When you think "free to play" there's a certain method of thinking for many gaming enthusiasts, conjuring images of lower quality, casual games that more often than not plague Facebook and many flash portals. Despite the somewhat mixed association with F2P games and the generic name, Crytek and Trion World's wants you to jump feet first into a triple-A experience in the free to play realm of online shooters with Warface.
I'm not exactly sure what a "warface" is but the name reminds me of this scene from "Full Metal Jacket"; however, last week I got to play a little bit of the shooter. Read on to see if you have what it takes to put on your war face.
Crytek has ticked off each box in the check list as far as shooters are concerned, essentially making a team based multiplayer game set in the near future. Play styles range from TDM and domination to a more focused co-op mode taking a group of five through one of the maps with multiple objectives to complete. Each player assumes a particular role such medic, assault, etc. and you'll have access to an armory filled with usually suspects like sniper rifles, handguns, and shotties.
The package of Warface looks fantastic. Trion and Crytek seems to have brought in the full talent of artists and coders to pare down the powerful CRYEngine into something that works for most PCs without sacrificing the visuals. Everything from the hazy favela rooftops to rocking explosions to the glint off a sniper's scope was highly detailed with vivid realism. The game played silky smooth and maintained a solid FPS throughout the entire demo, even during intense firefights. Characters are very fluid with all their animations, as well. Altogether, "Warface" is coming along nicely and graphics whores will like what they see.
The demo wasn't set up for competitive modes so I played a quick co-op session set in the a fore mentioned favela map. Warface plays out in the same vein as "Team Fortress 2" and the "Battlefield " series. You select your class (I played a medic) and choose a load-out from a selection of weapons. After jumping into the game you're presented with a basic way-point for you and your squad to slog through with waves of soldiers culminating with a boss fight of sorts. I got to see a couple during the play-through, one was a kind of heavily armed soldier that needed to be shot in the tank it was carrying on its back. After making our way through each checkpoint we encountered an arena with a huge walking battle tank and conveniently placed rockets to take it down while the other players took turns kiting it around the field. Overall, Warface has a very arcady feel to it with frenetic, high-intensity pacing with quick shootouts and speedy action.
Although co-op supports 5 players I only had one other soldier for the most part until about half way through the level until a couple more jumped in. As there isn't any level scaling, so rolling two deep made for a frantic experience being swarmed by aggressive soldiers. In line with any good squad-based game, teamwork is the way to play. My role as healer was necessary for keeping everyone alive and kicking while my partner played assault and distributed ammo. You can also revive teammates with a defibrillator if they go down saving them from having to spend a COIN, an extra life, to respawn. Additionally, there are several spots on the map in which you can give your friend a boost and vault up a wall and then can pull you up to join them. In fact, it seems there's an emphasis on movement as you're able to scale and climb in several spots to reach a better vantage. You can also sprint and slide into cover or to beat a hasty retreat.
Beyond running and gunning, Trion and Crytek are setting things up for a more social game that will support a robust online system that will more likely attempt to bring in all manner of gamers from hardcore to more weekend warrior types. A lot of the specific details are still mum as there isn't even a hard launch date set outside the nebulous "winter season"- though you can still sign up for the closed beta.
Release date isn't the only mystery as there's not even a set business model for the game. Obviously, anyone interested can check out the game for free but we're still waiting for how paid content will be distributed. Right now there are basically two forms of currency (one paid and one earned with playtime) that you may use to unlock items but most of the guns are tied to your level. I suspect there will be the standard buy-able EXP boost and player skins to help supplement costs. There was a brief talk about how guns degrade with over use and buying multiple spawns (that COIN thing mentioned previously) so I bet there will be packs to increase durability for a few hours or so many sessions and granting more respawns for rounds. I would actually like to see a kind of payed tournament for players to test their skills for unique prizes. The trick with many F2p games is keeping content, like maps and levels, available to all to prevent community segregation. How Trion plans to do this is unsure but they should have plenty of time to figure out that part.
Warface really dodges the F2P stigma with a nicely detailed, rich environment; quick, responsive controls; and balanced roles to keep you on your toes. With so many other FPSs coming out, it'll be interesting to see how Warface will be supported but hopefully they'll find a passionate community to engage and enhance gameplay.