Red Faction: Armageddon
You don’t immediately think of multiplayer brilliance when Red Faction is mentioned. It’s far easier to conjure up images of falling buildings, exploding debris and Arnie pulling something huge out of his nose.
Well, maybe not the Governator, now that the latest Red Faction instalment is moving things into the future, underground and away from the revolutionary theme.
This has much more of a Fifties pulp sci-fi ‘enemy within’ feel that’s, unfortunately, not at all evident in the recently revealed multiplayer component that’s playing it exceedingly by the book.
There’s clearly a belief that the ambitious new technical achievements and destruction are enough to carry the gameplay, but also a very real danger it could be totally overpowering it.
Red Faction has always been about environmental destruction, evolving from blowing blocky chunks out walls to the more recent toppling of entire buildings.
Volition has taken the altogether brave route of reinvention rather than iteration when it comes to Armageddon. With a heavier focus on narrative and more confined action, utilising the construction and destruction of your surroundings, you’d expect the multiplayer to perhaps offer a little more than it is right now.
Currently revealed are two modes: Infestation and Ruin.
Infestation, recognisable as the customary Horde mode, takes four players and pits them against wave after wave of aliens.
You begin each level choosing your load-out – making sure to get a mixture of explosive and nano-type weapons – and as is usually the case with these things, blast as many aliens as possible.
With no traditional machine guns to rely on, you’re forced into using explosives and the environment itself to combat the onslaught of insect-like Martians.
It might sound like a perfectly serviceable mode, but the reality quickly dawns that four people, armed to the teeth in highly destructive terrain, quickly results in unmanageable carnage and a complete loss of focus.
The idea of working together isn’t wholly enforced either, as you’re only ever dealing with more enemies; the different alien breeds don’t necessarily require fresh tactics.
Even the strategy behind rescuing a downed ally is rendered redundant when the animation is lightning quick, helping to lean the action clearly in your favour. With the destruction only marginally adding enough spectacle, Infestation currently ends up feeling like a little Horde-lite.
Armageddon’s second game type to get a reveal, Ruin, isn’t quite the traditional counterpart to Infestation you might be expecting.
It falls far more easily in line with Bullestorm’s recent Anarchy mode, only with more destructible scenery and less swearing (obviously).
Ruin tasks you with destroying as much of your surroundings as possible and if you’re smart enough to make a tall tower fall into another building, you’ll be rewarded with a destruction multiplier adding to your score.
With four players, not working co-operatively to score, but causing an equal amount of damage, things get inevitably messy and unfortunately Ruin suffers many of the same unfocused problems as Infestation.
We’re loath to admit that currently what’s missing from Armageddon is a traditional deathmatch. We’re actually quite pleased to see something new from Volition, but in their current state both modes fail to hit the compelling heights an easy team deathmatch can hit.
What’s immediately impressive with Armageddon is that the tech is capable of dealing with four trigger-happy idiots blasting the world around them to kingdom come.
We’ve become accustomed to DICE only really offering similar levels of multiplayer carnage and environmental damage. While both modes clearly need a bit of work, Volition really should be commended for highlighting the fact that’s it’s trying something a bit different with its multiplayer.
Just as its campaign is unafraid to forge its own path and move away from the open-world setting of its most direct predecessor, there could be more to Armageddon than meets the eye (and not in a stupid Transformers way).