Jul 312011
About two weeks ago I decided to give Redbox games rental a shot, and rented a game that I felt would be good test in Red Faction Armageddon.   Here’s my attempt at combining my experiences with both products with this dual mini-review.Starting with Redbox, most of you should be familiar with the Redbox kiosks and how their rental service works.  The game rental service is virtually identical, with the only change being the daily price.  $2 a night gets you a game rental for as long as you want.  You have to return the game by 9pm the next day, regardless of the time you rented it at, or you will be charged for another day.  Of course, those charges add up as the days go by, so if for some strange reason you rent a game for 30 days or somehow lose the game, you’ll be only charged a maximum of $60 for a game, which coincides with the actual retail price.  With this pricing model, it’s clear that you want to only rent a game from Redbox if you are ready to play it right now and don’t plan on holding on to it for more than a few days.  A few advantages that Redbox has is that their kiosks are pretty much everywhere, and you can check stock before heading out using their website or even iOS app, and reserve your copy beforehand if you want.  When you want to return your item, you can do it at any Redbox kiosk, it doesn’t have to be the one you rented from.   Right now Redbox’s game library is on the small side, but there are some notable titles.  Check their website for a list of available games.  As a small foot note, Redbox promo codes work for game rentals, and usually a free movie rental code will drop your first night of a game rental down to $1, with it still being $2 for each additional night.  Google search is your friend.

Redbox is great for either doing a “try before you buy” session or playing through a short yet enjoyable game that you wouldn’t want to pay full price for.  Red Faction Armageddon falls under the second category.  For a reference point, I enjoyed Red Faction Guerrilla a fair bit and found it one of the better open world, destroy everything games.  While the story was mostly throwaway, the gameplay was enjoyable, offered a lot of varied missions and content, and did a great job of letting you “play” in an open world Mars where you try to take back the colony for the people.

Red Faction: ArmageddonRed Faction Armageddon does little of what I loved about Guerrilla.  Of course, the open world play is gone, and the destruction is no longer of the massive scale that was found in the previous game.  All that said, Armageddon isn’t a bad game, it is just a step backward for the series.  The single player game is incredibly short and very linear.  I was able to play through the entire campaign in a few play sessions over a weekend that spanned maybe around 5 hours.  The story is, again, mostly throw-away and quickly devolves into what amounts to a bug-hunt.  Killing lots of bug-like aliens in this game isn’t all that satisfying despite the fact that the game gives you some fun weapons to play with, namely, the magnet gun.  The magnet gun is basically the star of the game, which allows you to use destruction as an active weapon and can produce some hilarious results.  Attach one end of a magnet to something, including enemies; attach the other end to something else, even *another* enemy, and watch the two get pulled together with explosive force.  It’s as fun as it sounds.

For the most part, Armageddon plays out like a serviceable third person shooter, and not many sequences stand out, with exception of a few of the mech portions.  When you do get to pilot the games mechs, you’ll get into some of the game’s more satisfying combat since you’re virtually invulnerable (on normal mode) and can deal massive destruction.  Those sequences made me long for a good new Shogo game.  Oh well.

Aside from a few bright spots, Armageddon is very average;  worth playing on a rental if you’re a fan of the series and totally skippable for everyone else.  Now that it’s confirmed that the Red Faction series is now defunct, in part due to lukewarm reception to Armageddon, it’s sad to see it go out on a low note.  I would have liked  to see them build on Guerrilla instead of going into a different, more generic, direction.  As far as Redbox game rentals, since everything is up front and there are no commitments, it’s hard not to recommending giving it a shot, assuming they have a title you’d like to play.  It’s not ideal for games that you may want to play over the course of weeks, but if you want to play through a short game or give a game a trial over a weekend, you can’t go wrong.
May 042011

A bunch of recent news tidbits from console-land worth mentioning. First a few price drops. The Wii will be dropping to $150 and include Mario Kart with a wheel starting May 15th. Not all that surprising since it seems that the Wii has finally hit its ceiling after running away with the console sales race and all the news swirling around about the Wii 2. Not sure who was holding out on the Wii because of the price, but hey, cheaper stuff is good, right?

Secondly, you’d have to assume an Xbox 360 price drop is imminent, probably around E3 time, as many retailers, including Amazon are selling all flavors (including Kinect bundles) of the 360 with a [amazon_link id=”B003O6JLZ2″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]$50 gift card as well as a $20 Microsoft point card[/amazon_link].

Not to leave Sony and the PS3 out, but PSN is still down, Sony Online Entertainment (MMO games division) was also hacked, with mostly non-US info and credit cards stolen. Don’t worry though, DC Universe Online players will get free Batman masks for their trouble. Most everything else in wait-and-see mode when PSN comes back online this week sometime. Don’t forget to change your password when it does come back.

Next up, I wanted to briefly mention the Red Faction: Armageddon demo up on XBL and eventually PSN at some point. After enjoying Red Faction: Guerrilla a bunch, I was eager to check out the direction Armageddon was going in. I hadn’t really followed much press coverage on it to this point, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The demo offers about 30 minutes of game play and retains a lot of the destructive abilities of the previous game. While Armageddon still is played from the third person, it takes a more over-the-shoulder perspective, like Gears of War, than Guerrilla’s Grand Theft Auto pulled-back style. Still, it seems to work pretty well. In the demo you get to use some unique weapons like the magnet gun and something that shoots mini-black holes. Also, there is a new gameplay mechanic in that you can actually repair some of your destruction, that kind of reminded me of the TMD from Singularity. It was really hard to get an overall feel for the game in the demo, but it seems like it will end up a bit less open-ended than Guerrilla. If nothing else, the demo left me interested enough to look and see what sales are available for the game’s preorders. [amazon_link id=”B003P9C6QY” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Amazon is doing a $10 credit for a future THQ game[/amazon_link] (an unusual restriction for Amazon preorders) along with a free download of Red Faction: Battlegrounds; a top down car combat game that gets mediocre reviews. Amazon’s deal applies to the console versions only.

Our own Suibhne points me to this great video, related to Armageddon:

Last up, a deal for Portal 2 that can’t be passed up. [amazon_link id=”B002I0JIQW” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Amazon is offering Portal 2[/amazon_link] for $30 on the PC and $35 on the consoles. A great price for one of the better games to come out this year so far.