Genesis has been billed as an MMO-lite - an apt description in many ways. Each of the game’s hub areas, as well as the areas you’re sent to on missions, is essentially an instanced zone. The game automatically sends other players into your instance, so it’s not unusual to spot a ship with a GamerTag beneath it, jetting off to do its own thing.
The presence of random players certainly makes Genesis’ world seem more alive than most other Xbox 360 titles, but the idea isn’t carried to its full potential. You can’t communicate with randoms in any way, not even with predetermined phrases or gestures like Castlevania: Harmony of Despair offers. As such, the only way to party up with such people would be to message them through the Guide button menu and arrange it. But who wants to bother with that?
On the other hand, if you set the PVP option to ‘On,’ you’ll sometimes stumble across players from opposing factions. It doesn’t happen so often as to become annoying; you’re always encountering AI enemies in the hub world anyway. Running into the occasional human and blasting him or her to smithereens proves to be a real treat.
Playing with up to four friends with mics can also be very enjoyable, though not without several caveats. First, everyone needs to complete the 30 minute-ish tutorial and join a faction before they have access to multiplayer. Considering the complexity of the game and how easy it is to miss important instructions, that seems like a wise requirement.
Less understandable are the hoops that follow. You can’t play with someone from a different faction, so everyone must travel to Alpha Station and choose to join the same faction. After switching, you'll have to fly to the Faction’s base and talk to its leader. Only then can players accept invites. Both steps of the process waste a lot of time that could be spent playing together. The developers should have simply enabled an option to automatically join a friend’s faction upon accepting an invite.
The actual quest structure slightly impedes team play as well. After joining a faction, the flow of the game involves completing non-story faction missions until you’ve earned enough points to unlock a faction story mission. Complete the story mission and the process repeats until eventually you’ve maxed out your faction level and finished its overall story.
Teams can take on several kinds of missions together as they earn faction points, including unique group missions (that closely resemble regular ones). But once everybody has earned enough points to unlock the story mission, the teamwork must be put on hold. Inexplicably, story missions must be completed independently instead of with a group. Thus co-op comes down to doing a few missions together, going solo for a while, and then joining back up until the next story mission. If only teams could take on story missions together, cooperative play would flow much better.