As far as I'm concerned, the first game in the "Red Faction" franchise was 2009's "Guerrilla." Yes, I'm well aware that the franchise has existed since 2001, but the initial installments were forgettable shooters, emphasizing the ability to shoot through walls as a reason to drool over a game. "Guerrilla," however, figured it out. "Red Faction" should be about blowing the crap out of the world around you. About watching giant buildings crumble into dust, crushing your enemies beneath them. About leveling cities with a single, well-placed singularity bomb. Although flawed, "Guerrilla" was a blast. "Red Faction: Armageddon," the latest in the series, had such solid footing to work of off, and yet, something happened along the way. The developers seemingly forgot what made their last game so good.
Unlike "Guerrilla," "Red Faction Armageddon" is not an open world game. While there are certain moments which exist in large, hub-like areas, the game is a linear 3rd person shooter that has you going from point A to point B, completing objectives and killing aliens.
Story-wise the game takes place long after the events of "Guerrilla." You play Darius Mason, the grandson of Alex Mason, the savior of Mars. The first level kicks off with an above-ground mission wherein terrorists attack Mars' terraformer, thus creating an uninhabitable surface, forcing everyone to go underground. Flash forward 10 years and Darius is just trying to get by, taking odd jobs as a mining expert. One of those jobs ends up unleashing a bunch of aliens into the underground caves, thus forcing Darius to wipe out the aliens and save the day.
The Destruction Is Back
The most popular feature of "Guerrilla" returns in "Armageddon," which has complete destruction of just about every structure in the game. So long as it's not part of the cave itself, you can probably smash it, leading to some impressive destruction sequences. Some audio and visual improvements make the destruction feel even more dangerous and satisfying than it did in "Guerrilla."
The Magnet Gun
Most of the weapons in "Armageddon" are returning from the last game, but the magnet gun is completely new. Fire one shot into an object and the second shot you fire will send the first object flying directly at that point. Ever wonder what would happen if you shot the first floor of a building straight up into the roof? Now you can! Adding to the magnet gun's enjoyment is the repair function, which lets you rebuild any damage you've caused by simply holding down a trigger button. Think of it like a big Undo button.
Caves, Caves And More Caves
The first half of "Armageddon" is nothing short of a slog. After a brief prologue level that hints of the grand, open scale of "Guerrilla," the game plunges into hours and hours of narrow cave passageways. Not only do the caves look visually identical to one another (to the point where you feel like you're going in circles...but you're not), but they also hinder the game's biggest strong point: the destruction. Since you're surrounded by indestructible rock, you're forced to decimate occasional underground buildings and bunkers, usually for no reason whatsoever. You never really get that same feeling of power that comes from being a tiny dude causing massive destruction because you're constantly surrounded by caves that prevent you from doing real damage.
There is, however, a mode called Ruin which is dedicated to doing just that across a series of larger arenas...but if the developers knew enough to include that, why not make it more a part of the main story?
Where'd All The People Go?
In addition to all the caves, 95% of the enemies you fight in "Armageddon" are aliens. The problem with these aliens is that you can't really have fun with them. They hop around, cling to the ceilings, take potshots at you, and all you can really do is shoot them. There are two sequences in the entire game where you fight humans and both sections were far more engaging because you can actually use tactics against them. For example, you can collapse the building they're sniping you from, or rip the cover out from under them. The aliens, on the other hand, are far too difficult to plan for, which results in unsatisfying, mindless shooter gameplay.
Remember those aliens that aren't very much fun to fight? Well, good news! The entire multiplayer portion of the game is dedicated to fighting them! Instead of the deep multiplayer experience of "Guerrilla," Volition opted for a Horde mode with you and three other friends killing wave after wave of aliens. After 5 waves, I could hardly keep my eyes open.
The first half of "Armageddon" is a mostly boring slog, but things do pick up in the second half. There are a series of vehicle missions both above and below ground that do hint at the open world greatness of "Guerrilla." But those are not enough to make the entire experience worthwhile. Instead of a clever, technology-laden open world game, Volition has transformed "Red Faction" back into a mindless, forgettable shooter. Here's hoping they right the ship for the next release.