Posted: March 19
tl;dr The writing is weak but acceptable; there are some plausibility issues but they aren't overwhelmingly distracting. If you liked the original Red Faction, you'll probably like this game. Recommended to fans of scifi FPS.
note: I haven't played the multiplayer, so this review doesn't apply to that part of the game.
The third person perspective in RF:Armageddon is a departure from the first two titles, but I personally didn't have any issues with it while playing. Geo-Mod 2.5 works well, but I did see some buildings not collapse when they clearly didn't have enough structural support to remain standing, at least in Earth gravity. Maybe reduced Mars gravity was taken into account, but if not then I think there's still more room for perfecting this engine for any future Volition games. No issues with the mechanics or GUI, and the directional pad weapon loadout system is much better than RF2's scrolling weapon selection system. I LOVE THE MAGNET GUN. Really. It's almost as much fun as an Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device. Whoever had that idea should get a parade or something.
The central motivations for the game's action were unclear. Superficially, conflict with Adam Hale and his cult happens because he destroyed the Martian Terraformer, and conflict with the subterranean aliens happens because they inexplicably enjoy killing all humans.
It just doesn't go deeper than that. Why is Hale trying to sabotage development on Mars? RF1 was all about ending Earth corporations' oppression of the Martian people, and as far as RF:Armageddon explains there are no new reasons for unrest on Mars. Why are the aliens killing people? They're never shown eating humans, only killing them. How did they come to be trapped underground in the first place? Capek's involvement is made explicit, but never expanded upon.
Only the protagonist's motivations are ever really clear. Answering these questions and others like them would make the plot much fuller and more interesting, but at least as-is I got to the end of the game feeling like there had been a plot. That's a great improvement over RF2.
RF:Armageddon has skippable cutscenes for the people who just want to shoot stuff; in a game with skippable cutscenes you can totally afford to spend more time developing lore/story/characters. I felt that there was a lot of wasted potential in this game's writing. Who are the Marauders? Are there social issues to be explored regarding their separation from mainstream Martian society? We could've seen more of the civilian resistance to emergency martial law, opening up a consideration of its ethos from the soldier's perspective. The romance with Kara
needs backstory for context and more emphasis if you really want to pull off that character kill without making it really trite, senseless, and out of place. I have other issues I'll keep to myself, since I think the point's made that the lore/story/characters needed more work.
What dialogue we do get is great. The voice acting shows characters' emotions and is situationally appropriate; the character models are well-rendered and appropriately convey their emotions via body language and facial expression, and camera angles and lighting make characters and important environmental features clearly visible (minor issues with vision in environments that had been demolished, as many in-game light sources can be destroyed). All aspects of character presentation in RF:Armageddon were a phenomenal improvement over the first two titles in this series, and are still good by the standards of contemporary games. That partially makes up for the weak writing in terms of immersion.
scientific plausibility issues, only for nerds and blocked for spoilers:As a matter of biological plausibility, what do the aliens eat?? They're trapped away from the sunlight and even if that slime on the walls is the most efficient carbon/water cycler conceivable, it can't add chemical energy to a closed ecosystem!
Another scientific issue- Mars has a cold core and no planetary magnetic field known to date, but RF:Armageddon shows bunches of magma relatively close to the surface and a relatively thick atmosphere topside. If that geothermal power plant is actually somehow reactivating the planet's core it would at least explain the magma and retention of atmosphere, but information that concise and significant should definitely have been included somewhere in-game.
The singularity gun is ridiculous. Making a uncontained black hole of appreciable scale on a planet's surface consumes local matter and destroys the planet, end of story.