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Red Faction: Armageddon and the balance of open-world versus story-driven


THQ and Volition brought Red Faction: Armageddon to Comic-Con last weekend, and even though the demo on display was the same one we saw behind closed doors at E3, we threatened to collapse their headquarters with a Nano Forge if they didn't tell us something new about the game. Volition producer Dan Sutton and writer Drew Holmes gave us a little insight on what they're planning to do with the story of Darius Mason, Alec's grandson.

Let's get the important stuff out of the way first: The sledgehammer is coming back, so don't worry about that. As for the Ostrich, I didn't get confirmation so much as laughter from the developers, but they said that there would probably be something silly in the game this time around, depending on what the community came up with. "It's up to NeoGAF," joked Holmes. "Someone will photoshop something, and then we'll be stuck."

Gallery: Red Faction: Armageddon (Comic-Con) | 4 Photos

With those two pressing issues covered, we actually talked about the game's setting. It takes place about fifty years after Guerilla, and it's been a busy half-century, according to Holmes. "There's a big battle on the surface, so there's this big cataclysm that forces everyone underground." With not much to do besides mining, the inhabitants of Mars dig away at the planet, and "they inadvertently awaken these things that were kind of sealed at its core."

Poor Mars, right? It seems like Volition is constantly terraforming the world and realigning its inhabitants, but Holmes promises there's a plan. "We've got this massive 200 page document that's just the full world bible," he says. "Now we can look at it and say that a particular point in the history of franchise would be an awesome thing to do."

"Our feeling was that you can only shoot guys for so long. You want something new to do. So we took what they did in Red Faction 1, and said, 'We want to bring in new enemies, how can we tie all of this fiction together?'"- Drew Holmes

And somewhere in that bible is the full story of why there are now Dead Space-like aliens in the world of Red Faction, even though the original idea came from a desire to update the gameplay. "Our feeling was that you can only shoot guys for so long. You want something new to do. So we took what they did in Red Faction 1, and said, 'We want to bring in new enemies, how can we tie all of this fiction together?' So we build on it deeper and say that there are darker forces in the universe at work." Holmes says the origin of the aliens ties all the way back in to the first game in the series. "If you go back and you replay RF1, and the experiments that Capek was doing, and these kind of evil things that he was creating," you'll see the roots of Armageddon's alien creepers and ravagers.

The other big improvement in Armageddon comes by way of new weapon-enabled gameplay-- the Nano Forge can now repair buildings and items (think: the "Reconstructor" from Guerrilla's multiplayer mode) , and the Magnet Gun can be used to violently connect buildings to, well, whatever else you want to rip apart. "It's fun in a sandbox way," says Sutton, "but it also has gameplay elements as well -- you can repair bridges, you can repair paths to get to secret areas, and you can rebuild stuff in the world around you. It's not as gimmicky; it's more fundamental to the game."

While Guerilla took the series in an open-world direction, Armageddon reverses course a bit. Most of the game takes place underground, and while the cavernous environments are large, they're more limiting than the last game. "You're going more focused this time," says Holmes. "We've got our big environments, our big destruction playgrounds, and we want to give a more focused narrative, a more focused story, real characters that are going to make you care."

Sutton points out that not all of the open-world gameplay is gone. "We still have open things to do. But we want to get rid of some of the bad, tedious sidequests, and only go with things that people like." There will be collectibles, though whether you like those or not is up to you, and multiplayer will make a return, though the developers are still tight-lipped on what exactly it will be like. "It's going to be new," is all Sutton would say, promising that we'll hear more about it, and the game itself, in the very near future.

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