I’m not sure I actually completed the demo for Red Faction I got from the Official PlayStation Magazine back in the early 2000s, because I quickly realized I could blow holes through walls and nothing else seemed important. I think I picked up both of the PlayStation 2 Red Faction games at some point, but most of my memories of them are from playing with the destructible environments in that demo. My next real memory of the series is a customer at Gamestop telling me the developers for the then upcoming Xbox 360 game and third entry in the series, Red Faction: Guerilla (2009), had to go to an architectural engineering class to learn about rebar placement, because the physics engine was so good that the buildings they had designed kept collapsing under their own weight. Looking back, I’m not sure the in-game rebar was actually very functional, but the idea of a playground that allowed for such realistic destruction pulled me way in, and I ended up loving that game. Even though I sunk a ton of time in to it, I somehow completely missed it’s sequel, Red Faction: Armaggedon (2011). I picked it up for $5 this week, and based on a quick play though of the introduction it seems like it’ll be just as fun.
Armaggedon starts off with a cutscene telling you about the history of Mars, freedom vs oppression, and yada yada yada. “Look,” I told the game, “I liked Guerilla and the earlier games, but I didn’t come here for your story of revolution, I came to bust stuff up with a big hammer!” It turns out the game was listening, and said “Here’s a big hammer.”
The first thing you do after calibrating your controller is take that hammer, and use it to break through a wall. Over the next few minutes you get a few more tools, like an assault rifle (which should be completely ignored in favor of using the hammer to break through people’s faces), a rocket launcher like laser cannon something or other (which effectively emulates using the hammer over a great distance), and the ability to repair the things you’ve smashed with the hammer (so that you can smash them with the hammer all over again).
You guys… I really like the hammer.
Outside of the destructible environments, the gameplay through the introduction was pretty typical. The bald, brooding bad-ass you play as (I think he’s related to all of the other main characters in the series, but who cares?) can take tons of bullets, while enemies are mostly squishy. The environments are relatively gray, and the game does everything it can to make sure you know exactly where to go next… It’s really just another shooter, except for that it’s way more fun to run through the level smashing all the generic buildings and baddies with a hammer than it is to use a gun. Outside of one out of reach building you’ve got to take down, I think it’d probably be possible to play the whole intro without firing a single bullet, and that’s really how you’d get the most unique experience from it.
After the introduction level, the game jumps forward a few years to the main character in an underground market, where he blah blah blah. I really can’t stress how much I don’t care about the story or characters in this series. It all feels like cardboard cutouts set up on the surface of Mars, just to try to motivate me to move from one totally destructible, rebar filled building to the next, but I don’t need it. Really, the only motivation that I need to keep playing this game is my trusty hammer, and plenty of stuff to smash.