Red Faction: Armageddon First Look

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The fourth installment of the Red Faction series was shown off at E3, and odds are it will make the list of most “Best of E3” rundowns. The franchise has always remained in the second tier of games in terms of sales, never fully becoming a megahit, but always doing well enough to continue the franchise – usually thanks to some inventive gameplay that is not afraid to break with its own patterns and try something new, impressive graphics, and a sci-fi setting that has gained enough attention that it will soon become a movie on the ScyFy Channel. But if what we saw at E3 can live up to its potential, the newest game in the series has a chance to finally push the Red Faction series into blockbuster status.

At E3, developer Volition and publisher THQ showed off the newest game in the series, the third-person shooter Red Faction: Armageddon. Longtime fans of the series should be happy, while new fans should be excited.

The story once again takes place on a colonized Mars. It has been 50 years since the events of the last game in the series, Red Faction: Guerilla, and the surface of Mars has become uninhabitable. A terraformer, responsible for creating Earth-like conditions, has been destroyed and the environment on Mars is in total chaos, with super tornadoes and deadly storms covering the planet. In order to survive, the new Martians have moved underground.

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The story begins five years after the subterranean relocation, and it stars Darius Mason, the grandson of Alec Mason and Samanya, the heroes Red Faction: Guerilla. Mason runs a contractor service that scavenges, mines, and acts as mercenaries when necessary. Soon Mason opens a mysterious shaft and unleashes an evil race that has been sleeping below the surface. A fight for survival ensues.

The game relies heavily on atmosphere, and unique game mechanics. One of the signature pieces of the previous game was destructible environments. Entire buildings could be destroyed, and the salvage from the destroyed buildings acted as currency, which encouraged you to destroy everything possible. The newest game brings this mechanic into the new series as well.

The details on the new enemy are being kept quiet, but from what we saw in the demo, the aliens (as the press release call them), can infect areas. The only way to combat an infection is to destroy whatever is infected, meaning that the destruction of buildings is an important part of the game. Using the “Nano Forge”, you can level entire areas with concussive blasts.

A new piece to the gameplay introduces the idea of repairing sections using the “Geo Mod 2.0”. The GeoMod can be used to advance through the game and set up defenses, but it can also be used in conjunction with the ability to destroy environments for some interesting twists. For example, the combat can get hectic – if you need a quick respite, you can destroy a wall, run through, and quickly repair it behind you. The enemy will be waiting for you on the other side of the wall and it will be looking for ways in, but it presents some interesting options, including the ability to trap enemies before finishing them off.

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The weapons also play a major part to the game, and a wide variety of mechs and new guns are available. One of the guns that people are going to be talking about is the magnet gun. To use the magnet gun, you choose your target and pull the trigger. To activate it, you then find another target and pull the trigger again, and the first target will fly towards the second and impact it with heavy damage. This can be used on enemies to smash them into walls, or each other, but it can also be used on entire walls, and large structures. If you are outnumbered, you can use the magnet gun on a nearby building, then rip the wall off and drop it on your pursuing enemies. It is the options at your disposal, mixed with a solid game engine, that make this game stand above so many similar man-versus-monster style games.

To pull off believable environments that are fully destructible, the graphics need to be extremely solid to avoid it becoming cartoonish, and what we saw manages to succeed well in that regard. The character models were incredible, and the detail was intense.  We only saw a few sections of the underground, but what we did see looked amazing.

As with previous entries in the series, there will be online play, but announcements on what that will entail are still months away. The game is dues out in March of 2011, but expect to hear more on this in the coming weeks.

Warning: This trailer may not be suitable for all ages.