Anyone familiar with THQ and Volition’s ten-year-old Red Faction franchise will know that the one thing it’s synonymous with is destruction. The awesome Geo-Mod technology brought something genuinely new to the industry back in 2001, and it’s a theme Volition have maintained throughout the series. In Red Faction: Armageddon, however, reconstruction is just as important…
Set in the year 2170, Armageddon takes place fifty years after the events of Red Faction: Guerilla and ten years after a rogue meteor smashed into Mars and destroyed the huge terraforming machine that was making the air breathable – an event which forced the survivors underground. The storyline introduces us to Darius Mason, grandson of previous protagonist Alex Mason and the feisty freedom-fighter Samanya. Having liberated Mars from the tyrannical Earth Defence Force, Alex and Samanya are now regarded as folk heroes by the people of the red planet – a legacy which Darius is keen to grow away from.
Instead, he has become quite the businessman, employing miners, mercenaries and scavengers to earn him a pretty penny in the subterranean city of Bastion. These days, the only people brave, greedy or stupid enough to venture to the storm-ravaged, uninhabitable Martian surface are Marauders, smugglers and scavengers, and Darius makes a lucrative living dealing with all three.
However, the brown stuff hits the fan when he allows a Marauder priest to trick him into opening a sealed vault below an abandoned temple, inadvertently unleashing an ancient alien menace that has lain dormant for centuries. Pretty soon, Bastion is being overrun by giant creepy-crawlies and everyone is understandably pissed off with Darius. With the whole planet against him on one side and a horde of savage alien nasties on the other, he has no choice but to embrace his heritage and turn to the Red Faction in order to redeem himself and save Mars.
The change of location from overground to underground notwithstanding, the biggest difference between this game and Guerrilla is that Volition have chosen to do away with the freeform, open-world progression. The narrative is more focused now, following a set path and allowing for a much more intricate and intense plot. The onus will still be on liberating Mars, but instead of dealing with the faceless EDF you’ll now be rescuing cocooned colonists from giant bugs and retaking key fortifications from Marauder cultists.
But enough about the plot, back to the last statement of that opening paragraph… For the first time in the series, building things will be as important as tearing them down – and just as great to look at. It’s all thanks to a little device called the Nano Forge, a wrist-mounted trinket that allows Darius to rebuild anything previously destroyed, from fallen bridges and crumbled buildings to little three-foot walls for him to hide behind. The game has to be seen in play to truly appreciate the tactical options of such technology, but it’s essentially possible to knock down and rebuild the gameworld as you see fit.
Another gem added to the arsenal is the Magnet Gun. Producer Jim Boone calls this the game’s “signature weapon”, a “deceptively simple concept: Darius fires the gun at one object, then at a second object, and then the first object rockets towards the second”. To be honest, anything that lets you tear off the side of a building and ram it foundations-first into an alien’s face gets my vote. Favourites from the previous game will also return, including the Nano Rifle and the Singularity Bomb – and, of course, the famous sledgehammer.
The screens and vids released so far show some fairly impressive graphics, though in practice the game will probably look a little rough around the edges. But then, so much of the engine is poured into letting you smash buildings down with a sixty-pound hammer that a little graphical fuzz is to be expected. And besides, most of the gameworld won’t last long enough for you to pick out blemishes anyway.
Promising upgradable weapons, armour and gadgets, a co-operative multiplayer mode following the “Horde” template and a freestyle destruction mode purely designed for you to reduce every single thing to dust for points, Armageddon looks set to continue the series’ high quality record with another dose of rousing freedom-fighting and childishly-gleeful annihilation. The alien invasion angle and streamlined narrative can only add the kind of atmosphere and direction that many people felt were missing from Guerilla, and the change of location will alleviate any fears that this game might be as relentlessly reddish-brown as the last.
Red Faction: Armageddon is scheduled for release on June 3rd.