindless shooting and destruction, so I find it a little odd that they only ‘reward’ you with this weapon when you’ve completed a single play-through of the game, as unless you really really love mindless shooting, I doubt you’ll be replaying it again any time soon.
Two extra modes are available without having to finish the game, one called Infestation and another called Ruin Mode. Both of these are virtually pointless additions to the game, the first is simply an extra opportunity to blast wave after wave of aliens again, but in a single level at a time. Oh what fun! The second is even more fun, as you just go around shooting the destructible environment. If you want you can make it a challenge and have to destroy a certain amount before the timer is up, which at least gives some kind of reason to play it.
Performance/Reliability and Save System
I have to say, I am impressed with this game in one way. I have encountered zero bugs, zero glitches of any sort. It ran flawlessly, and the frame-rate was always smooth and fluid. It helps of course, being a Steam game, as it is auto updated as soon as you install, so perhaps if there were any issues at launch, I certainly wouldn’t even get the chance to experience them with Steam looking after things. As for save games, well, a little disappointment here. It has no quick saves, which is annoying, so you have to save using the menu system, which while fairly easy to navigate, adds a few clicks more than needed. The issue I have is that even saving manually, it doesn’t put you out at the exact place you saved at; effectively meaning you only ever get to save at whatever the checkpoint auto save system saves at anyway. I think all that it saves is any additional stat information, which to me, is quite useless. It is therefore pretty much a checkpoint system, but thankfully, there is very little replay required if you do die, so it is no big deal at all.
So then, how to evaluate a game that I have trashed quite a lot over the course of this review? Well, I can start by saying that, despite the game being little more than a 3D version of Space Invaders with some fancy gimmicks; it does at least do things competently, just in an overly repetitive, been-there-before, basic, almost ‘retro’ way. I have likened it to Serious Sam, and I do believe that is the best comparison I can think of, because the last Serious Sam 2 game I played was similar in some concepts, in that some things were destructible, and there are waves of enemies coming towards you. In fact, throughout the game, you talk to an AI called Sam, so that’s another similarity! But while Serious Sam has a bit of humour to fall back on, this game doesn’t (apart from the Pony).
The story, while being weak, and including Mars–sized plot holes, does at least link things together, and the game-play, while being mindless shooting, is just about interesting enough to keep you going. At no point was I given much time to think about it not being that good, because there is always something to shoot at!
At the games heart is the destructible physics that is the only real thing holding the game together from getting a really mediocre score. Without that, I would be placing the game under 50% for sure. I have to think back to Blacksite this time last year when I played and reviewed it. Looking back on that game, and putting things in perspective, I can say that this game does a least feel like a polished game. People say you can’t polish a turd, but these guys managed it! It does what it says on the tin, you can shoot stuff, they shoot back, it has a start, a middle and an end that link together, and it is stable and lag-free all the way through. It ticks all the boxes basically. But let me put it like this – take a car, an old Lada for example. It’s a car, it can turn in different directions, it can go forwards and back, it can carry passengers and has space for luggage. You can do your weekly shop in it, and it works. But despite all that, pretty much any other car out there has so much more to offer, even if looking at it from a basic level, it is still only doing those same things. This game is like that Lada. You can play it, you might even like it, but it certainly isn’t a Ferrari.
Save System: 3/5
Arbitrary Final Score:
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Does this game leave you more Red Faced? Let us know in the forum!