Red Faction: Armageddon preview – singleplayer and ruin mode
Mars is once again in chaos, 50 years after Alec Mason united with the Marauders in Red Faction: Guerrilla to liberate its people from the tyranny of the EDF. This time a cataclysmic event has rendered the surface uninhabitable, forcing everyone to relocate underground. Clearly there are evil people behind this.
Armageddon’s hero is Darius Mason, the grandson of Alec from Guerrilla. He’s an unlikely hero at that – he’s actually responsible for Mars’ latest catastrophe. He is unwittingly tricked into unleashing a “secret evil” (read: a plague of aliens) from deep beneath the planet’s surface by Adam Hale – Armageddon’s scheming bad guy and leader of the cultist movement. It’s a monumental balls-up, and Darius now faces a difficult task in clearing his name and saving Mars.
We begin our hands-on session on the run from a group of locals, who want Darius’ head on a platter. It starts with a cinematic intro, which sees Darius free running through an underground market town, before escaping down a manhole in dramatic fashion. It’s an adrenaline-pumping scene, which leaves us ready for a barrage of action.
We are right to expect as much. It’s not so much the armed and angry local militia who we have to worry about; instead it’s the aliens lurking down that manhole, and there’s no shortage of them. They move quickly, hang from the ceiling and hunt in packs. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but most of the ones we’re seeing are sinewy, bony and nimble. They either have a neon green or red glow about them, which makes them look more sinister. They aren’t pretty, but they are fun to kill.
Their inclusion exemplifies Armageddon’s shift away from Guerrilla’s more slower paced gameplay towards something unashamedly action packed. You won’t spend ages travelling across the Red Planet before finding something to blow up. The action is focussed; there isn’t a moment’s rest.
That’s not to say Red Faction is now a dull corridor shooter. We may be relentlessly mowing down tens, maybe hundreds, of aliens, but it doesn’t feel repetitive. This is all down to Geo-Mod 2.0, the latest variation of Volition’s incredible in-house engine. With Geo-Mod, you can pull apart and blow to pieces just about everything in the environment, aside from the cavern walls. This includes pillars, buildings, bridges – you name it. Fire a rocket at it and it will smash to pieces.
We are using the environment to do most of our killing, which is easy with Armageddon’s signature weapon, the magnet gun. Fire two magnets at two targets and the first magnet will go hurtling towards the second, along with whatever object it is attached to. What happens when you attach a magnet to a massive rock pillar and the second to that bastard alien who has been giving you hell? That’s right, the alien goes splat, and so does its nearby mates. Lovely.
The magnet gun is one of the most enjoyable weapons we’ve ever used, ever. It allows for expression and sheer catastrophe from one sweet move. All the same, it’s not the only weapon in the game. Darius is also equipped with the usual pistols, assault rifles and shotguns, but there’s also many other exciting weapons, such as the pulse beam and pulse grenade launcher – both limb severing delights.
In addition to the weapons, we’re also finding Darius’ Nano Forge abilities deliciously useful. Nano Forge is a special power used for attacking and repairing. One we’re using to send out a brutal wave to kill and knock over aliens; another allows us to repair the damage we’re doing to the environment. Fans of Guerrilla’s multiplayer should recognise the repair ability.
Destruction may be king in Armageddon, and you’re depriving yourself if you don’t take full advantage of the possibilities. However, when playing in a tunnel, it is very easy to get excited and end up blocking your own path, especially when armed to the teeth with powerful weapons. This is no longer an issue because of the repair move. With one swift button press Darius will miraculously fix the structure, even if it’s in ashes – it’s just like magic.
The repair tool is in some ways Armageddon’s best tool. The reason being that it makes it possible for you to play without inhibitions. Without it, you’d have to be very careful with where you are firing for fear of blocking a crucial path. You would end up avoiding all heavy weaponry. The ability to repair means that you can go in and have as much fun as possible, which is Volition’s aim.
And fun it is. Our only concern at this stage for Armageddon is that this level is worryingly linear – it is just one long corridor. We get some variation halfway through when we find a mech suit. But despite being equipped with missiles and having the ability to barge through walls – both of which are very cool – using it feels laborious. It’s made worse by the fact that it barely fits through some of the corridors. It offers a fun five minute thrill, but it’s not nearly as fun as being on foot playing with the magnet gun.
Nevertheless, we are confident that linearity will not be an issue when it comes to the final game. Volition has already promised more variation. At the end of this level, we step out onto Mars’ famous red sand, and surely, this will lead us onto a more open level. Later levels will see Darius tackling magma rivers and ice caves – s it isn’t all dark and disorientating caves.
Armageddon is looking very promising at this stage; the action epic approach feels right. By making everything more focussed, Volition is giving the player more opportunities to enjoy Geo-Mod’s destruction capabilities than Guerrilla ever did. This can only be a good thing.
Note how we said the player, rather than Volition? The reason being that all the damage is player-made, few events are scripted – this is the beauty of Red Faction. It’s what you, the player, wants to make of it, so there’s no reasons why every game couldn’t feel different. Roll on June.
We also had a chance to play Armageddon’s recently announced Ruin Mode, an evolution of Wrecking Crew from Guerrilla. This is Volition’s destruction mode for people who just want to take full advantage of Geo-Mod’s destruction capabilities without narrative distractions or having aliens to worry about.
We love destroying things, so this mode is right up our alley. There are at least five Ruin Mode maps, but for our preview session, we sampled Junction. Junction is set on the surface of Mars, in an area that looks like it’s used for mining. We had two minutes to cause as much chaos as we could, but before we started we had to equip our weapons of choice – the magnet gun lead the way.
The first thing we did was fire a magnet at the wall blocking our path, sending it flying towards the pillar behind it to the right. What happened next was a thing of beauty: down came the towering pillar into the pillar behind it, which then collapsed into the pillar behind that. We then sent a large oil drum flying towards the large building to our left, which collapsed in style (thanks to the chain reaction caused by the oil drums around and inside blowing up). We then brought out another of Armageddon’s awesome weapons, the plasma beam. This sent out a melting hot beam of plasma, which cut through everything like cheese. With it, we took out the pillars in the distance.
While all this destruction was happening, we were seeing our points tally jump by the thousands and then into the millions. Once all the accumulators had kicked in, we were on twenty million points. Exhilarating. The only disappointment was that our time had ran out.
We were playing Ruin Mode in a packed room; so much of our fun came from seeing the scores from the person next to us come in as they happened, and then trying to beat them. It’s unlikely we’ll get the same buzz from playing Ruin Mode alone at home, even though there are global leaderboards. Nevertheless, Ruin Mode is great fun, especially if you always aspired to join a demolition crew.