Preview – Red Faction: Armageddon’s “Infestation” Mode
Gears of War 2‘s Horde mode is quite possibly one of the greatest online co-operative gaming experiences this console generation has to offer; encouraging gruelling (but fun) all-nighters where you and three friends take on wave after wave of ever-increasing odds, Horde has been copied, absorbed and all but pillaged by too many titles to mention since. Halo: ODST had its Firefight mode which – to be fair – was actually pretty ace, but it’s hard to pick out any other title that features a similar mode and actually does anything different with the original template.
I often tend to wonder why Epic didn’t put a patent or trademark on the mode, charging other developers for using and repackaging the idea – the bar is often raised where game design is concerned, but it’s very rare that someone can take the bar from something so significant as Horde and raise it even further. So it seems that there’s a Horde mode just about everywhere you look these days, and it’s no wonder that Volition and THQ‘s forthcoming Red Faction: Armageddon has one too, entitled “Infestation” mode – although, in this instance, its use appears just about believable.
The single player storyline focuses on a failed Mars terraforming colony, forced to live underground due to the life support systems up top giving out – with lead character Darius Mason (grandson of RF: Guerilla’s Alec Mason) blamed for awakening a hostile alien race, creating the basis for much of the main campaign’s action. It seems fitting then, that Infestation centres around a separate group of characters from anyone in the main game, and it’s their story that the mode will tell. None of this was expanded upon in the hands-on session we had, as we were just thrown into the mode with a brief outline of what to expect (“kinda like Horde”) – and in that respect, Infestation does not disappoint or surprise. If you’ve played Horde, you’ll know the routine – wave after wave of enemies come at you, with each wave harder and more varied than the last, pushing you and your squad as far as you can go before you all die.
For some reason the team I was lumped in with only lasted until the fifth wave, and I’m unsure as to whether this was due to the overall skill level of the team (myself included), or if the mode is just really, really hard. It seemed to go from a walk in the park to a massacre within seconds, and despite my team’s best efforts – healing each other when necessary, travelling together etc – we were quickly overpowered as soon as that fifth wave hit. I’m hoping that this difficulty is either toned down a bit, or – if the difficulty is the whole point of Infestation – more powerful weapons are on offer in the complete build, especially as it’s been hinted that you’ll face a maximum of 30 waves on any one map. It seemed to take forever to drop an enemy, and just felt very unbalanced overall. We were briefly introduced to the different Nano Forge Abilities available, with the Shockwave ability sending out a bolt of Dead Space-like Stasis that suspends your enemies in the air. There’s also an energy shield-type affair, and a Force push ability as well, but none of these appeared to make much difference. The session we had was only very short, say around 10 minutes or so, so I don’t really feel we got the full effect Infestation offers – and it has since become apparent that the full game will feature different variations on the Horde theme. A “dark” mode will literally strip out all light save your flashlight, whilst Defend pits you against waves of enemies whilst defending and repairing a set structure.
If Volition manages to get the balancing side of things right on Infestation there’s a good chance it will have some legs and stand alongside the main game as a worthwhile endeavour – there certainly appears to be enough content on the cards to warrant some interest once you’ve finished the single player campaign, it’s just a question of if you really do need another Horde mode in your gaming collection.