We’ve been extremely fortunate in that we’ve been given a go of Red Faction: Armageddon’s multiplayer mode “Infestation”, in which you’re tasked with defending against increasingly large waves of alien attackers with your friends (or Live buddies). It’s an arcade-style affair much like Horde mode in Gears of War but with the added bonus of mega destruction, all aided, of course, by the crazy weapons Armageddon has to offer.
Infestation is purely a co-operative mode playable for 2-4 players and boasts a range of maps and equipment to choose between before play and does have an end-point to get to. There’s an element of progress that you’ll feel throughout as you’ll unlock weapons, Nano Forge functions, new levels and modes.
We’re having a go of this all the while getting some commentary from Roje Smith, the game’s associate producer. We also took the opportunity to ask him some questions. Firstly, we quizzed him as to reason the development team have budged from the ideas found in Guerilla’s multiplayer mode.
"For Armageddon, regardless of mode, we wanted to strongly focus on the story. It's all about humanity's fight to make Mars safe from the creatures that are tearing it apart," he explained.
"There is no longer this sense of oppression on Mars with human vs. human conflict; this time, it's all about survival and preventing human extinction by an alien force."
Why not PvP then?
"We decided that our multiplayer should serve as a complementary offering to single player and still put players in a "backs against the wall" survival setting.
"This meant that our multiplayer would have to be a cooperative and story-based experience so each map in Infestation has its own fiction that helps to fill in the gaps from the single player story. For example, the backstory to the ice levels gives the player better insight into the single player events that take place there."
We still see similar mechanics to Guerilla in Defend mode however, which has some resemblances to the previous game’s Siege mode.
The loadout in Infestation is a limited, yet custom affair, with a pre-mission selection screen to enable players to choose their weapons and gadgets. As well as the special weapons, the features that will of course stand out in this destructive and space-age blastathon, there’s the more standard, but always welcome selection of pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, grenade launchers, sniper rifles and suchlike.
"We raise the bar when it comes to our special weapons," Roje boasts. "Think about the Plasma Beam (like a 100 foot long light saber) or the Singularity Cannon (a black hole that engulfs anything within its radius before it implodes)."
What will undoubtedly turn heads though, is the Magnet Gun, a weapon made only with the intention of bringing madness to maps. It’s capable of grabbing huge chunks of buildings and sending them flying across the screen into other enemies or vice versa, and doesn’t even need to be replenished. Literally endless fun.
"In Infestation, every unlock has a direct effect on how strong your character is, which Nanoforge abilities they can use, how powerful their weapons are and so forth." Roje tells.
"It may not have the aesthetic unlocks of Guerilla's multiplayer, but... I think it's safe to say that most players would prefer to have more health and stronger guns than choosing whether they want their new badge to be orange or blue."
The Nano Forge functions are all incredibly useful when playing through the multiplayer. Impact causes some serious splash damage to enemies and/or structures. Shockwave puts enemies into stasis and leaves them completely defenseless, often floating through in the air. The Shell function creates a giant blue sphere around the player in order to trap and damage enemies whilst also serving as a protective shield against any projectiles launched in your direction.
The repair though, is probably the most vital to survival when playing Infestation. "Since the structures in our environments are fully destructible," Roje diulges, "players will be put into many situations where their cover gets destroyed, leaving them exposed. Repair can become a life saver." Tactics are important here, and you’ll need to confer with the other players in order to make sure you have everything you need.
Defend sees us looking after a massive tower in a desert, and isn’t easy.
"We force players to juggle priorities and coordinate better teamwork," Roje explains.
"It's one thing to have to manage enemies trying to kill you. It's another thing to worry about them trying to kill you AND trying to destroy your defend target. Instead of simply watching some form of meter trickle down to communicate defend target damage, players will see bits and pieces falling off their defend target."
This is altogether a much more natural way of judging your progress, bringing an element of realism amongst the decidedly sci-fi backdrop as the focus is lifted slightly off the HUD. It’s a real struggle to keep darting about to pick up ammo and during the panic of doing this it’s almost easy to forget that you’re supposed to be paying attention to a structure that’s likely to be falling apart at an alarming rate. In Defend mode once the specific structure you’re protecting reaches a certain level of disrepair it’s game over man, so keep that Nano Forge repair function ready.
Luckily, as you’ll be doing some major spraying, there’s no friendly fire.
"It's not only in regards to their speed," Roje says. "The ability for most of the enemies to leap in an unpredictable fashion can lead to a LOT of inadvertent friendly fire.
"Also, with the amount of destruction, having friendly fire turned on would cause players to be more tentative than we'd like. We want to entertain players, not frustrate them."
Along with Defend, there are more straight survival modes, in which you’ve got to (surprisingly) survive for as long as possible before the aliens kill you and your friends off. There’s the normal survival mode and then there’s Dark, a much harder affair in which you’re given a torch with a stupidly short range and only given extra light to it when close to other players.
"If they don't stick together, then the extremely claustrophobic darkness makes it very difficult to prepare for any potential ambushes. In short, when it comes to the dark levels, the motto is: 'Live together or die alone.'"
The survival mode is tough, as our poor efforts demonstrate, not at first mind, but very quickly it’s evident that just firing everything you can towards the alien attackers has results only for so long.
"Spamming grenades will only get you so far," Roje advises. "One of the most important things is which Nano-Forge ability each player has.
"Unlike single player, where you can eventually wield all 4 abilities at once, we limit each player to one Nano-Forge ability. If all 4 players want to use the Impact ability, then they can choose to do so.
"However, I've learned that it's essential that at least one player has the Shell ability and one player has the Shockwave ability. The usage of both abilities in unison creates a nice synergy where you're both protected and playing crowd control with the enemies."
Apparently there "will be Steamworks AND Steam Cloud integration for the PC SKU" too, which is a pleasant touch.