I want to talk about the Red Faction: Armageddon demo, but first, I need to complain about something, something tangentially related to Red Faction: Armageddon.
We all know the story of the ostrich hammer, one of the oddest, and coolest weapons in Red Faction: Guerrilla. The ostrich hammer was shown in an April Fools developer diary for RF:G and once that video was unleashed on the gaming public, people wanted the real thing in the game. Volition, being the cool people they are, obliged by making the hammer a weapon unlocked via multiplayer.
Volition is back at it again, only this time, instead of a weapon shaped like a huge, flightless bird, they're promising to unlock Mr. Toots, a farting unicorn for use in Red Faction: Armageddon. The only thing we have to do is download the demo a million times. Oh, only a million times?
Well, let me get right on that...
I don’t have a problem with unlocking cool stuff in games by actually playing the game. I think it’s a nice reward and when done properly, gives people extra incentive to spend time with the game. I do have a problem though with holding back on game content so that we can all jump through your stupid PR hoops. I was already planning on telling you that the RF:A demo is good and you should download it, but I’m doing it because the demo is fun and I think you should check it out, not because I want to unlock a horse with a gas problem.
Similarly, why do we need to “Like” Assassins Creed enough to get the next trailer? Is Ubisoft seriously going to not make the game because we all don’t blow sunshine up their collective ass? No, of course not. They’re still going to make it, and they’re still going to unveil more trailers, screen shots and developer diaries than ever before, it just won’t be right away. Well I don’t care if it’s right away, and honestly, if you don’t want me to watch your stupid trailer, then that’s fine with me. Keep the damn thing. I know social media is all great for spreading the word about something awesome, but the awesomeness of that something is diminished in my eyes when you hold it hostage until I tell you how frakkin’ great you are. And this is coming from someone who has grown to love the AC series.
So yeah, do your own damn PR and keep your stupid farting unicorns.
Right, so Red Faction: Armageddon. Prior to the demo, I really had no idea what to expect from this game. Now that I’ve played it, I have more of an idea, so the question becomes whether or not it jives with what I want from Red Faction. The original Red Faction games were competent shooters that let you occasionally destroy things or shoot through rocks with an awesome rail gun thingy. Honestly, I don’t remember much more about them which means they either didn’t make much of an impression on me, or I sustained some sort of head trauma that I also don’t remember.
Guerrilla, on the other hand, was all about the destruction. Sure there was a story, even if it was poorly told and ultimately meaningless, but the focus of the game was on how you could bring down entire buildings. If it helped free Mars, or whatever, even better, but honestly, I stopped caring about the plight of Martian freedom fighters the minute I realized I could complete a mission by taking out a building with a dump truck.
With Armageddon it looks like they’re taking the more linear approach of the original games and then adding in the destructibility of Guerrilla. It is, essentially, a third person shooter in which things get destroyed with marvelous aplomb. And, not only do things get blown up well, but you can use that destruction as a weapon and not in a staged, room full of red barrels type of way.
The demo gives you access to four weapons: a pulse rifle, a charged detonator thrower, a singularity gun and the magnet gun. Of the three, the pulse rile is the weakest against the various alien things you come up against. In fact, in a straight up firefight, they’re all pretty weak, but luckily you’re surrounded by destructible terrain, terrain you can use to your advantage. When the electric aliens start jumping around like a coked up jackrabbit, tag it with a magnet charge and then tag a nearby pillar. Depending on the order of shots, the alien will either be slammed into the pillar, possibly bringing the structure down on them or they’ll get a face full of concrete. Both work and both are immensely satisfying.
Best of all, if you completely trash the place while fighting, as I did many times, you can rebuild it all with the nano forge, your wrist based Maguffin that lets you automagically rebuild stuff. There is a limit to the amount of rebuilding that can be done, and it appears to be based on some sort of level geometry that we just can’t see. For example, I entered a room, rebuild a pipe thingy and then got in a fight in which I trashed said pipe. I then tried to rebuild it and no dice. Not a big deal, but it did ruin the immersion a little.
The nano forge does more than rebuild things as it also has a force blast that can shove away enemies directly in front of you as well a pulse blast that knocks away surrounding enemies. All of these things can be upgraded as you progress through the game and according to the menu, upgrades carry over into multiplayer.
There’s more to the demo, like your Navi-esque persistent companion S.A.M. who will conveniently mark things like ammo boxes and waypoints, some story elements that basically has everyone mad at you, an ending trailer that gives me more of an idea as to the story than I’ve seen up to date and a fun little romp through a Martian underground market in an exoskeleton. Note that this is an exoskeleton and not a mech, something I need to mention because they appear to be two different things if the controller options screen is to be believed.
The ending trailer showed a bunch of outside stuff, so hopefully the outside destruction we got to have fun with in RFG will make a comeback here, but honestly, this demo did a lot to get me excited for the game. The weapons are interesting, the enemies are a challenge and nothing ever slowed down or stuttered as I went on a rampage in my exoskeleton.
The demo is on Xbox Live right now and should be up whenever the PSN comes back. Unfortunately there’s no word on a PC demo but if THQ is smart, they’ll release one. Maybe they’re waiting for you to say that you like their lactose intolerant lemur or something.