Before Monday, I had never been to a press event – nay, never even been to London. Imagine my surprise, then, when I found myself on a first class train to London, drinking free tea and eating free sausages even though I’d already eaten (they’re free). I mean, I arranged and paid for the train myself, I wasn’t abducted, so the surprise wasn’t really that big, and more just an excited humming noise lurking around the back of my head. The free tea might have had something to do with it too (it’s free).
Anyway, it’s now four days later and I’ve been to two press events in that time (not to mention I’ve gotten lost in London, paid £9.50 per drink, £80 for a meal and wanted to remove my own feet from the pain caused by all the walking I had to do). I’m glad, then, that between all the excessive money-spending and foot-butchering, I got to play a couple of not-yet-released games that I was already looking forward to playing. For this particular hands-on, we’ll be focusing on two thirds of my experience with Red Faction Armageddon.
I was a big fan of Red Faction Guerrilla, mostly because I like to blow stuff up over and over again and whilst the single player did get a little dull towards the end, the multiplayer was some of the most fun I’ve had in multiplayer (destructible environments are my favourite thing ever). There’s nothing quite like following someone into a building by bursting through the wall and crushing them with a sledgehammer.[drop]Quite a while ago now I heard that Red Faction Armageddon would be spending an awful lot of time underground, which I wasn’t sure about and, truth be told, I’m still not certain. During my hour or so with Armageddon’s single player I broke down a reasonable amount of scenery, but I didn’t get the same feeling I did when playing Guerrilla because, as far as I can tell, it was all underground. The scenery I was ripping apart wasn’t a whole building, it was the walls erected in caves, and that caused the exhilaration I was used to from Guerrilla to falter.
You might not want to destroy the environment anyway, as you will probably have to walk on that environment in a second, so you’ll have to fix it before you can progress. Fixing it is easy enough, a tap of the left bumper will throw a repair grenade that, obviously, repairs the environment within a certain radius of where it lands. Holding the left bumper will activate the familiar repair gun seen in Guerrilla’s multiplayer. Whilst repairing the environment is easy enough, it’s still a little frustrating to have to perform maintenance before progressing when you just want to carry on playing.
No longer am I bringing down buildings onto the heads of my enemies, but rather shooting and hitting my enemies whilst the scenery around me falls apart. This unexpectedly large change in direction (Guerrilla spent a lot of time specifically telling you to break things) is made all the more obvious with the change in the number of choices available to the player. The wealth of options found in Guerrilla’s mission (‘Hmm, shall I fight my way into the building, sledge through the wall, or just drive through it?’) isn’t here, as the game is no longer set in an open world, so you approach every building from the same direction. Of course, the upside of this is that you don’t have to commute between objectives any more.
Other than the change in direction when compared to the previous game in the series, the game is enjoyable. Action is fast and fluid and made intense due to different types of enemy; such as the smaller thing that scuttles across the floor, or the bugger that sticks to and jumps around walls whilst shooting at you.
Thankfully, you have quite a few interesting guns to take these enemies out with, the most innovative, perhaps, being the magnagun. You probably already know what the magnagun is; shoot once to set what you want to decimate, shoot a second time to pull that first point towards the second. This can result in some awesome moments when you tear entire walls away to crush a group of enemies. Other weapons are covered in the Ruin mode section below…
We also got to play around in an exo-skeleton-type suit, that wasn’t quite the difference in gameplay offered by similar things in Guerrilla, and was more the same as before you got into it, but with rockets and machine guns, being slightly harder to kill and quite a bit taller. It was still quite a bit of fun to play around in, though, and the game didn’t seem to give any particular limitation on when you had to shed your exo-skeleton, either, as I ended up using it for quite a while and had to break ceilings to easily walk around in some areas that felt like they weren’t designed for the suit.
The demo eventually culminated in a battle with a reasonably large boss, probably a 5/10 on the boss size meter (10 being everything in Shadow of the Colossus, 9 being the Leviathan in Resistance 2, etc). It was actually pretty easy to defeat, but maybe I’m just good at games. It mostly charged, so I rolled out of the way and just opened up all kinds of hell onto it’s rear end a few times before it died. I did run out of ammo for all my really effective guns, though, and ended up magnagun-ing some scenery onto it to defeat it in the end. It was quite a fun battle, but slightly too easy.
If you played Guerrilla (you should have), you probably tried Wrecking Crew mode. Wrecking Crew was, essentially, a small playground for you and a local friend to take turns smashing things with any weapon you feel like. Ruin mode is, in essence, an evolution of that. The stage we got to try out is, as far as I could make out, slightly bigger than the stages in Wrecking Crew and slightly more full of things to make ‘splode.[drop2]There were various weapons for you to use and, unlike in Wrecking Crew, you were allowed to choose four (one for each direction on the d-pad) to take into the level with you. Honestly though I usually just stuck to one weapon for each round, and went mental with it.
The weapons included the magnagun (of course), rocket launcher (a given), nano rifle, plasma gun (shoots a continuous beam of that dissolves whatever it hits) and, what seemed to be the most destructive of the weapons (and most used, as a result), the plasma launcher (launches balls of plasma that explode on contact). You can choose any combination of four you like and take them into the stage for 60 seconds, wreaking as much havoc as possible to get the highest score you can.
The real brilliance behind our time with Ruin mode were the high-scores. I was in the last showing of the day, so there was a high-score already there on my system for me to beat (it was about 20.6 million points), and once I’d figured out how to get the points rolling in quickly, I really wanted to beat that score. Alas, however, I was not successful, once getting less than 100k short of it and getting quite angry at being so close. Whoever got that score deserves a cookie, or something.
I did manage to beat the guy sat to my right, however. Sucker. That very sentence explains everyone’s reaction to ruin mode – we suddenly got very competitive and, even if we weren’t talking with the people sat next to us, we still glanced at their screen and saw their highest scores, and secretly set out to put them to shame, even though he’d never know I did it. It was a personal victory, but one that made me feel quite smug for at least 5 minutes.
We were only given one map to destroy, and it’s all we needed for the taster, so I just hope there are enough maps to keep the mode fresh for any decent period of time.
The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that I said we’d be focusing on two thirds of my experience with Armageddon. That final third will be covered next month, just you wait and see…