'Red Faction: Armageddon' Interview With Volition's Eric Barker

Red Faction Armageddon Interview Game Rant

On March 7, 2011, we were invited down to London, England, in order to have some play-time with the upcoming Volition-developed Red Faction: Armageddon.

While we were down there, we had some hands-on time with the single-player aspect of the game (along with a number of other modes) and also had the chance to interview Eric Barker, Manager at Volition Inc. While the hands-on impressions aren't quite ready to go live yet, we figured you might like to read the interview, featured below. Don't forget, if you see anything you find interesting, post a comment in the section below. Thanks, enjoy!

Game Rant: Hey Eric. Could you explain the story of Red Faction: Armageddon, for those of our readers who might not yet know the game's plot?

"The story for Armageddon is: You control Darius Mason, grandson of Alec Mason from Red Faction: Guerrilla. Then there's this guy, Adam Hale, who is basically the game's bad guy, and leader of a group of cultists who want to bring down the terraforma (a device that allows the surface of Mars to be inhabitable), forcing humanity to be driven underground. Darius is tricked by Adam Hale into unleashing this alien menace that has been sleeping beneath Mars, and once that's released, Darius is the only one who can stop them. That's the focus of the story!"

GR: Earlier this week, at GDC, Clint Hocking asked the question "How do games mean?" Not just looking at a game's story, but focusing more on how your character, and the game's dynamic, affects your experience of the narrative. What would you say about the game's character, in particular, or the way that you play the game, is the real meaning behind Red Faction: Armageddon? What is that you would like players to come away having experienced?

"I would say the primary thing is basically giving players a more unique form of gameplay. That's probably our primary goal. In Guerrilla, you had the destruction engine, you had destruction around you, but it really wasn't at the forefront. With Red Faction: Armageddon, you have these physics based weapons, like the Magnet Gun, like the Plasma Beam... so destruction is driven into how you fight and how you play the game."

Red Faction Armageddon Darius Mason Repair Structures

"You can use the repair functionality, and that allows you to create cover; it's also a part of the story -- you have to rebuild bridges, you have to rebuild the ladders, in order to move forward in the game. Basically, we wanted something that was going to... take the next step. Whereas in Guerrilla, the destruction was more in the background, we wanted you to take all the different elements into consideration rather than just thinking 'Take him down, shoot the bad guy.' You're thinking more about what's around you, your gun, the environment, repairing it... So giving the player a more creative set of options in how they fight... that was our goal."

GR: It seems to me that you really want people to think about the environment. But is at that the expense of the main character? Because if you're thinking always about the environment -- if you're always thinking "Oh man, I could cut that bit in half, and then repair it! Then I could run over there and blow that thing up!" -- then surely, because you're experiencing this game as yourself, as a player, but looking at Darius from a third-person perspective, he might become lost amongst the environment.

"I don't think they're mutually exclusive. I think that, just because you're doing one, doesn't mean you can't do the other. In going from Guerrilla, which was an open-world game, we specifically chose to make this a more linear game. You get to see some great cinematics in there, with a great storyline, which we deliberately made sure to include. At the same time, we have these great sandbox environments where you're taking advantage of destruction to make sure that you can fight in a really unique way and have a lot of creative options. So I think you can have both! You can have really deep story moments that push the narrative forward, but there's also some moments where you have some very original, complex gameplay."

Red Faction Armageddon Darius Mason Shooting

GR: You just mentioned the "deep story moments." When I was just playing the game, it seemed to me that the way the main character was portrayed, he came across as somewhat of a -- to use a vulgar term -- a "dudebro." There seemed to be a large dissonance -- sometimes he would be the guy making a smart-alec-quip, similar to a Nathan Drake or John McClane character, and then moments later, he would be reminiscing over fallen comrades, "a lot of men died here... good men." Do you not think that, as a lot of this was triggered by your movements through the environment, and the timing was all entirely controlled by the player, that sometimes that the two might collide with each other? This funny, smart-alec is also this soft character? Do you think that perhaps they can't mesh too well?

"I think it depends on the person. Some people can appreciate a little bit of drama mixed in with humor -- others, not so much. But I don't think they're necessarily at odds. I think there's a lot of really good entertainment that has a sense of humor and has a sense of drama, so maybe it's just not your cup of tea!"

GR: Fair enough! You mentioned earlier how Red Faction: Guerrilla was more open-ended and Armageddon is much more linear. During the single-player demo, we heard the character Kara say "Don't go to the Market! Don't go to the Market!" But Darius doesn't hear it. Even though we, the player, can hear it, there's a sort-of dissonance there. We have to run to the market. How do you think the forcing narrative in such a linear fashion affects the story you're trying to tell?


Red Faction Armageddon Aliens

GR: Because, personally, if I was in that situation, I'd say "Fine! I won't go to the market! Let me find an alternative route!" *Laughs* In Guerrilla, you really could find alternate routes and different ways to approach a problem. In Armageddon, you have no choice -- you have to run through a place where Kara specifically told you not to!

"Well, she's telling him not to, because she wants him to live! But the hero, Darius, is trying to fight the alien menace to which, to a degree, he feels responsible for. So their goals are at odds. She's saying 'Save yourself, run!' and he wants to save humanity from potentially being slaughtered by an alien race. So, just because she says something, doesn't mean he agrees."

GR: If we take a step back for a moment, and look at the series as a whole: destruction. It's a huge part of the Red Faction series, but why? Why choose destructible environments to be such a draw?

"Well, I think it's kinda been a technological breakthrough. I mean, with the original Red Faction, all the options that you had, with Guerrilla, having that really good, intuitive line where anything that was man-made that you could destroy... we think that offers an enormous amount to the player in the sense that it makes it very original. You know, with Guerrilla, the destruction was something that was a little bit more in the background; in Armageddon, the destruction-based weaponry really changes how you play the game, how you do things. Because you don't have to sit there and worry about headshots, you can bring down a building on top of the enemy's head! All of a sudden, you're thinking in different ways."

Red Faction Guerilla Logo

"With the Magnet Gun, you're looking around, trying to find things that you can throw at the enemy, or throw the enemy towards. Grab the enemies and throw them into each other! So destruction really offers you a multitude of gameplay experiences. Past that, it adds a layer of reality. If I was to smash this table *motions a nearby table* or smash this chair, it would break into a lot of pieces. This is far more realistic! You know, if you fire a rocket against a wall in any other game, what does it do? Leaves a smudge. *Cheesy grin* It's not terribly realistic! So I think it brings a lot to the game and, to a large degree, it does define the series."

GR: Thanks Eric, now last question. Obviously, you've been playing the game for a while now. Without spoiling anything, what would you say has been your favorite experience with the game so far? There must be some story you can tell, something you want to tell people in order to entice them into buying the game.

*Thinks for a while* "I would say, specifically, that I really enjoy trying to play the game using only the Magnet Gun. If I can try to just fight with that, and nothing else. Other people enjoy shooting, blowing things up... To me, it's very strategic, and very creative, to just use the Magnet Gun. It's kinda like a Jedi lightsaber -- everyone else is shooting, I'm just using a Magnet Gun. And I think that's pretty interesting! You know, like some games have pistols only, like I said, it's interesting to me to look at the environment as my weapon. In some ways it's very difficult, and in some ways it's a lot of fun. But for me it's an interesting challenge, and it forces me to be creative. I can pick how-many-games and just shoot guys. There's no real re-playability there -- once you're done, you're done. But every time I play with a Magnet Gun, every time I look around me, I can do it in a different/more interesting way. To me, it makes it... I don't want to say an art form, but... to look at it and say 'How am I going to do it this time?' To have that just makes it a richer experience, to have a lot of creative options as to how I fight."

GR: Thank you very much for your time, Eric!


For more information on Red Faction: Armageddon, look out for our hands-on preview, coming soon to Game Rant.

Red Faction: Armageddon will be destroying your concept of a third-person action game on May 31, 2011, on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.

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