Red Faction: Armageddon multiplayer Hands-on

At a THQ-organized event in San Francisco I got to sit down and spend some quality time with the online modes in Red Faction: Armageddon. "Infestation" and "Ruin," as they're named, each offer their own twist on the Mars-based mayhem developer Volition has cooked up.

Infestation can be played either solo or cooperatively in a group of up to four. Players do their best to repel thirty waves of progressively more intense alien attacks. Infestation’s eight primary maps are broken into two groups of four by mission type. Survive maps are exactly like they sound; a fight just to make it to the end. Defend maps add a handful of structures that the team must prevent the aliens from destroying (while surviving, of course).

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There’s a good amount of variety in the maps provided, and my experience teaming up with three other journalists to blast the hell out of scores of various types of alien beasts proved to be intense and chaotic.

Progressing through the initial eight maps unlocks “Dark” versions of them. These cranked the intensity up a notch. Deep pockets of shadow illuminated only by player-mounted flashlights made sticking together and working as a team even more critical to avoid becoming alien snacks.

The single-player campaign of Armageddon centers on Darius Mason, grandson of Red Faction: Guerrilla’s protagonist, Alec Mason. Infestation mode brings in four members of the supporting cast. There's Red Faction member Frank Winter, who plays a minor role supporting Darius in the main storyline, and his younger brother, Snipes, a long-range expert. They are joined by Corvallis, a Marauder warrior siding with Red Faction against the alien scourge, and Snake, a lone-wolf “badass colonist” Red Faction once tried to recruit.

Players also won’t find themselves grinding away to unlock weapons and abilities. They can be as easily obtained playing the single-player campaign, since a common upgrade system is shared with the multiplayer component.

"Chaotic" and "intense" are the two words that first spring to mind when I think about my experience with Infestation mode. As the rounds proceed, the enemies get bigger, badder, and more numerous, and being in the nexus of four teammates firing rocket launchers and deploying Nano Forge abilities really creates a sense of all hell breaking loose. Tactics and precision aren’t really key players in Infestation, and a (thankful) lack of friendly-fire damage ensures much spamming of the game's over-the-top heavy weaponry.

Red Faction: Armageddon’s other online mode is called Ruin. It’s a timed single-player mode that includes five maps, and gives the player a minute to cause as much destruction (thus, achieving as high of a score) as possible. In a nutshell, it plays much like a pared-down version of Red Faction: Guerrilla’s “Wrecking Crew” mode. Unlike Wrecking Crew, which was a pass-the-controller mode where players could tweak how much ammo or time was available, each map’s parameters in Ruin mode are set. The inclusion of online leaderboards should help extend the enjoyment for high-score chasers, though, and the handful of rounds I played were a lot of fun. However, the limited number of maps and their associated one-minute time limits made me wonder how long it will hold folks’ interest over time.

That said, the included arsenal provides plenty of fun tools to bring huge structures toppling down, from more typical weapon types like rocket launchers and explosives to more esoterically destructive fare, like the singularity cannon that generates an anomaly much like a miniature black hole.

I came away from my time with Red Faction: Armageddon’s online modes feeling like they supplement the single-player experience fairly well, but are better viewed as bonus distractions from the main single-player campaign than as a major draw.

Keep an eye out for our hands-on preview of Red Faction: Armageddon’s single-player mode towards the end of this month.