Red Faction Armageddon's multiplayer is going for a co-op angle this time around, similar to the Horde mode in Gears of War. Teams of four players will face off against 30 stages of enemies for each of the eight maps. Expect lots of tighter arenas compared to the last game's open multiplayer deathmatches on the surface of Mars. We're going to miss those epic jetpack battles.
The main map we got to try out was the underground Black Market. For the most part this level was made up of fairly narrow tunnels with low ceilings, making for some claustrophobic chaos. There's a small square decorated with lots of neon signs which all too often distracts you from looking out for the alien's bioluminescent glowing parts. The area of play seems to loop around in a circle. With the terrain including slopes and staircases.
Magnet guns can be used to pull panels off walls or even send whole concrete pillars towards enemies. The heavier the object and the faster moving it is, the better. As that all affects how much damage it will inflict on the Martian knife-jawed horrors. In a different level, set in a cave, you can throw huge rocks ripped from the walls or even throw the sharp stalactites at them. The geo-mod engine is going to be huge in the single-player game, but you'll have to be very quick with the magnet gun playing Infestation if you don't want to get swarmed while choosing anchor points.
Naturally, areas where you can take cover can also be destroyed. Thankfully, pillars and low walls can be rebuilt using the Nanoforge and repair grenades. Although, you have to consider the ineffectiveness of rebuilding a low wall when the current wave is sending scuttling enemies at you, who have no problems climbing on the walls and ceiling. It's like barricading a doorway only to discover it opens away from you, Big Lebowski-style.
Rebuilding walls is more useful for defending your team from the larger berserker enemies. The big bastards can tear them down again without much effort, but the time they spend doing so can become ever so valuable to your team as you reload, repair your cover and heal any wounded team-mates. When team-mates get wounded a marker appears on-screen, guiding you to them before they bleed out. Bringing them back into action only requires a brief hold of a button, so it's worth selflessly running through a swarm to get to them. Plus you'll look badass, shotgunning through an alien that's about to eat the wounded guy's face.
The number of lives each player has is limited for each round. The number left for each player, along with their status, is displayed on the screen so you can keep an eye on your team even when you're not in the same place.
You can level up and upgrade weapons or buy new ones between matches. It may have just been the way the demo was set up at the THQ event, but it seemed that the kit and upgrades we unlocked in the single-player game session carried over into this mode. We're definitely liking that if that's the case.
Weapons are similar to those found in the single-player game and you'll be swapping between them on the fly then retreating to find some more ammo. The assault rifle is ok for the weaker scuttlers and the shotgun is great for taking down the wall-clinging laser freaks, but the best weapon is the launcher with remote-detonated sticky-grenades. Any alien you're targeting will display a heath bar so you can judge how effective your current weapon is for dispatching that breed. Be prepared to despair when you see how slowly the berserker’s health goes down with pretty much every weapon.
Each player can also use a temporary mod to help them out. This could be infinite ammo, force blasts, shockwaves or a protective shell. They can be activated during a round, but the recharge time won't let you become over-reliant on it. Team-mates can't use the same mod, which should encourage players to pick their mods around team-centric tactics to create a well-balanced group.
After unlocking a round you can choose to restart from there when your team gets wiped out. Failure doesn't mean starting from round one every time. Don't think that means beating all thirty rounds won't be much of a challenge. After going through the first ten rounds in one go, it suddenly got much tougher, with numerous reattempts needed for the next few stages. By level 15, we were getting overrun every single time. If it's this tough on level 15 of the market, I'm terrified to see what level 30 has to offer. In fairness our team only had three players as the fourth player seemed to have buggered off for lunch and just stood at the spawn point getting munched on. If you enjoy playing with regular online friends you're going to get more out of this mode if you know you can rely on them.
Each map will supposedly take around three hours to complete all thirty levels. Three hours! Hopefully new parties of gamers will be able to all resume from a later level if they've previously unlocked it beforehand. There's no way anyone's going to enjoy playing on one map for three hours straight if that's not an option.
The finished game will include a variation for all the maps that will reduce the lighting, forcing players to rely on the light coming from their torches. Teamwork will be even more important as you'll be less likely to want to wander off alone as you might in the standard well-lit matches. Back-to-back last stands are going to be epic to say the least.
The Infestation mode is looking like an exciting addition to Red Faction: Armageddon, with the Ruin mode set to be a fun distraction too. With the single-player game also looking strong thanks to the shift from open-world to creepy underground Martian hell, Volition might have an early Summer blockbuster on their hands.