- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 28, 2011

As legendary manager of the Mainstreet Singers Mike Fontaine, might say “Hey, wha happened?”

Last year’s Red Faction: Guerrilla was a free-roaming epic set within a sandbox on Mars and loaded with delightfully destructive possibilities.

Apparently life on Mars has moved underground, thanks to villain Alan Hale destroying the planet’s artificial oxygen source, and I’m feeling a whole lot more claustrophobic in Red Faction: Armageddon (THQ and Volition, reviewed for Xbox 360, rated: Mature, $59.99).

In the solo campaign, I control the one-man army Darius Mason and direct him into a quagmire of linear missions within dark caverns and against cultists and creatures the Dead Space brood would giggle at.

Yes, leaping ravagers, acid-spitting creepers and exploding berserkers, oh my. You get the picture. The player accumulates firepower such as a rocket launcher, a plasma-beam rifle and a singularity canon (a mini-black-hole emitter) to eliminate indigenous hostiles.

Through a story with a pinch of “Total Recall” tossed in for angst-ridden measure, this cookie-cutter third-person shooter only stands out thanks to a couple of tricks.

First, the use of Geo-Mod technology allows the destruction of any structure, pretty awesome in itself, but the player can also use the Nano Forge device to rebuild near anything with a wave of Darius’ hand.

Next, a weapon version of a Jedi Force push, well kind of. The Magnet Gun can attach to something and pull it somewhere else. Let’s imagine the potential. Fling a creature into an abyss, pull a pile of metal scrap on top of a troublesome Monolith (a giant blossom-producing monsters) or drop a ceiling on a pesky posse of insectoids.

I’ll also mention access to the mostly above-ground Ruin mode (download code included) that feels more akin to last year’s Red Faction. In a destructive free for all, a player loads up on weapons and wipes out as many structures as possible in 60 seconds to collect high-point totals.

Those in a multiplayer mindset also get a treat with Infestation. It’s palm-sweating, four-player co-operative action tied to meeting objectives and holding off hordes of aliens using creative weapons combinations among teammates.

Players who can get over the change in direction for the Red Fraction franchise will find some intense action and occasional freedom to roam. However, I will miss my days as a guerrilla.

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