Red Faction: Armageddon Multiplayer Preview
The gaming press have gotten their hands on Red Faction: Armageddon a couple of times now at THQ events over the last six months, but last week in San Francisco, we finally got the chance to see the multiplayer modes - and we've lived to tell the tale. The two multiplayer varieties included are Infestation Mode, where up to four players defend against waves of incoming Martian sub-surface dwellers, and Ruin mode, where you take on a ruined complex of junk and try to destroy as much as you can for maximum points.
First, a bit of backstory. In Armaggedon, the terraformers used to make Mars' surface habitable have been destroyed by warring factions, forcing humanity to go underground - and a recent dig has unleashed the alien menace that was stirring below the planet's surface. Infestation mode has a lot of things in common with Horde mode from Gears of War or Firefight from the Halo series, but its setting, Nanoforge abilities, and other bits and pieces help it to stand out just a bit. You'll play as one of four entirely unique characters in Infestation mode, and the maps you'll traverse aren't exactly huge, as we fought exclusively in tight underground corridors on the single map we played on. The bugs you fight will get in your face very often, making the whole thing feel cramped, chaotic, and just a little claustrophobic as well. And while the screenshots sent to us to coincide with this event do show outdoor areas in Infestation mode, all we played was the one map buried way underground.
The arsenal of weapons available in this mode grows as you get through progressive waves, allowing you to use more powerful guns once you start getting mobbed with overwhelming amounts of enemies. What is nice is that your character's unlocked abilities, ranging from increased firepower and ammo capacity to more health and better Nanoforge powers, are shared in single player and multiplayer modes (including Infestation), so the salvage you collect, no matter the gameplay mode, can fuel those new powers everywhere else.
The difficulty in fighting these new alien enemies is in their quick movements and sneaky style of attack. They'll hang from the walls and take potshots at you, then hop down and get in your face. Some are just immensely tough, while others stay partially cloaked and can disappear when they start getting hit, only to reappear a few seconds later when some of their buddies have shown up.
Of course, you'll have some important tools of your own, as each character in Infestation can choose one of four powerful, extra Nanoforge abilities: Shockwave will blast nearby enemies and hold them up in the air, immobile, for your buddies to shoot down like piñatas. The Impact ability pushes nearby enemies away, knocking them off their feet and giving you a bit of a breather. Berserk increases the power of your weapons, while Shell creates a spherical shield that blocks incoming weapons fire. All of these abilities are usable on a cooldown-based timer, so good teams will create a strategy around these abilities use them in the right places at the right times. On top of this, you'll have a number of lives available for each wave, and if you die, well, as long as one of your buddies comes over and revives you, you'll get another chance - at least until you run out of lives, that is. And considering how brutal Infestation mode gets after a dozen waves, you're going to need all the help you can get.
Let's move on to Ruin mode. Ok, this isn't actually a multiplayer mode since you actually go in solo and have a given amount of time to break stuff in a small map (the one we played on was outdoors), but the important point is that you're playing for bragging rights on the leaderboard. That means the focus is on what your friends are doing and might even compare notes on what weapons work best to take down this tower or that wall, and what special objects scattered throughout the level are worth the most points for your final score. The weapons you have access to in this mode are of the much more destructive variety; the hand-thrown remote detonation charges have been upgraded with a launcher that flings them much farther, and you'll have instant access to heavy weaponry like rocket launchers, singularity cannons, and plasma guns for maximum destructive power. While it gets a little brain-numbing (and hand-cramping) to sit there for more than an hour hammering away and retrying repeatedly at a one-minute run in any single map, this is a great mode to try if you only have a few minutes to play and just want to break stuff.
One thing I want to point out is that at the heart of Red Faction: Armageddon is Volition's new GeoMod engine, where almost all man-made structures are destructible - and then they can be repaired immediately using your character's Nanoforge abilties. While this isn't quite as useful in Infestation mode where your weapons are made more for killing monsters than taking out the walls and floors, that system is still available here. And while Ruin mode gives you little reason to fix anything with the Nanoforge, its physics and destruction engine for buildings is simply unparalleled in any game. I've said before that I feel that the primarily-underground setting puts a damper on the fun and charm of GeoMod, but then again, I also have recently discovered that I liked Red Faction: Guerrilla and its open-ended design more than most gamers.
Despite the possible controversy over the dark and closed-in setting , Red Faction: Armageddon still looks to capitalize on what makes the series unique from a tech perspective, and with a more tight and linear story (more to come in a future preview) along with some robust multiplayer and community-oriented modes, it should be just as successful (if not more so) than Guerrilla. The game doesn't have too long left in development: it's set for release on PC, PS3, and 360 on May 31st.