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Posted by on Oct 10, 2013

Preview: Warface

Last week I had a hands-on with Crytek’s new online shooter – Warface.

The free to play war sim has been making (and unloading) rounds already, with millions of registered users in China, Brazil, Russia, Germany and South Korea. Even with this already amassed audience, It’s hard to believe there’s enough on offer to make yet another FPS shooter like WarFace stand out from the crowd.

The main thing that does differentiate the game from the competition of say, Battlefield or Call of Duty, is that it has a ‘free to play’ hook. More commonly seen on apps, the free to play model lets you jump in and shoot without throwing down any cash, theoretically. With that said, let’s not pretend that anything in life is free, and it’s interesting to see how Crytek move to make that money.

WarFace looks like just another shooter, but will it's free to play aspect set it apart?

On the surface Warface looks like just another shooter, but will its free to play aspect set it apart?

Many items and upgrades (such as body armour, night vision goggles and weapons etc) need to be purchased, (of course) with some even open to paid rental for a limited time Blockbuster video style. This is done by purchasing ‘Kredits’.

There’s also another currency in the game called ‘Crowns’. Crowns can only be gained with points from playing the game, interestingly some in game items can only be ‘bought’ with crowns and not kredits, which seems a bit more justifiable and is sure to keep plenty of players playing.

The maps available to the team death matches, free for alls, body guarding and bombing missions (amongst others) have a daily rotation. One day you may have a bunch of maps set in Afghanistan where as other days you’ll access maps set in China, for example. The veritable crop rotation is also designed to hook players, think of your favourite map as a kind of ‘sub of the day’. New maps will roll out sometimes without ceremony also, so there’s an advent calendar like anticipation for something new.

Gun fights are spread over a number of locations, from Afghan dust bowls and Balkan villages to favelas and China.

Gun fights are spread over a number of locations, from Afghan dust bowls and Balkan villages to sunny favelas and Chinese pagodas.

After being showcased at Gamescon, the pre-beta build I got to play had since been tweaked here and there. Although it should be stated that this is a game still in localised development.

Warface sends you in via chopper to eradicate your enemies in a selection of war grounds. Enemies look generically like the kind of navy blue padding and visor clad G4S Security guards you’d expect to see picking up a portable safe from the back of a Gregg’s or trying to ruin an Olympic games.

Enemies can flash red in your field of view during training which makes it way too easy to see them. Your team can feel the brunt of friendly fire if you want but be aware that AI allies seem to just pop up in front of your gun sight whenever you want to peel off a serious stream of McDonald’s french fry tracer fire.

Aiming and gun fire is already fluid and responsive without the need to dive straight into options for fine tuning.

Aiming and gun fire is already fluid and responsive without the need to dive straight into options for fine tuning.

It’s when you actually want them to appear in front of you which is the problem. Climbing up obstacles is a necessary part of most maps and always requires another team member to give you a boost and/or pull you up. This is no sweat when playing with other humans, but the AI squad just left me at the bottom of scaffolding while they plodded off towards further shooty bang bang mayhem on more than one occasion. After I gave them a leg up and everything, ungrateful sods.

The team climbing and detonation set peieces feel clunky and waiting for misbehaving AI breaks up the pace.

The team climbing and detonation set peieces feel clunky and waiting for misbehaving AI breaks up the pace.

You’ll also need some buddies to take down bosses which have a massive screen eating health bar. The gatling gun totting honcho I came up against was one mean mother and that dumpy power ranger just wouldn’t go down. The fight demands grit and the struggle is fun, although I did die a lot. That said I had plenty of re-spawn coins, ah yes, you need to pay for those too. Mine were a freebie so I’m not sure what the wallet damage is on those. Some could argue this brings an arcade element to things, or a scam element, both arguments are valid.

The environments and maps are competently designed and characters look good. That said, the graphic realism of the game is somewhat undermined by the odd anime faces of the female characters. This is especially jarring when all the dudes look like your usual polygon-realist legit Jason Statham-alikes of different racial palettes and hairstyles.

The guys are just a regular bunch of GI  Joes...

The guys are just a regular bunch of G.I.
Joes…

This design choice was allegedly made at the request of South Korean players during localisation, who apparently live that stuff. It’s alluded to, but unclear if this will be amended for forthcoming western markets but I’d expect (and hope) so.

...Whereas the Ladies look like Bambi eyed IMVU ads that crawled out of a web ad and grabbed an AK.

…Whereas the Ladies look like Bambi eyed IMVU ads that crawled out of a web ad and grabbed an AK.

It’s hard to argue with Warface. Yeah, it isn’t anything new and yeah you can probably buy your way to victory if you fork out on the right stuff and the name is dumb, but it’s free (sort of) and fun.

The gameplay is snappy, inclusive and intended to be fair. Re-spawn points will dot you around randomly all over the place to sidestep campers. There’s a sense that you can actually play your first battle without being fragged in 0 seconds flat by full time achievement addicted residents.

The game is competing with some big names as well as advertising Crytek’s GFACE social gaming network. There’s plenty of studio pride at stake. WarFace looks like one to watch but who knows what it’ll be like when it exits beta or makes it to Xbox 360 next year.

The timing of the console release seems odd as new gen systems Xbox One and PS4 will be out by then. I suppose it avoids going to school with Destiny, KillZone: Shadow Fall, TitanFall, Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts among other. We’ll have to wait to see if free to play WarFace gets held in detention or excels to top of the class.

Warface is currently in beta and will be out on PC for Windows this year, as well as coming to Xbox 360 in 2014.

Olly Jones

Olly Jones plays, designs and writes about those computer games. For a bigger picture of his pictures, check out http://olyjns.tumblr.com/ before tumblr blows up again.

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