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Set 50 years after the events of Red Faction: Guerrilla, Armageddon depicts a very different Mars to the one we know from the previous game. This is a Mars gone wrong, the disrupted terra-forming process rendering the surface of the planet largely uninhabitable. As you would perhaps expect, people have taken to living underground in a series of vast, maze-like cave networks.
That’s the brief back-story summary taken care of, this is what we played…
Our hands-on segment takes place roughly a third of the way through the game. We play as Darius Mason (grandson of Guerrilla’s Alec Mason), a sturdy bald guy that has recently awoken an ‘ancient evil’ from the depths of Mars which now threatens the planet’s populace. Needless to say, he’s not the most popular guy on the block.
The campaign mission we’re let loose on opens with a cut-scene showing Mason high-tailing it through the cave system from an angry guy with a gun that goes by the name MacMahon. Eventually, Mason makes it to a sewer system and loses his pursuer, this is where we take control. Before venturing into the level proper, the first thing I did was have a bit of a play with my available weaponry (not that kind of weaponry).
Accompanying the usual menu of shotgun, assault rifle and pistol is a rather wonderful new toy, the ’Magnet Gun’. Unimaginatively named, but oh so imaginatively constructed, the Magnet Gun is an absolute joy to mess around with. It fires sticky, magnetic prongs which attract towards each other and can be used (with devastating effect) to manipulate your environment. Red Faction has been synonymous with destructive environments since its earliest beginnings but the Magnet Gun takes it to a new plateau.
For example, fire one prong into the floor and another into the ceiling and watch as the two fly towards each other, crumbling in mid-air. Or, shoot a magnet into a large, red generator (or something that looks as equally likely to explode) and another into a doorway and watch as the resulting explosion turns everything to rubble – blocking any would be pursuers in their tracks. It’s a great toy and, given another hour or two, I’m sure it’s possible to make use of it in ways I can’t imagine right now.
Thankfully, this destructive tool is counterbalanced by an equally robust repair tool. The ‘Nano Forge’ can be used to re-construct any damage you’ve done at the press of a button; simply aim, shoot and watch as the environment magically returns to its original state. After a ten-minute destruction spree with the Magnet Gun (whereby I’d destroyed the one and only stairwell that would take me to my desired destination) the Nano Forge proved rather useful and, in a game that encourages you to manipulate your surroundings, it will likely prove useful throughout the length of the campaign.
Progressing through the sewers soon brings us face-to-face with the aforementioned ‘ancient evil’. These take various forms, the most common of which is a tall, quick, spikey fellow that comes in either dark red or electric blue and bears a slight resemblance to Dead Space’s Necormorphs. These guys are difficult to hit due to their speed and ability to cling to surfaces (be it rock faces, walls or ceilings), the fact that they attack in packs also adds a little extra spice.
A couple of blasts with the shotgun will dispatch them but, why use standard ordnance when you can manipulate gravity itself? One magnet in a large, overhead industrial pipe, one magnet in the floor and you’ve got yourself Red Faction’s equivalent of dropping an anvil on someone’s head.
Don’t like that tactic? Well, how about a magnet in the cliff-side walkway and another in the rock face below? No ancient evil is going to survive very long without something to stand on.
Still, despite the Magnet Gun’s abilities, Armageddon’s enemies are tough to conquer in the tight confines of the level we played. Nothing in Guerrilla felt as claustrophobic as this and it was often difficult to know where you were getting attacked from. Perhaps because of the enclosed space, the destruction elements felt more severe than they did in Guerrilla as everything was that bit more immediate. Guerrilla allowed to you view the collapse of a building from afar, here it happens all around you.
After taking care of a few of aliens (that’s what I’m calling them from now on), you get a call over your headset from a girl named Kara telling you that you can head through the market and take an elevator to the surface where you’ll be safe from MacMahon.
On my way there I stopped off at an upgrade station and used the ‘salvage’ I’d earned in battle to bling myself up a tad. Along with the standard health increase and recoil reduction, I bought the ‘shockwave’ upgrade which allows me to use the Nano Forge as a weapon by expelling bursts of energy that only harms organic matter; allowing me to inflict pain on enemies without affecting the environment.
Just before I reached the market I walked around a corner to find a mech suit. Yes, a mech suit. As if the Magnet Gun wasn’t firepower enough, I’m given access to a near indestructible exoskeleton sporting infinite homing rocket and machinegun ammo. Good times.
The mech suit proves handy as Kara’s idea to guide you through the market turns out to be a bad one… it’s crawling with aliens. No matter, hold down the machinegun button, fire off a few homing missiles and those aliens are no problem. Your mech suit can also inflict melee attacks on any alien that strays too close as well as pummel itself through walls, meaning you can save time by simply crashing through concrete as opposed to using the doors.
Market navigated, it’s time to take the elevator to the surface. However, there were a couple of final obstacles that stood in my way. The first was a ‘mini-boss’ that looked and moved like the standard aliens but packed even more speed and power as well as a fancy attack that looked as though I was getting shot at by a beam of light. This encounter took place in an area devoid of objects that I could manipulate with the Magnet Gun so it was the shotgun and assault rifle combo that ended that poor sod’s life.
Mini-boss vanquished, big-boss awaits. The big-boss really was a big-boss. Going by the name ‘behemoth’ (at least, my objective read ‘defeat the behemoth’),this angry chap resembled a flaming rhino/elephant that had had a couple of nasty, fire ball shooting plants implanted onto his back. Thankfully, this boss arena was full of walls, canisters, crates and support beams that could be used to bring the pain.
Still, despite toppling what must have been a good few tons of rubble straight onto his head, the big guy took a surprisingly long time to defeat and certainly didn’t go down without landing some good shots of his own. In the end though, the guy with the Magnet Gun was always going to win.
Final thought? I want a Magnet Gun.
Look out for our Red Faction: Armageddon developer interview tomorrow.