As a child, the only thing more fun than building something out of wooden blocks was when you knocked over the pile with a loud CRASH! It’s also the appeal of Red Faction: Armageddon, in which the considerable fun is all about construction and destruction.
A sequel to 2009’s Red Faction: Guerilla, this sci-fi shooter begins with a terrorist attack that renders the surface of Mars largely uninhabitable, driving you and your fellow colonists below ground. Where, of course, you find peace and prosperity and absolutely no insect-looking creatures who’d like to eat your face.
At its core, Armageddon is a typical third-person shooter with familiar-feeling controls, save for the option to snap to a target when you pull up iron sights. But while you have the usual assortment of shotguns, machine guns, and pistols—as well as a sledgehammer that’s useless in combat, thanks to the jumpy nature of your enemies—you also have some armaments that would make that eclectic weaponsmith Ratchet jealous. The Nano Rifle shoots nanobots that eat away at an object or enemy like acid, while the Singularity Cannon creates mini black holes. Then there’s the Magnet Gun, which lets you attach one bolt to something (building, enemy, etc) and a second bolt to something else, and then watch as the second thing is quickly pulled towards the first.
In a normal shooter, these weapons might seem unnecessarily sadistic. But in Armageddon, they’re rather handy. Much of the world is destructible, so you can use the Nano Rifle to bring a building down upon an enemy, or use the Magnet Gun to send a support beam flying into their face. Or, in fact, vice versa. This is especially essential when fighting bigger enemies, against whom your piddling pistols are no match.
Such crazy weapons and destructible environments aren’t anything we haven’t seen before, of course. But Armageddon also builds as well as it destroys with the Nano Forge, which—besides sending out a shockwave or creating a shield—deploys nanobots that repair damaged objects like a big “Undo” button. This is especially handy because it means you can go all willy nilly with your guns without having to worry that you’ll break something important.
And therein lies both the appeal and the problem with Armageddon. Much like Bulletstorm, this is a solid but unremarkable game if you just play it straight. But if you embrace what makes this unique—if you go all willy nilly with the Nano Rifle or the Magnet Gun, and destroy the crap out of everything—then you’ll have a blast with it.
Armageddon is also, oddly, a bit of a pushover. Between the abundant ammo, the (optional) auto-targeting, and the one-shot kills on smaller enemies provided by the shotgun and Nano Rifle, the “Normal” difficultly is rather easy sometimes. Thankfully, the game compensates, somewhat, by giving you lot of targets to deal with, and by having the bug ones crawl all over the place, which allows them to attack you from all angles.
Besides the fun campaign, Armageddon also includes a four-player co-op mode called Infestation that consists of two sub-modes: one where you have to survive waves of angry Martians, and another where you have to survive waves of angry Martians while also protecting some buildings. But while similar modes in other games usually feel like Horde or Horde Lite, the jumpy and attack-from-anywhere nature of the Martians makes this a bit more frantic and intense, and thus more challenging.
In a year with so many shooters, but very few good ones, Armageddon—like Bulletstorm before it—manages to be fun because it has fun with the genre’s building blocks. Well, assuming you have fun with them, too.
The Good: Has the same destructive nature as its predecessor.
The Bad: Is sometimes too easy for serious shooter fans.
The Ugly: Somewhere, Ratchet and Clank are meeting with their lawyers.