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Red Faction: Armageddon Review

publisher: THQ
developer: Volition, Inc.
genre: Shooters

ESRB rating: M

release date: Jun 07, 11
» All About Red Faction: Armageddon on ActionTrip

This is a hard review to write, because I am essentially reviewing vanilla ice cream. What does vanilla taste like? I find this to be ineffable. Vanilla as a concept cannot be broken down any further than just calling it sweet, and yet vanilla is not just sweet, it's vanilla. Sure, vanilla isn't the most exciting of flavors, but still I'm getting to eat ice cream, so that's nice. Except I hate ice cream. Sometimes people try to spice up vanilla ice cream by making it be "French vanilla" or "vanilla bean." If you're lucky enough to have never made the poor choice of eating either of these flavors of ice cream, vanilla bean has chunks of black glass in it, and French vanilla has spunk in it. Why do you think they call it "French" vanilla?

The last time I played a Red Faction game was the original, which I borrowed from a friend over a long weekend. The "Geo-mod" destructible terrain was a novelty, but without a sufficient physics engine it was prone to quirks like thirty-ton reverse stalagmites. Apart from this one feature, Red Faction was a completely generic and entirely unremarkable shooter. Since I haven't played any of the games in the decade plus interim I cannot speak to what those games were like, but Red Faction: Armageddon feels exactly like the original Red Faction, just running on newer praxis (but I stress, not the newest praxis). It is a generic shooter experience with the same gimmick with the same immersion-shearing flaw.

The story for this game guillotines itself in the prologue by introducing a plot that in no way makes any sense. A group of terrorists want to destroy the terraformer on Mars. These terrorists have already captured the terraformer, they just haven't destroyed it yet. Somehow this is causing crazy lightning storms because this terraformer runs on magic. The lightning acts in collusion with the terrorists and shoots at your convoy, and unlike cars today, in the future cars will explode if struck by a bolt of lightning. Naturally the player character is thrown to safety at the bottom of canyon.

Everyone makes a big deal about the fact that your last name is Mason, and I'm inferring that some previous Mason was a community builder. Ha. Ha. You wake up at the bottom of a canyon and then this computer voice starts talking to you from inside your head. Instead of drinking a fifth of whiskey and chain smoking until on fire, like I do to make the voices in my head go away, Mason decides to start talking to this voice, which is usually a bad idea because there is no way a kite can get into outer space, no matter how big it is. Ahem. This computer has a somewhat feminine sounding voice, and a name that is an acronym, because computers can only have names that are acronyms, so they'll know they're not human and don't have any rights. Thus starts a brief bit where you get to kill cultists, who wear the most retarded armor in the world. This was pretty generic, until at one point some guy came running at me with a rocket launcher. Now, in other game I would have just ducked behind some cover, and I did, but the rocket destroyed the cover I was hiding behind. "Wow! That's neat!" I said to myself. Then I shot the dude, and the novelty had passed.

After shooting a bunch of terrorists, you fuck up (well, you get fission mailed is more like it), and the terraformer is destroyed anyways. Well, it doesn't actually explode or anything, just some blue lights happen. You're still in the thing when it gets destroyed, so obviously it stays in one piece. I don't know why they can't fix it. Or get a new one. Obviously there was a time when Mars had no atmosphere and they still managed to build the damn thing, so they can do it again, right? No, they can't because this terraformer is powered by magic and magic only works at the convenience of the plot.

Then you go into a bunch of caves and shoot bugs for a long time. Personally, I like shooting people in video games. I don't like space bugs as an enemy because they're all just crap knock-offs of the xenomorph from Alien franchise. It gets pretty boring after a while. You cause a lot of destruction, but eventually it all just kind of blurs together. Then the problems start to show.

The biggest problem with having damage modeling that changes and alters the environment in ANY game, is that at a certain point it hits a limit by having an object or surface that cannot be destroyed, and the entire illusion is gone. The suspension of disbelief vanishes in an instant, and suddenly, the player is reminded how impotent they really are. In Red Faction Armageddon, this happens as soon as you attempt to destroy something that isn't man made. Martian rocks, perhaps due to their high iron content are immune to high explosives, plasma beams, weapons that break the law of conservation of mass, having large heavy objects thrown at them, and singularities that explode.

Speaking of which, if you're going to have a gun that shoot black holes, then it really should be a weapon of mass destruction. The singularity gun is laughably underpowered for what it is as a concept, and the first time you fire it, you'll realize how limited the damage modeling is. You'll hear the weeping of baby angels (cherubs for the literate), or maybe that's just me. I hear that a lot.

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6.2   Above Average 

Mindlessly fun for brief stretches of time, damage modeling is still well beyond probably any other series;

Damage gimmick isn't nearly what you'll want it to be, largely uninspired, a step back for the series from the last title.


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