Shell proves particularly useful in an early set-piece where Mason defends the rear of a slow-moving platform as it crawls down a lengthy tunnel. As the dome remains in place once you've deployed, it's possible to use it to temporarily block up the tunnel, shielding you from projectiles and enemy advances alike. While the field is up you can deploy remote mines and fix up the one section of the platform that offers minor cover, although naturally it's only a matter of time before the bugs tear it down again.
Unsurprisingly, it's the GeoMod destruction effects that remain the highlight of the game's appearance. The novelty factor has yet to wear off, and it's unashamedly fun to completely decimate a towering building using the range of lasers and explosives at your disposal. Dynamic carnage aside, it's fair to say that Red Faction: Armageddon won't be winning any prizes for its looks. In terms of its ambiance it feels less like a Summer Blockbuster and more like one of John Carpenter's better B-Movies, but this style ultimately suits the game well. Between the bleak tone, physics tomfoolery and varied approaches to combat, Volition has certainly nailed a certain something At the start of my playtest I had concerns about the prospect of spending hours fighting through underground caverns, but the end product remained engaging and moreish throughout.
Outside of the main campaign there are hints that the story may eventually carry us back onto the Martian surface, as both the Ruin and Infestation modes feature topside environments. I've already described Ruin in my last preview, though it's worth adding once more that it seems to be just as fun for a quick blast as Wrecking Crew was in Red Faction: Guerrilla. Infestation, meanwhile, is Armageddon's equivalent to Hoard: a four-player romp that pits you against increasingly tricky waves of enemies.
There are 30 stages for each setting, and since there are several of these it seems as if Infestation will provide a fat chunk of play-time in its own right. Depending on the scenario your aim will be to protect key buildings from enemy attack or simply to wipe out every hostile on the map, and as with the main game the battles soon become remarkably tough. Each player can only use one NanoForge power in each round, but since there are four of you it's possible to combine effects for added impact. Teamwork pays dividends here, and if you don't make an effort to save downed colleagues, you'll likely find your self overwhelmed.
As in the story-driven campaign, a number of tactical options emerge depending on your choice of load-out. While the Magnet Gun is great for battering enemies with heavy bits of scenery, it's arguably more useful as a way of keeping major threats at bay. The Beserker, for example, is a hulking great monster who takes a load of punishment before he finally dies, exploding as he does. With careful use of the Magnet Gun, you can repeatedly drop him from the ceiling, and then throw him into a crowd of lesser foes who'll be caught in the blast when you finish him off.
As I've said before, I like the fact that Red Faction: Armageddon isn't afraid to add traditional, old-school gameplay elements to its sci-fi horror mix. Or to put it another way, the game carries cinematic overtones, but it rarely loses sight of the things that make third-person shooters enjoyable in the first place. We'll know for sure in a couple of months, but for now this is looking like yet another quality effort from Volition.
Red Faction: Armageddon will be released on June 3 for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.