In 2009's Red Faction: Guerrilla, Volition was able to incorporate some of the single-player campaign's heralded "emergent gameplay" -- the spontaneous entertainment of bringing down the gameworld's structures in fantastic, inventive ways -- into the game's competitive multiplayer. A wall you thought was suitable cover could suddenly come crumbling down, revealing a charging Martian opponent about to clobber you with a deadly ostrich.

The fragility of the gameworld added an element of tension; that you wielded the powerful and inventive abilities and weaponry that made it so fragile was just plain cool. Guerrilla's multiplayer seemed like a first step toward greatness -- a foundation that Volition could build into one of the truly great online experiences.

That's all on hold, however, as Volition's next Red Faction game, this May's Armageddon, won't have competitive multiplayer. In its place is "Infestation," a retread of Gears of War 2's often aped Horde mode.
Infestation is a cooperative experience -- it has to be. Alien enemies attack your squad (of up to four players online) en masse, from all sides simultaneously and with surprising variety. They're certainly relentless, but they're not invincible.

Calculated use of the updated Nano Forge is key. In Guerrilla, the Nano Forge was a disintegrator rifle, vaporizing organic matter and structures. In Armageddon, it's a more useful gadget, able to repair destroyed structures, among other special attributes. These include a stasis ability, which causes enemies within immediate proximity to be gently launched into the air, and a shield that casts an energy dome, allowing players to safely shoot out at enemies from within.

Another useful option on the Nano Forge is a type of force blast, which my squad used to great effect. As you tend to do in these Horde-type modes, we would clump together in one area of the map, essentially, with our backs against the wall. Once the enemies began to overwhelm us, we could use the force blast to clear a path and run to another spot and hunker down again.

But I found we mostly had to rely on traditional firepower to survive, and that was a disappointment. The the be-all and end-all vehicle for fun in the single-player campaign, the Magnet Gun, becomes ineffective in the face of an onslaught of enemies -- its rate of fire is just too slow. For the first few waves of a round, I took great delight in the new weapon, firing the magnet shot into an environmental object, like a large pipe or box, and then the follow-up anchor shot into an enemy, which would attract the magnetized object at great and lethal speeds. But by the fifth wave, I was forced to switch to more traditional weaponry -- the shotgun, assault rifle and the like -- to hold back the increasingly aggressive force.

Of course, it's the funky weapons I wanted to play with, and I wanted a mode that encouraged that kind of unique gameplay. While I found that Infestation presented more tension and chaotic moments than Gears' Horde mode, my initial impression didn't meet my expectations for a Red Faction multiplayer experience. Potential arose in those moments when wielding the Nano Forge, in the excitement of saving a teammate and working together, but it was dashed when Infestation devolved into just another shooter.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.