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Published: Thursday, 7/21/2011

Destruction is the path of least resistance

BY TOM FISHER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Alec Mason is the protagonist in Red Faction: Armageddon. Alec Mason is the protagonist in Red Faction: Armageddon.
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Red Faction: Armageddon is a man's game. That might be overstating the obvious, but you get a real sense that this game was made by men, for men. What's the tip-off? Destruction, plain and simple. And we're not talking bull-in-a-china-shop destruction. We're talking bulldozer-in-a-china-shop destruction. Complete obliteration. Complete bliss.

For those who don't remember, Red Faction takes place on a future Mars (where men are from) and it chronicles mankind's colonization and exploitation of the red planet. With each new release there is a new threat to overcome and in Armageddon that threat is an alien infestation released by a crazy egotist named Hale.

We start the game as Darius Mason, progeny of the protagonist from the last installment, Red Faction: Guerilla. He's a tough, no-nonsense soldier who is never rattled by the horrors that war brings. He likes to make things go boom.

There are a number of cool guns and tools to help Mason take on the angry alien menace. In fact, there are so many cool guns that it seems as though the developers tried to include every cool gun they could think of. There's a plasma gun, assault rifle, and shotgun. Borrrrring! Bring me my Singularity gun so I can launch a black hole that encompasses an enemy and then sucks everything into it like someone popped a hole in the side of a 747 at 37,000 feet. Or my Nano Rifle, which disintegrates almost everything in its path.

Nah, I know, bring me my magnet gun, which slings a magnetic anchor onto an object and then slings an "attractor" somewhere else. When the trigger is released the anchored object is ripped towards the attractor. This may not seem as destructive as the others and certainly it's not going to be as fancy and colorful. But it definitely makes demolition fun. It works on enemies too. Anchor a baddie and then fling him across the terrain like a cockroach, watching as he splatters against the wall. Careful with the magnet gun, however. If you rip down a building while you're in it or under it, you'll take some massive damage.

Another nifty little device Mason uses is the Nano Forge. It comes with some pulse attacks and a force field for protection but its best part is the fact that it can repair things that were destroyed, restoring them to their original state -- perfect for those moments when you realize your destruction has gone too far. Your rage has destroyed a bridge, ladder, or structure and left you stranded. Not a problem for the Nano Forge. Restore it to its working state and move on.

There are three ways to play in Armageddon. In addition to the solo campaign there are two other modes. The first, Infestation, is very similar to the Gears of War Horde mode in which you must complete objectives and mow down wave after wave of baddies until you are finally overtaken. This is becoming a common thread among shooters. If a game has different modes or mini-games, one of them will pit the hero(s) against overwhelming odds.

The second and by far the most fun mode, including the campaign, is Ruin Mode. In Ruin the objective is to destroy as much stuff as you can in the time limit. Simple. Finally, there's a game mode in which I get to break as much stuff as possible and it's a good thing. The environment is your enemy in this crazy crunch-fest. But, if you're a guy like me, when it's all done and the smoke clears, you'll want more.

Visually the game is awesome. The characters and surroundings are well rendered with a slight hint of realism, but the true beauty is in the devastation. The way the structures topple or explode is stunning and help to make the game a far better experience. Cut scenes and animations aren't the best but certainly not the worst I've ever seen.

The destruction comes easily in Armageddon. That's the fun, but it almost seems as if the game was about a guy who likes to obliterate stuff and then they threw in some scary aliens and cool special effects to make it harder. Armageddon may appeal to our baser selves on a testosterone level but it's understandable. Mars is a man's world and destruction is unavoidable.

Contact Tom Fisher at: tfisher@theblade.com.



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