2011 Retrospective: Red Faction Armageddon - September 4th 2011

Hands up: who thought Halo's Flood levels were a good idea? Just the tentacle at the back?

See, the Flood levels were rubbish, unless you like repeating metal corridors, claustrophobia and AI-less enemies endlessly coming out of the Goddamn walls. Bungie are geniuses, but their hard work was almost undone by a simple misjudgement in design. In Red Faction: Armageddon, developers Volition have a six-hour Flood level of their very own.

Their decision to pluck the son of Red Faction: Guerrilla's rebel leader Alec Mason, Darius, from a sprawling Martian surface and plonk him deep, deep underground is an idea so bad it ranks alongside The Matrix Reloaded's Architect, Peter Molyneux downing Red Bulls before sending out the press releases for every game he's ever made and, yes, those Flood levels.

Generic alien creatures? Check.

But it's easy to see the thinking behind it. No-one does destruction like Volition, every structure built from the ground up to be sent crashing back down. It's a step above DICE's impressive but restrictive Frostbite engine; knock out a house's load-bearing pillar in Geomod 2.0 and the whole thing will collapse under its own weight, landlords be damned.

The engine is beautiful, but man is it CPU intensive. There's a reason Guerrilla was as sparse as it was; you get the feeling if anything so much as foliage was added your console would explode. So, with baited breath we go interplanetarily spelunking, and while the dense and winding passageways facilitate blind mayhem - you're even given powers of instantaneous repair lest you knock out a staircase and stump your progress, which is a common occurrence - it's not the most interesting place in the Solar System.

There's fantastic potential in the concept. Ancient caverns lined with glowing pink stalactites look brilliantly otherworldly, and the neon colours of your Nano Rifle (dissolves whatever you're aiming at), Magnet Gun (kills with the laws of attraction) and Singularity Cannon (fires black holes) illuminate the darkness. The framerate, beguilingly smooth, also benefits from the new setting, which miraculously holds together even during your infrequent trips to the surface.

The destruction is pretty cool.

The change simply wasn't worth it. Completely linear, all too often are you tasked with clearing an area of unmemorable, kamikaze alien masses. Sound familiar to a certain Halo level? Combat was never Red Faction's strong point (neither, apparently, is their enemy design). More traditional missions to bring down bridges and facilities are enjoyable as ever, especially using upgraded Nano powers and the brute force of a mech, but your quarters are often too close, stifling fun and freedom.

Ben Griffin



You can destroy anything - except, crucially, cave walls.


Guns sound devastating, but the sound track is largely forgettable.


The best of both worlds - dark and moody caves illuminated by flashes of greens and purples.


Absolutely nothing to do after a 6-hour campaign, besides hollow time trials.


Final Score:

Altogether more straightforward than its predecessor, altogether less fun, Red Faction: Armageddon looks at everything that made Guerrilla great and throws it down a mineshaft.


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