Red Faction: Armageddon Infestation Mode First Look PreviewBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Apr 15, 2011
Serene is an odd way to describe the opening moments of our first look at Red Faction: Armageddon's newly revealed, four-player, co-op Horde mode, known as Infestation, given just how unnerving our surroundings are, but compared to the events about to unfold before our eyes, it's the first word that comes to mind when trying to describe the dark, moody, and claustrophobic calm before the proverbial sh*tstorm.
The character we are watching, Sgt. Frank Winters, moves into a dank, cavernous facility set deep beneath Mars' surface along with three other squad members. Winters and his team play a peripheral role in the overall narrative of Armageddon, but Infestation Mode is where their story is really told.
Armageddon's lead level designer Jameson Durall stopped by the G4 offices recently to walk us through Volition's take on the standard survive-as-long-as-you-can-against-unending- waves-of-increasingly-challenging-enemies gameplay mode, and one of the unique advantages Armageddon has right out of the gate is the game's setting.
"Part of the main storyline of Red Faction: Armageddon," Durall explained, "is that the terraformer has been destroyed, and there kind of moving everything underground, so they've been in these caves now for about 50 years. So everything's a little more claustrophobic here. And from the look and the feel, that was really something we really wanted to go for, and we get that here. But also from a development side, this allowed us to have a lot more destruction in small spaces, so we can now fill it with a lot more stuff to blow up instead of having the downtime in between all the areas like we had to have in [Red Faction: Guerilla]."
Stylistically, setting a horde mode exclusively in an interior environment obviously sets Infestation apart from traditional horde modes, but it also factors in strategically as well. For instance, as the enemies start pouring into our general area, our immediate surrounding is comprised of industrial structures and various rock formations, making it rather chaotic and difficult to see approaching enemies. However, after a few seconds of unholy combat, rock, debris, steel, concrete, alien limbs, and who knows what else fill the screen in a visual orgy of chaos. In between waves, the dust settles to reveal that those buildings and rok formations have been turned to rubble.
Now, while it could be considered a tactic to destroy every structure and obstacle in sight, the GeoMod 2.0 tech certainly allows for it, in order to get a better jump on the oncoming enemies, it also just sort of happens naturally over the course of each encounter. Aiding in this mass devastation are the game's various high-powered weapons (the surface disintigrating plasma beam and the mini-black hole creating singularity cannon in particular) and super charged Nano Forge abilities, which players select at the start of each match.
Berserk gives you unlimited ammo and an unlimited clip so you never have to reload. Impact sends out a Force-like energy blast that tosses nearby enemies into the air, and they will take damage depending on how hard they hit whatever surface they are blasted into. Shockwave is a stasis power that lifts enemies into the air, whch means open season for your teammates; it can also be ugraded to allow you to syphon enemy health while they are in stasis. The final ability is shell, and its by far the most crucial in terms of team strategy, since it creates a force field around your character. Not only does this provide cover, which becomes something of a luxury the more waves you play through (thanks GeoMod!), allowing you to revive your fallen pals without fear of dying, but it also becomes a crucial aid in Armageddon's non-standard horde mode, Defend.
Unlike the game's traditional Survive mode, where you are simply trying to delay death for as long as possible against waves of enemies, Defend has you protecting and repairing a specified structure while also trying to survive. What's great about shell is that it can be used to cover the building you're defending and buy you precious time to repair any sections that have been destroyed.
Infestation mode features eight maps, but each map can also be played in Dark Mode, which basically knocks down the ambient light in each map to virtually zero and equips each player with a flashlight on their chest. The light version of the Black Market map we watched was already moody and survival-horr-ish enough, thanks to the tight quarters and the terrifying alien horrors that pour in from all angles. But in the dark version of the map Herectic, the game took on an even more heart-pounding feel since the entire level was basically the scene in Alien where the guy is in the ventilation shaft and he turns around and shines the light right in the alien's face (aka one of the scariest movie moments of all time) over and over again. Every time the characters would look in a new direction, a fresh beasty was there waiting to pounce with large, nasty, pointy teeth. This is why it is doubly important that your teammates stick together, especially since you will generate more light for yourselves the closer you are to one another, which adds another level of intensity all its own.
There will be 30 total waves in Infestation, but if you think you'll simply be blazing through them, think again. Durall says it will take somewhere around three hours to complete all the waves on just one mode on one map. Add in seven more maps, light and dark variations, and Defend mode, and you’re looking at a “significant amount of gameplay” on top of what is expected to be an expansive single-player campaign as well.
One of Infestation's most appreciated features, especially for more casual players who also don't have time to replay a three to four-hour match should they die, is the save system, which lets players restart whatever wave they were on before their whole team was slaughtered, or a couple players remembered that food and water are necessary for survival.
With its unique emphasis on, and capability for, untold levels of environmental destruction and compelling mix of out-of-this-world weapons and character abilities, Infestation Mode looks more than capable of keeping fans thoroughly entertained and challenged for countless hours on end. There will only be one way to find out, and we will have the chance to remove all the guesswork when Red Faction: Armageddon blasts its way onto PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC this May.