I didn't come up with the idea for the Magnet Gun," says Armageddon's Lead Designer, David Abzug.
"It was one of the designers on my team and I will love that man until the day I die because of that one idea." It's just one of the game's new ideas, along with taking Red Faction underground, releasing a few thousand alien bastards in the tunnels, and switching back to a more linear structure. The Magnet Gun takes the first object you shoot and launches it at the second object you shoot, whether animal, vegetable, or mineral.
"What is it you're doing in any other game?" Abzug asks. "You're maybe taking explosive barrels and launching them at the bad guy? You might grab a sign or something? In Armageddon, you can throw a convenience store at them. You can take out an army in one swipe by throwing a tank at them. You can take the entire side of a four-storey building and turn it into a bullet."
Geomod has changed only a little in the two years since Red Faction Guerrilla but the way Volition are using it is all new. Sixty years after the events of Guerrilla the people of Mars have been driven underground and it falls to the grandson of Alec Mason and well-out-of-Alec's-league Samanya to drag humanity back to the surface. Freed from rendering a colossal open world, Armageddon sticks the kind of chaos which made Guerrilla great into a denser space while an evolved version of Geomod makes that destruction even more credible - and incredible.
"When you're blowing up entire buildings the more realistic you get, the more impressive you get," says Abzug. "Not a lot of people do physics-based destruction. It's very hard. Fortunately we have some very large heads over
on the programming team who have managed to solve problems that still manage to confound a lot of people.
I got the fun job because they handed me the engine and said 'okay, here ya go!' and I got to say 'okay, what's fun?' and that's why you've got weapons like the Magnet Gun. There isn't a game in the world where the Magnet Gun wouldn't be fun, but put it in a game with our kind of destruction and the amount of fun you can have with it goes right off the scale."
GEDDON WITH IT
Taking Armageddon's already excellent fun 'off the scale' meant a big change to Red Faction's structure and a return to the game's roots. Armageddon is a linear, more prescribed experience than Guerrilla, with carefully measured encounters along the way. It's Volition's way of telling you a better story and blowing up even more shit at once.
"Physics-based destruction takes up a good amount of system resources," explains Abzug. "One of the problems with Guerrilla's campaign - which was a necessity, not a design decision or an artistic decision - is that things were spread out so those resources could be segmented. By setting a significant portion of it in the underground world we've managed to put things a lot tighter together so you'll find the same kind of play in a far smaller space."
But 'small' might be the wrong word, especially when Abzug stresses how only "a significant part" of the campaign is set below ground. Abzug's E3 demo begins in the caves beneath Mars, where a subterranean civilisation which took half a century to build has been reduced to ruins in two days.
Worse, it's Darius Mason who's taking the blame for a disaster which has unleashed a murderous alien species. With everyone out to kick him up his chuff, he's off to clear his name through tight corridors and caverns hundreds of feet wide and tall. It's darker, scarier, and linear - but don't call it Dead Space.