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Red Faction Armageddon

Boom blocks!

Every shot you fire in Armageddon has consequences. Ever since Mars' main terraformer was destroyed by terrorists - an event you witness first-hand in the surprisingly low-key opening - mankind began filling every subterranean tunnel with knotted tangles of pipework, walkways, transport systems and shanty towns.

This is an abridged version of the full Red Faction Armageddon review which appears in issue 106 of Xbox World 360 magazine. The issue hits shelves on June 7 and offers exclusive screens, insight and info.

And now, each time you pull the trigger to try and hold back the ravenous aliens spilling into these newly civilized zones, you undo all that hard work piece-by-piece. This is the best physics playground imaginable. In ditching the sandbox surface warfare of Guerrilla and heading down into funnelled environments, Volition has built an enclosed world with unparalleled potential for destruction.

CARVIN THE MARTIANS

Armageddon plays like nothing else on Earth, Mars or anywhere else for that matter; mostly because the Magnet Gun changes everything you ever knew about third-person-shooters. Your main foes are quadrupedal aliens that leap about so fast the snap-to aiming system often struggles to keep track.

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The best way to take them down, therefore, is to create your own subterranean jet-streams that launch walls of rubble at terrifying velocities across the environment and annihilate everything in their paths. The ability to propel object A to point B means that from the buildings on the ground to the signage on the walls, Armageddon's mile-wide caverns are equipped with 360 degrees of ammo just begging to be brought into play. Some natural furniture is ripe for flinging too: crystal formations and rock piles can also be used to bulldoze your otherworldly adversaries.

In the main campaign mode most of the other weapons are actually fairly redundant. The Plasma Beam is great for carving up structures in score-attack mode Ruin, but less useful in the story. Mostly, Armageddon is very much a one-gun game.

TUNNEL VISION

The overall level design falls slightly short of the mark in that respect. Whereas Guerrilla's missions often sent you into and through buildings, or at least ensured enemy soldiers would be taking refuge in them, Armageddon's structures are more commonly placed around the critical path.

There are exceptions to this rule - walkways over canyons are ripe for demolition as you cross and a few big rooms (one water pump facility in particular) have collapsible storeys that don't stand a chance when the fighting begins - but a lot of the action takes place on the sides of your route forward.

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The playgrounds are still fun and house combat exhilarating enough to embarrass any rival game you care to name, but more key path uprooting would have been welcome. We unleashed hell in the busier areas to see just how it would cope with a few hundred things being pulled in different directions and all being tossed around at once. The engine swallowed up everything we threw at it without missing a beat, proving that Volition weren't constrained by technical barriers.

The ability to reverse all damage and repaint buildings with Darius' Nanoforge makes it even more galling. There are moments when you need to rebuild destroyed cover to hide from projectiles and also paint back buildings to restock on Magnet Gun ammo. So why aren't we forced to use this tool much more often?

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