Red Faction: Armageddon single-player hands-on

Our Red Faction: Armageddon preview takes a long look at the single-player campaign that ditches the sandbox approach of its predecessor in favor of a tighter focus.

Red Faction: Armageddon is just over a month away from release. Based on a few hours I spent playing Armageddon's single-player component, my recent impressions of the game's multiplayer components were just the tip of the iceberg. It feels like Volition aims to deliver a much more focused, story-driven single-player experience than was available in the preceding chapter, Red Faction: Guerrilla. Guerrilla took gamers to a future version of Mars where miners united to form "Red Faction," and fight oppression at the hands of their corporate overlords, the Earth Defense Force (EDF). Armageddon takes place fifty years later with players assuming the role of Darius Mason, grandson of Guerrilla's protagonist, Alec Mason. Though this latest Red Faction is still set on Mars, much of the action will take place in a network of caves below the planet's surface thanks to the destruction of the terraforming machinery that once made the planet's atmosphere safe. On top of it all, an infestation of alien creatures is making survival that much more difficult. One of the first things that struck me about Armageddon was the shift away from its predecessor's particular style of sandbox design. Gone is the Grand Theft Auto-style open-world mission structure. Instead, Armageddon always gives Daruis a specific plot-related objective to complete. Although mission selection may no longer be left up to the player, the objectives themselves are varied. The upshot is that the player is never left wondering what he should be doing at any given moment, and that the objectives he's accomplishing are always driving the story forward. An escort mission could transition into sweeping-and-clearing a cave full of enemies or repairing damaged generators to restore power to a bridge. Furthermore, each area of Armageddon is its own mini-sandbox, and the series' trademark penchant for destruction is still available in spades, albeit on a more focused scale. Though the caves create an enclosed space, most of the underground areas I saw were plenty large enough for towers, raised walkways, and buildings that could all be deliciously demolished. Speaking of demolition, the twelve mostly over-the-top weapons that I got to play around with were quite varied and all seemed to have their own best uses. Up to four weapons can be equipped at any given time via weapons stations, and they can also be switched out for others found on the battlefield. A handful of the weapons will be familiar to those who've played Guerrilla--like the giant hammer called the Maul, assault rifles, shotguns, and rocket launchers--but there are some pleasant surprises, too. The magnet gun, for example, lets players tag two targets (structures or enemies, or a combination), and then watch as those targets are rapidly pulled together. It's an especially effective tool for bringing down buildings or flinging a large alien around in order to save ammo. As the player accrues experience, it can be spent to upgrade a large tree of abilities ranging from faster reload times and upgraded health to damage perks. There are also a handful of special abilities that Darius can earn and upgrade. For instance, Shockwave slows enemies to a crawl for a few seconds, the Berserk ability temporarily increases firepower, and Shell creates a dome-like shield made of nanites that repels enemy fire and eats up any enemies that enter its radius. The abilities are fun to use and can be quite handy in turning the tide of a firefight. Perhaps one of the most interesting additions in Armageddon is Darius' ability to repair destroyed structures using nanotechnology. By simply aiming and holding down a button, everything from the smallest catwalk to the largest building can be restored to an undamaged state. Obvious applications include things like the aforementioned generator-repair, but it's also a handy tool for reconstructing the walkway to your next objective after a particularly destructive shootout.

Fire in the hole!

Soldiering along on-foot can sometimes be a bit challenging, due largely to the fast-moving, projectile-firing aliens. Donning an Exo-Suit, basically an armored mech equipped with infinite rockets and machine guns, turns Daruis into a walking tank. The suit can be entered and exited at any time, and makes quick work of anything in its path. As I played through a couple hours worth of Armageddon's early missions, I began to wonder if Daruis' journey would ever take him back to the surface of Mars. Just when I was reaching my limit of dark caverns, my concern was laid to rest as Darius headed to the surface to join Red Faction soldiers in repelling a huge alien attack. The battle on the surface was bigger than any I'd previously encountered, featuring new enemies that were several stories tall. Another drivable vehicle (of alien origin) also appeared in this section. Up until the time I had to put the controller down, Armageddon continued to mix things up with fresh enemies, weapons, locations, and even a vehicle or two. If you liked bringing down huge buildings in Red Faction: Guerrilla, but were left a little cold by the thin storyline, somewhat generic enemies, and loose structure, Red Faction: Armageddon is a game you're going to want to keep an eye on. From what I can tell so far, Volition seems to be focusing on significantly improving those areas without neglecting the player-controlled destruction that made Guerrilla so fun in the first place. Red Faction: Armageddon is coming to Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC on May 31, 2011.
From The Chatty
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    April 25, 2011 1:00 PM

    Jeff Mattas posted a new article, Red Faction: Armageddon single-player hands-on.

    Our Red Faction: Armageddon preview takes a long look at the single-player campaign that ditches the sandbox approach of its predecessor in favor of a tighter focus.

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      April 25, 2011 1:29 PM

      Cool. I really enjoyed the first, but think I would probalby like how this one is more focuses.

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        April 26, 2011 1:12 AM

        the first Red Faction? I'm sure you enjoyed that

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          April 26, 2011 1:29 AM

          Step 1: Put C4 on enemy.
          Step 2: lol.
          Step 3: Use flamer on said enemy.
          Step 4: lol
          Step 5: * Click *
          Step 6: lol

          Red Faction 1 was fun.

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            April 26, 2011 2:51 AM

            i liked the rifle that could see through walls

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              April 26, 2011 5:21 AM

              "You've just been erased."

              One of my favorite FPS weapons.

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      April 25, 2011 2:27 PM

      Is there any info about technical improvements to physics, (PC) performance etc.?

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      April 25, 2011 2:40 PM

      RF: Guerrilla was my 2009 GOTY... I'm not very enthusiastic about this new direction at all :(

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        April 25, 2011 2:52 PM

        I enjoyed Guerrilla. Would've liked to do it in coop, going on missions together etc. The game would've been suited very well for that kind of thing. Just think of the possibilities with driving, gunning, approaching buildings together or apart with different weapons, going for different upgrades to make your respective characters unique etc.

        I miss long co-op experiences that aren't "designed"/streamlined. Even if you have to plan for it, save games and do it in several sessions. Doesn't have to be a full Baldur's Gate 2 co-op run but something.

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          April 25, 2011 2:53 PM

          As unpolished of a game as it was, Mercenaries 2 was awesome for just those reasons.

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        April 26, 2011 2:04 AM

        I'm with you on this one. It has become generic corridor shooter 2011.

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      April 26, 2011 1:27 AM

      I wasn't looking forward to this because of the regression away from sandbox style gameplay, but then I watched a developer video on it and it looked like Red Faction meets Epic Mickey (where you can destroy and recreate anything) and now I'm right back to being interested again.

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      April 27, 2011 7:02 PM

      why the hell does that guy look so much like cole from infamous...........

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