I've been hearing about the Red Faction series for a very long time already. The series has been around since 2001 and became famous for the level of wreckage a player can cause, with practically every structure found in the game universe susceptible to destruction. It's pretty surprising that I haven't played any of the four games in the series up until now, on the other hand, I haven't played a myriad of other games I always wanted to play. A lot of random things are to blame for that. Anyway, it's never too late to start anything and I did start with the very last (and final) entry in the series - Red Faction: Armageddon.
I did come to a tremendously stupid purchase decision with Red Faction: Armageddon and ordered both, the PC and Xbox 360, versions of the game simultaneously. I'm not made of money and neither am I particularly stupid. It's just that the price for both was utterly ridiculous, considering the game was only two months fresh out of the development oven (released in June). There was no way to fight the temptation.
There's a through PC/X360/PS3 comparison article at the Digital Foundry which crowns the PC version as the better of all three. Being aware of that fact, I still wasn't all that sure that my outdated hardware wouldn't choke on the game with all the bells and whistles. In the end, I went for X360 version for an immediate enjoyment and thought the PC release would be fitting for the future use (on a side note: one of the selling points for me was the ability to activate the retail game on Steam - I love both, having a case on a shelf and being to access the content digitally).
Even though both versions were a part of one order, both available for immediate shipping, the PC box arrived first. If it would have been the other way around, I wouldn't have probably got to see the PC version before a major hardware upgrade (and with me throwing all the money on the games lately, who knows when will the day come). In the end, I was lucky the things happened the way they did.
No matter how old my hardware is, when I start a new game, I always crank all the possible video options up to the highest possible values and use 1080p resolution. With everything topped up, the game showed a horrible performance right from the first screen. As expected.
A huge surprise followed when I changed resolution to 720p: the game started to work smoothly. Yeah, smooth as a butter, no less. It also looked marvelous! I don't remember the last time I could run a game so beautiful with AA set to x8 and AF set to x16. Moments ago I completed the game, my PC was able to maintain a FPS between 30 and 60 throughout. By my personal observation, average being about 45 FPS. I experienced a stagger only once in the whole game. Here is the important bit: my PC is Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 @ 3.16Ghz, 2GB RAM, GeForce 8800GTX. Everything is so very old and cheap.
The Xbox 360 version of the Red Faction: Armageddon came a few days later. Obviously, I had to see, how different that version was from the one on PC. The contrast was tremendous! The console version of Armageddon resembles the PC version... as if seen through the eyes of a totally wasted person. No exaggeration whatsoever. Not only the console has a severe case of sub-HD (960x540 - ridiculous, I know), it also shows quite a few frame rate drops in the more dynamic scenes. Just FYI, there are shit loads of dynamic scenes in this game. To make things much-much worse, the controls of the PC version are indisputably better. I prefer my Xbox 360 controller to Keyboard + Mouse with most of the third-person perspective action games, but not in this case. PC controls in RFA offer an altogether better experience. I would have never had the same amount of fun with the Magnet Gun if I had to play the game using a controller.
As for the game itself, it's awesome. I think everyone capable of enjoying a game in the genre would have a great time with Armageddon. It features a very simple and forgettable plot but a truly memorable and original gameplay. The whole experience is on par with Gears of War (I use this game as an example of a product which is completely action-driven). Somehow, I got tired of monotonous action of Gears in about two hours, but I did thirst for more of Red Faction's beautiful havoc even after completion (the game is not too long though). I will certainly enjoy playing it again.
The thing about this game is it offers you so many ways of destruction. There are loads of guns, every one with its own fun destructive function. The king of guns being the Magnet Gun, of course. I spent the majority of the game using that weapon and didn't get tired of it.
I already mentioned how ridiculous the price was for all versions of the game. There's a good explanation behind it - the game was a failure. Due to poor sales, not only the price manged to drop, it was also publicly announced that there will be no more Red Faction games to follow. I was depressed to hear that.
I just don't understand the consumer. Look, everyone and their mother probably already pre-ordered Gears of War 3. There's Dead Space 3 under development, and a lot of people are going to buy it day one. It's clear as day Gears of War 1 & 2 put together cannot offer the same level of SP excitement that Armageddon has to offer. OK, Gears at least have their MP craziness (I'm just not a fan of anything MP). What about Dead Space then? That game does have a gripping atmosphere, but that's about it. I mean, they do try to unload a fun weapons mechanic on you, but do they succeed? I tried every single gun in Dead Space 1 & 2 to return to my trustworthy Plasma Cutter. Not only those other guns are no fun at all, they are also (for the most part) impractical. I mean, you can resort to them on lower difficulty levels, probably. But easier difficulties are just not fun in Dead Space. On higher difficulty levels there is no way you'll be able to survive using a variety of weapons. You actually have to stick to a couple of guns and pray you'll have enough ammunition to keep them running (one of those should most definitely be the Plasma Cutter). In Red Faction: Armageddon 90% of the available arsenal is butt load of pure uncut fun. Almost every addition has a lot of punch in it and is, in fact, very deadly. Add completely destructible/rebuildable environment to that and you have a blast of an action game on your hands. You can grab the Magnet Gun and just deconstruct a whole building on someone creature's ugly head. That looks and plays amazing. You also get to drive and fly. Who doesn't buy this game but would part with 50 bucks for Gears 3 without any hesitation? First, the consumer killed point-and-click adventures, now this.