I know I’m supposed to be rushing to save your life, but…

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…there’s all these pickups and ammo and money I can gather on my way there.

I’ve been playing Red Faction: Armageddon lately. Expect multiple articles regarding it soon, but for now, I want to pick apart one specific aspect: Conflicting messages sent to the player.

Throughout the entire game, the atmosphere, music and characters are desperately attempting to convey a sense of urgency to me. The town is completely out of water supply and they need me to go fix the pumps. A soldier is in trouble deep underground and he needs me to come save him. An ambulance needs an escort to defend it along a long and winding route. Red Faction takes one of those events (or something similar) and shoves it in my face, screaming, “GO GO GO!”

There’s nothing wrong with this at all. In fact, a sense of urgency is fantastic when applied correctly! If a game can motivate you to hurry somewhere without using an arbitrary timer that determines your success or failure in reaching or completing an objective, that game is doing a lot of things right.

The other thing that Red Faction is doing, unfortunately, is giving me tons of reason to hang back and walk circles around areas I’ve already cleared of enemies. The two main ways to get currency in Armageddon are to A) destroy certain objects in the environment that have no real purpose except to supply you with resources, and B) look in nooks and crannies for sizable collections of resources that need only be walked over. You use resources to buy permanent upgrades. Put 2 and 2 together. What’s wrong with this picture?

On one hand, the game is trying to get me to hoof it to the next objective, hard. That’s cool. On the other hand, the game rewards me for lingering and exploring every little corner of every little cavern. Also cool. Both of them at the same time? NOT COOL. I’m getting lots of money by exploring all over the place, but when I’m constantly reminded that that poor soldier from earlier is going to die if I don’t rescue him, the first thought that comes out of my warm and fuzzy brain is “Mr. Soldier Dude can die for all I care.” Armageddon’s immersion is almost completely destroyed by this one glaring flaw.

“So Cheetah, what do you propose?”

Just give me currency for killing enemies and completing objectives. Justify it through a few lines of voice acting. I’m not going to care. Either that, or drop the urgency altogether. You can have one or the other, but not both.

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