Review: Red Faction: Armageddon

Red Faction: Guerrilla was hugely underrated. To my mind it’s one of the very best open-world games in existence. Sure, it lacked the emotional weight of GTA IV, the grand narrative of Oblivion or the flowing freedom offered by Assassin’s Creed, but it had one particularly destructive trick up its sleeve: You could blow the crap out of everything.

Developer Volition’s Geo-Mod 2.0 engine was at the heart of this, a frankly staggering piece of wizardry that allowed you to dynamically destroy structures. Identifying a huge building’s load-bearing framework, chucking a few remote mines at it, then clicking a button and sitting back as it crumpled satisfyingly to the ground was, and is, utterly wonderful.

So when the sequel, Red Faction: Armageddon, was announced last year, I thought “they better not balls this up.” Unfortunately, they did. For the most part.

[drop]Armageddon takes place fifty years after Guerrilla’s climactic liberation of Mars. A meteor has destroyed the Terraformer that makes the planet hospitable, forcing the human colonists underground. As violent storms tear through the surface above, the survivors scrabble around amongst the rock and dirt below.

You are Darius Mason, a shaven-headed contractor who is every bit as dull as his Grandfather Alec, the star of Guerrilla. Tricked into reopening a shaft in a spooky Marauder temple, Darius inadvertently unleashes a dormant race of Martian nasties that rip through the settlement and threaten to wipe-out the entire colony. Red Faction: Armageddon sees Mason attempting to undo his mistakes.

All of Armageddon’s shortcomings are hinted at in that set-up. What was a huge field of play is now a series of claustrophobic tunnels. What was free and unconstrained is now tight and scripted. And what was a tale of rebel terrorism with contemporary relevance is now merely humans versus aliens. Pretty much everything Volition have bought to the sequel is to its detriment.

Yet the fun still forces its way through. There’s a gleeful exuberance to be had to watching the Geo-Mod engine in action. Have you ever carefully constructed a building block tower for a toddler, only to see them steam in and wreck it with a maniacal giggle? Destroying a structure in Armageddon is the (slightly) more grown up equivalent of that.

It’s just tempered somewhat by scale. Thanks to the subterranean environments, the structures are smaller and often moored to rock walls. A knock-on effect is that you don’t have as much freedom to plan out the carnage, either. The sense of awesome destruction is diminished as a result. It’s like owning a Ferrari, but being forced to stick to the speed limit.

It wouldn’t be so bad if Armageddon offered some proper linear, scripted thrills. However, the truth is that it’s marked by some really poor design. The likes of Call of Duty and Killzone may be ultra-linear, but they do a fantastic job of obscuring their constant herding of the player. Armageddon, meanwhile, gives you a Game Over screen for straying into the “wrong” area for more than ten seconds. Poor.

[drop2]The game’s best moments come from complete chaos. Rather than create tension by keeping you fearful of the next attack by utterly generic Martian monsters, Armageddon throws enemies at you in droves. When you’re surrounded by attackers and you’re throwing explosive charges and assault rifle bullets this way and that, desperately trying to stay alive, it can be exhilarating.

These moments are only improved by the Magnet Gun, a brilliant new weapon that allows you to either magnetise part of the environment and fling it at an enemy, or magnetise the enemy and fling it at the environment. When the screen is filled with claws and tentacles and teeth and flying masonry and girders and blood, I defy you not to smile to yourself. It’s glorious, mindless carnage.

But it’s not enough to stop the game from being a let-down. Even Ruin, a separate mode that gives you a set amount of time to cause as much damage as possible, manages to undercut its own qualities by reminding you just how much fun it was to freely run around Mars’ surface in Guerrilla, indiscriminately demolishing architecture. The Horde-esque Infestation mode, meanwhile, is an uninspired rehash of well-trodden ground.


  • Destruction engine is fantastic.
  • The Magnet Gun is one of the most satisfying weapons you’ll get your hands on this year.
  • There’s great fun to be had in the chaos.


  • Move away from an open-world is a mistake.
  • Poor level design.
  • Dull story.
  • Generic enemies.
  • Hang on, I forgot, was this supposed to be scary?

Ultimately, Red Faction: Armageddon feels more like a predecessor to Guerrilla than a sequel. In an alternate universe, Volition created this game then thought, “I know, how about we move everything we’ve built into an open-world and let people go really crazy with it? How awesome would that be!?”

But this isn’t an alternative universe and what we’re left with is a back-step for the series. Not terrible by any means, Armageddon is nevertheless a huge disappointment.

Score: 7/10



  1. Lost interest completely after they moved from FPS to 3rd-person. Those games were awesome fun with mates+bots :D

    • Completly agree with you there, red faction 1 was really fun, in the game you could blow through everything, which was a first for any FPS back then, i prefer FPS to third person

      • completely opposite to me! Can’t stand FPS’s, avoid them like the plague!

      • i meant i prefer FPS in the context of Red Faction, i think it works better. Im a big fan of FPS and third person games and shooters btw and i was a big fan of the PS2 games but since it went third person i have lost interest. I played the demo for this new one and it was bad, very bad, so this is a defo no go for me.
        must say good review too, but after reading it i thought it for all the things you ststed it was a bit high to give it a 7 :L

      • Red Faction Guerilla really worked as a 3rd person shooter. You can keep track of your crumbling surroundings so much better with the camera behind you.

      • My favourite map on the original was called ‘warlord’ (I think?!?) which was just two bases with some open land between them. As long as you were precise with your rockets (if I recall you could only blow up so much stuff before the environment wouldn’t react any more) you could make a whole right through the mountain from base a to b.

        I remember doing that against a mate via split screen once. He was staring over at my base with a sniper rifle waiting for me to show my face, only for me to suddenly blow through the wall he was standing next to! “surprise mofo!!” :D

      • HAHA YES!!!! i remember doing that too! i blew a hole through the wall all the way over the other base! with split screen and bots it was so fun. I remember another mission where there was a bridge over a huge pit in the middle of the map, and blew up the bridge and my friend fell to the bottom of the pit. very enjoyable

      • map not mission*

      • :D good times!

      • I often prefer Third person to FPSs. However, from what I played from armageddon’s demo, it would have been better as a FPS. The camera would never move even a bit, there was no cover system, and the leg animations were terrible, most of the time it looked like he was sliding.

    • Third person works so well with RF:G. It’s sad that RF:A has gone underground and Linear. Volition, you muppets, such a great destruction engine wasted plus they removed the brilliant MP from the game, I mean, WTF!!!

    • The first was absolutely brilliant. My first FPS & the most fun I’ve ever had on one.

  2. Magnet gun sounds great but the fact that the open world factor is gone I think I’ll wait for a price drop. Thanks for the review.

  3. Short and sweet review, just how I like them ;-) everything I’ve seen of this game (reviews, previews, videos and pictures) is distinctly average, which is a shame because it had potential to be very good. Nice review though, well done.

  4. So would I be right in saying that it’s akin to a tech demo for some very awesome destruction? :)

  5. Is it just me, or does that picture of Darius look like Louie Spence?? O_o

  6. This was always going to be a disappointment in my opinion. Fighting aliens is too much more generic than a guerrilla war. The tunnels are always going to be constricting and from the demo, the destructive walkers are replaced by small exoskeletons, fun but not overly so. As TSA say, its definately a step back.

  7. Sounds like they completely messed up. I loved Guerrilla, but it seems like this is marred almost beyond recognition. Truly a shame…

    • Seems like they made a bad decision at the concept stage and ran with it. Thinking it was a bold move, it was. Sadly, it was a bad move too. Nothing terrible but the reviews are reflecting what appears to be something that doesn’t hold the promise that Guerilla was loaded with.

  8. I wasn’t overly impressed by the demo. The weapons were awesome, but the rest was dull, dull dull.

  9. Crap… I had such high hopes for this game. RF:G is one of my all time favourite games on the PS3. I’m pretty sure I will enjoy this game but it’s a shame they wasted all the potential…

  10. That didn’t read like a 7/10 at all.

    I utterly loved Infestation when I tried it out and Ruin had a great drive to get high scores (perhaps exaggerated by being in a room full of people playing it). I certainly missed the open world when I was playing single player, but I still quite enjoyed it but for some strange design decisions.

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