Crytek make their debut into the free to play market with the release of their stylish FPS, Warface. Yet the arena of the military shooter is a very crowded one, and outside of the interesting co-operative elements that-at least in part-define it, does Crytek’s latest do enough to drag your attention away from the game’s big budget brethren?
The answer to this question, sadly, would be…well, almost. Warface is certainly not a bad game, and it does have a massive weapon in its armoury, it’s absolutely free, and for that price, there’s a lot of bang for your buck. With both co-op and competitive game modes, challenges and contracts to unlock and complete, a fair collection of well-designed maps and tons of both guns and attachments available, there is certainly enough content as it is, and of course, this may very well be added to over time, but that simply does not do quite enough to gloss over its apparent weaknesses.
Visually, the game does the job, it certainly isn’t made to the same exacting standards that one would expect from Crytek, though it still feels polished enough to warrant the lengthy development process that went into creating the original PC version of the game. Environments are reasonably well detailed, as are both vehicles and character models. This isn’t, however, the grandiose, technology pushing work of the developer’s other work, but what more can one expect for such a low price point? The audio too is more than efficient, with firefights sounding gritty and atmospheric, as though each confrontation was being shot for a Michael Mann film. In short, the sound design is very strong indeed.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the Warface experience are the co-operative components that differentiate the game from the rest of the crowd. Players can revive fallen teammates, replenish ammunition and best of all, assist comrades onto areas of higher ground (they return the favour and help you up too). The game offers a selection of four different classes to choose from, these being Sniper, Rifleman, Medic and Engineer, each is well balanced with their own strengths and weaknesses, which together help to promote co-operation between players in a mode where teamwork is entirely essential for survival, sadly though, this solidarity between gamers doesn’t seem to extend into the competitive modes, where medics frequently abandon downed squad members, and players generally treat each team based game mode as though it were a free-for-all.
The co-op campaign is a strong point, it forces teammates to stick together by throwing a party of up to five members into missions of steadily increasing difficulty against AI soldiers and even more powerful, boss characters. These missions are always taut affairs, with downed players (not revived by a medic) being forced to watch on from the side-lines until a teammate can reach the next checkpoint, restoring both previously downed compatriots and replenishing spent ammunition supplies. Warface gives players two simple missions to ease them into the co-op game, but from then on the difficulty curve is not quite as smooth as one would like, and frequently teams will find themselves quickly falling apart, degenerating into solo gung-ho attempts to press on, that, more often than not, result only in failure. The groundwork is there for a highly enjoyable game mode though, it simply needs a few tweaks, and this will surely come over time as Crytek continue to update and rebalance the existing content.
Competitive modes are exactly as one would expect, with team death match, free for all and more all being available, all of which play well enough, and every one of Warface’s maps are designed well enough to offer not only provide sufficient verticality, but also plenty of blind corners, open spaces and subtle nooks and crannies that encourage players to take advantage of the slide manoeuvre that has been imported from the company’s major FPS series, Crysis. In Warface, it gives the game another advantage over an already packed crowd, and heightens the fast paced, visceral nature of the combat substantially.
The biggest weakness in Warface’s armour is its economics though, progress through the game is almost intolerably slow, making the game feel more like hard work than the enjoyable experience that it really ought to be. Players can part with real money, should they wish, to purchase Kredits which can be spent on boosters to augment any earned experience or cash, item packs, weapons and attachments, and should they do so, the possibility of spending a hefty sum is a very real one. On the closed beta for the Xbox 360 version, players were rewarded with credits with which to purchase items and remain competitive, and it just feels as though Crytek haven’t done enough to assist newcomers to the experience, or those who simply wish to keep their free games exactly as that. Granted, it is a tough balancing act, and over time, this too may be rebalanced to provide all players with more of a level playing field upon which to compete, and with it, savour a far more enjoyable gaming experience, but as it stands, I could not see too many gamers ploughing many hours into Warface.
Crytek’s free to play shooter is a tough one to judge, it has the foundations of a game that could not only be a huge commercial success for the developer, but a wonderful showcase for the potential of the free to play model. Its promise is there for anyone to see, but as it is, in its current form, it is a fun, if repetitive, shooter that may distract gamers from the main AAA military FPS games such as Battlefield, but it will not hold their attention for very long. Still, it’s certainly worth trying, it is free after all, and who knows, with a little tweaking, Crytek may yet have another top quality FPS on their hands.
– James Paton @theblackpage81