RED FACTION: ARMAGEDDON / THQ / PC
Red Faction: Armageddon is yet another game that I strongly suspect was slapped together under the total creative direction of a marketing department. I further get the sense that THQ had no idea what to do with the franchise at this point; the first game was a combo Half-Life/Goldeneye knockoff that wasn't bad, and the second game was an odd (but apparently compelling) adaptation of the Saint's Row engine into an open-world sandbox game. Rather than build on either of these successes of the past, apparently the Generic Marketeers
cruised in and said "What's hot with the kids these days? Bald space marines? That Dead Space with the jumpy aliens? Linear corridor shooters? Yeah, make it all that, it'll sell more ... and yeah I guess you can do some of that Geomod destructible terrain crap, just don't make it too expensive."
So we get a bald space marine in a linear corridor shooter. On Mars. After an introductory level that somewhat harkens back to the first Red Faction by having you fight the personal army of Ultimo Dragon, we spend most of the rest of the game in DeadSpaceLand. The Ultimo Dragon Army is a terrorist group that wants to destroy one of those magical terraforming machines that makes Mars a pleasant place to live ("Throw in some Total Recall too. The age 30-35 demo eats it up."). They succeed, mostly thanks to your character's incredible scripted ineptitude, and then his further ineptitude in the second mission unleashes the Plague of Space Pirate Crab People
, which you spend the rest of the game plowing through. On a quest to fix the terraformer using your magical bracelet that repairs anything instantly. Which you had back when the terrorists blew it up in the first place, search me why you didn't just do it then. Anyway, apparently the Moneyball statistics programs the Marketeers run also indicated to them that More Bald = More Sales, as every male character is for some reason a bald dude with a neckerchief. It's full of the cliched military jargon of the Call of Dudebro manner, beefy dudes barking SIT REP and GET MOVING SOLDIER and FUBAR and all that at each other. Your character Darius does nothing to help any of this; he's clearly Nathan Drake, but with even more generic sarcastic quips at the ready for every possible situation.
GeoMod has been significantly nerfed here. Only certain things in your direct path can be smashed up, and they tend to stand out and be repetitive re-used resources like tall towers (with convenient explosive barrels always stationed inexplicably at the base
. There's very rarely any strategic reason to do so, unless the game absolutely requires you to do it to proceed. More often than not you just end up tearing holes in a floor that you later fall through whilst in the middle of the game's constant ultra-spazzy firefights. The prime focus of it is using your magic bracelet to repair cover that just fell apart because an alien farted on it; this is almost an entirely useless technique except in the few scripted sequences where the game forces you into using it.
That makes for a nice transition to the gameplay style, so let's talk about that next. The shooting action in this game is basically the video game equivalent of those shaky-cam action sequences that have been so popular with lazy directors and cheap studios in cinema in the last decade or so. The team was obviously under orders to "make it like Dead Space" ... but they couldn't figure out how to *balance* it like Dead Space, since Volition seems to only understand how to create challenge via psychic bullet-sponge enemies that charge you mindlessly and spawn in incredible masses these days. The compromise, in this case, was to simply make the main character a ridiculous tank with the standard Dudebro unseen self-refreshing health bar. The result is a sharp and terrible difficulty divide - play the game on Normal or below and it's a total joke, play it on Hard or above and it's next to impossible.
Volition seems to be stuck in this rut of doing fairly satisfying gunplay and making good-looking colorful game worlds, but not really getting how to do anything else all that well. Even the gunplay suffers in this one due to the insistence on clumsily replicating Dead Space.