The open-world martian boomfest Red Faction: Guerilla had a very specific set of drawbacks, mostly brought about by the way the series let you destroy everything like an amorous, explosive Labrador. It struggled to bring about meaningful mission structure - mainly because we, the players, were happy to ignore instructions, and experiment with the destruction by driving trucks through walls. Red Faction: Armageddon attempts to remedy this problem by taking you out of the sandbox, walling off the open world and leading you by the digital cookie trail through a linear, underground adventure. As a result, you'll spend considerably less time in Armageddon driving through walls.
The option lockdown might be offensive to the fans who saw around Guerilla's flaws and learned to love it. But the new perspective allows for more of Volition's personality and craftsmanship to shine through. Red Faction: Armageddon feels altogether more methodical and handmade, following the story of protagonist-grandson Darius Mason, who pokes his face into the wrong cave, and accidentally wakes up Mars' native, insectoid lifeforms. Armed with a steadily unfolding arsenal of increasingly destructive weaponry, Mason must tear apart the enemies and the planet if he's going to put his wrongs right.
Chief among Mason's new armoury is the brilliant magnet gun, allowing you
to tag two objects and have the first propelled towards the other. Aim it at any man-made structure before tagging an enemy and huge chunks of masonry are flung towards the foe. You don't need to be a qualified civil engineer to predict the consequences - remove supports from bridges and they'll fall, hammer out the walls of buildings and they'll collapse. You can even tag two enemies to have them pulled towards one another - it's essentially Just Cause 2 crossed with Lost Planet, a spectacular mix of explosive physics and ferocious alien onslaughts.
Strike a blow
The Martians are varied enough. Most of them will scamper along walls and ceilings, ensuring that, despite Armageddon's subterranean setting, you'll be swivelling your head in all directions. The largest belch noxious green gas and hurl boiling phlegm, others vanish into thin air and reappear in unexpected locations. You're as overpowered as you are overwhelmed - and the two balance out rather well.
Combat now makes greater use of the wrist-mounted, nanite-spewing Nano Forge discovered in Guerilla. Not only does it come equipped with offensive capabilities - a Force Push-style attack drives gaping holes through walls and enemies alike - but it can be upgraded to create defensive shields and enemy freezing, zero-gravity stasis fields. Its primary function is also its least plausible: returning destroyed structures to their original form. This is handy for rebuilding cover, but more often than not the Nano Forge is used to reconstruct stairs and bridges you've flung at a mandibled git, only to realise it was the way out.
As in Guerilla, salvage is the Martian currency and is used to upgrade Mason's roster of abilities; Increased health and accuracy, boosts to the Nano Forge's power, damage bonuses on kill streaks, recovering salvage from downed enemies - the tiered abilities feel unique and interesting, with everything you unlock carrying over to the game's multiplayer mode. Called Extermination, it's a co-op game pitting players against waves of increasingly ferocious alien attacks - but curiously, there aren't any competitive multiplayer modes from Guerilla.