After getting some hands on time with Red Faction: Armageddon the immediate impression we got was that it plays so much like the last game (Red Faction: Guerrilla) there was going to be a limited amount of new stuff to talk about.
What did stand out immediately was the storytelling. The story definitely seems to have been taken a lot more seriously this time around and there is a better emphasis on telling it well. The cinematics looked better, the voice acting was stronger, and throughout the mission there was constant chatter. Hell, it even uses the old trick of having audio logs lying around the levels to help flesh out the story if you want to listen to them.
As always, the game places you on Mars and, like Guerrilla, the environments are impressively destructible. You also get a range of cool weapons to play with and awesome looking mechs. At first, the game even felt a lot like Guerilla. The graphics are improved about as much as you would expect for a sequel using the same engine - nice enough but nothing jaw dropping. However, fairly soon after you begin the game’s opening level you notice one key difference; this is not an open-world game. Unlike Guerilla, where you could freely explore the world (which frankly got pretty boring after a while since Mars is, well, basically a giant desert), Armageddon will mostly be based underground and is a much more linear game as a result.
For some players this will appeal, as the linear structure gives the game much better focus and pacing. Plus, it means the action is more frequent and exciting. (But of course, this is a matter of personal preference.)
Another exciting element is the new magnet gun. This puppy is pretty neat as it allows you to take one object and then fire it into another object. The combat possibilities for this are huge and can make for some pretty funny and creative ways to kill your enemies.
Of course, with the game being so linear and with destructive environments, you will often destroy a walkway or bridge you will later need in order to continue moving forward. Luckily this problem is solved with your Nano repair tool. This is a neat little item that allows you to rebuild almost anything that has been destroyed. It also adds a nice tactical element to combat since it will allow you to rebuild cover that may have been destroyed. We'll watch with interest to see if and/or how later levels in the game will utilise this tool.
Also tested was one of the multiplayer modes called Infestation. This is basically a 4 player co-op horde mode. There seemed to be a wide variety of missions you will unlock, with the objective being to either survive or defend something. You will also be able to customise your character a bit and choose your weapon load-outs. We had a crack at this in solo mode, which gave a very small taste of what's on offer. However, it did show the new alien monster enemies you will face in the game and definitely gave the impression that this mode would be bat-shit crazy fun to play with 3 friends, so definitely something we look forward to trying out in the future.
So...concerns? Two things stood out during the short time we had with the game. The first is that there weren’t many complete buildings to creatively destroy (a much loved feature of the last game), but this may be something that comes up later in the game. The second was the controller responsiveness: there was a very noticeable lag between moving the controller and the character moving on-screen. By the end of the demo this did become less noticeable as we got used to it, but still hope the developers will tighten up the responsiveness before the game ships.
Either way, we walked away quite happy from the "speed date" we had with the game. As already mentioned, it played and felt a lot like Guerrilla; but considering how much fun that game was, that doesn't seem like a bad thing. Best of all, the linear, more sandbox-y approach looks like it should improve one of the last game’s biggest faults (too much boring travel time) and improve the story telling. We definitely recommend you check out the demo that is currently available on Xbox Live and PSN (when Sony decides to turn that back on, of course) and see for yourself how much fun the magnet gun is. Enjoy!
Pros: Better pacing and storytelling
Cons: Claustrophobic, controls aren't responsive enough