Don't worry everyone! I know we're living underground, that most of us have been eaten by violent Martian insects, and that we're next on the menu - but that's no reason to panic! Darius Mason is here, and he's almost certainly going to save us. Probably. Just try not to look at that woman over there, the one he utterly failed to rescue. She's currently having her head twisted off by a Space Grasshopper.
In fact, it's probably best if you just accept that a lot of innocent people are going to die from here on in, because in Red Faction: Armageddon this appears to be par for the course. My last hands-on with the game found Mason attempting to battle a small army of Martian bugs while simultaneously fleeing from an angry mob. Now, having had the benefit of a lengthy taster of the game's early chapters, it's easy to see why the populace were so pissed off. From what I can tell, it's Joe Public's job to get hopelessly slaughtered while Mason haphazardly tries (and fails) to save them. As saviours go, he's a likeable guy - but on current evidence he's only marginally more effective than a gun-toting Mr Bean.
My latest demo kicked off a short way into the game, at a point where Mr Poo is already very much acquainted with Mr Fan. Everyone has been living under the surface of Mars for several years, and more recently a hoard of insects has shown up to massacre anyone who's not already died from severe S.A.D. (that last part is a guess). The preceding chapters will explain how both of these situations came to be, but for now all you need to know is that Mason has a direct link to both events.
As you can imagine, this leaves him feeling rather guilty. The majority of my demo time found Mason working in and around Bastion, the main hub settlement of what now passes for civilization underground. While everyone has yet to work out that Mason was partly responsible for releasing our friends with the mandibles, his heavy conscience prompts him to be a good Samaritan, resulting in a series of missions where you run about trying to sort odd jobs in a bid to keep Bastion protected. The thing is, it's hard to escape the feeling that you're all ultimately doomed. Escorted convoys get destroyed, people wander off on errands and get their face bitten off, and generally the action is laced with a bleak, claustrophobic feeling.
Obviously there's a good side to this, in that there's no shortage of Martian bugs to shoot. Armageddon generally maintains a hectic pace, swamping you with enemies and forcing you into exhausting battles that present a pleasingly high level of challenge, even on the default difficulty. In the lulls between fighting you'll invariably be searching for salvage that you can then use to fuel upgrades to your weapons and Nano Forge powers. Mason can only carry four weapons at once, and you may find it surprisingly hard to settle on a load-out, since you'll invariably use everything you're carrying during the longer running battles. It seems that your choice of upgrades have a significant effect on combat, too. While one other journalist I spoke to said he found the basic firearms to be useless, the shotgun soon became the mainstay of my armoury: when powered-up, it's capable of despatching lesser foes with a single blast.
Between the widespread arsenal of potential attacks and the chaotic nature of combat, I often found myself forgetting about Mason's Nano Forge powers. The basic repair functions have an obvious use, reassembling life-saving cover whenever you're taking a beating, but it's easy to overlook the other cooldown abilities at your disposal. While there are powers that buff Mason's attacks or which drive away bugs who have crawled a little too close, the most useful trick is Shell - an instant, dome-shaped forcefield that provides an opportunity to recover your health (and your breath).