It’s been months since Crytek channeled the power of CryEngine 3 to release a free-to-play, near-future PC first-person shooter known as Warface, and after a number of patches and updates, they’re ready to bring Xbox 360 Gold members in on the action. The game is available free-of-charge for gamers with an active Xbox Live Gold membership this week, but with so much competition in the futuristic military FPS market, Warface is going to need more than a zero dollar entry fee to get players hooked.
It’s clear from the start – introduced to two fairly generic factions – that the world of Warface isn’t what’s going to be hooking players. But in an attempt to stand out from triple-A blockbusters like Call of Duty: Ghosts and Titanfall, Warface attempts to use mandatory cooperation to keep players engaged. The four classes available in the game – Rifleman, Medic, Engineer, and Sniper – don’t attempt to reinvent the wheel in any way, but do justice to specialization, giving each player something to bring to the party.
As one would expect, this strength is most visible in the co-op mode, as groups of five players tackle a series of rotating challenges. The lower-level missions are far from challenging, with risk and reward somewhat undercut by the mechanics: players respawn once anyone reaches a checkpoint, so missions can typically turn into messy run and gun operations, rather than the strategic operations that the developers may have intended.
Players who opt for the more challenging missions, however, will need to work together immediately. Soldiers need to progress through levels while sharing ammunition, reviving fallen comrades, and aiding eachother in traversing through the map itself. Depending on the skill level of the team, a lack of cohesion is fatal, as splitting up the party can prove disastrous.
It is through these cooperative missions that players are treated to the story of Warface, as similar to Titanfall, the game’s narrative is delivered through radio communications and orders transmitted while players are being transported to the mission’s location. But unlike Titanfall, the co-op missions pit players against swarms of NPCs, rather than other human-controlled enemies. Unfortunately, buyers will likely be disappointed with the story concocted; the plot is fairly generic, meaning it is far too tempting to stare out the window of the helicopter, trying to pick off enemies at a distance rather than listen to the exposition coming over the radio.
Like most first-person shooters, the bulk of the content in Warface is found in competitive multiplayer. The game offers a decent variety of modes, ranging from standard team deathmatch to bomb-planting missions, but the glue holding a team together – cooperation – goes AWOL once stepping into the multiplayer arena. Players still have their choice of class, but the frantic speed of the shootouts don’t really offer the time or opportunity to take advantage of unique abilities.
In our experience, a downed teammate isn’t likely to be revived by a Medic (while Riflemen lay down covering fire), since the wounded player will respawn in a matter of seconds. Players are motivated to work together to use the ‘buddy climbing system’ and reach higher ground, but the classes become fairly irrelevant. For the most part, choosing a class in multiplayer matches is more like choosing a weapons loadout than a skill set.
The free-to-play model is also – as expected – augmented by a frustrating microtransaction system. Warface‘s store offers the opportunity to pick up some incredible weapon upgrades and alternative artillery with real money or in-game credits (which are earned quite slowly in co-op missions), but the Xbox 360 version of the store is the same one which led to several complaints in the PC community. The majority of items bought in the store wear down over time, meaning players must either replace them or pay to repair. Repairs are reasonably-priced, but many gamers (outside of RPG fans) won’t be used to the concept of paying to keep purchased items, especially ones bought with real-world dollars.
The repair mechanic wouldn’t seem so frustrating if the in-game currency (crowns) didn’t take so long to accumulate. Having to grind away for hours just to keep your favorite weapon out of the repair shop isn’t the most exciting way to spend time in a first-person shooter.
The game isn’t without its interesting touches, with one spin on the typical FPS combat system brought to the table being a sliding ability. Players are able to perform a baseball slide along the ground and catch opponents off-guard with some well-placed shoots from below. Many of the maps offer at least one or two small crawl spaces that make for perfect opportunities to take advantage of the unique attack style.
Warface may have some serious flaws when it comes to encouraging cooperation in multiplayer matches and giving players incentive to fund its pay model, but its free-to-play selling point makes it hard to resist giving the game a chance. The CryEngine-powered game delivers the development kit’s typical high-quality graphics, even if the art style is a generic one. Over 25 million players have registered for the PC and Xbox 360 version, so interested parties shouldn’t have a hard time finding matches any time soon.
The downfalls of Warface’s competitive mode make it an unlikely alternative for the well-polished competition in the FPS genre, and the generic setting and story don’t offer enough of a change to entice gamers in that respect. That said, the shooter does offer fast-paced competitive multiplayer matches for gamers who are interested in picking off enemies – without dropping $60 on a triple-A shooter.
Warface is now available on Xbox 360, free of charge to all Xbox Live Gold Members.
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