Firefall preview

By Xav de Matos, Sep 09, 2011 4:15pm PDT

At PAX Prime 2011 it was difficult to ignore Firefall's presence. From the hulking statue in one of the hall's main foyers, to the huge floor space reserved to showcase the game in hands-on demos, developer Red 5's shooter was everywhere.

For the uninitiated, Firefall is an upcoming free-to-play, MMO shooter (playable in first- and third-person) from a developer helmed by a former team leader at a little outfit called Blizzard Entertainment. Sporting Player Versus Environment (PvE) and Player Versus Player (PvP), Firefall has a wealth of options for gamers to lose themselves in.

Though it is based on the MMORPG concept of persistent world, quests, and available PvP battles, Firefall isn't a dice roll game. There is no mechanic calculating the possible damage dealt by your weapons. Firefall is a shooter; a genre based on skill.

There is something for everyone here: class-based shooting combat, customizable loadouts and characters, co-operative missions, solo quests, loot, strategy, and more. I can't say for certain, but I assume somewhere in the world is an entire battlefield that takes place within the confines of a kitchen sink, just to make sure Red 5 has covered all of its bases.

Players can select (and swap between) four solider builds: a heavy-weapon Assault class, a sniper-toting Recon class, a support-focused Medic, and an Engineer able to drop goodies like turrets and shields. Each class sports a jetpack for short burst sky-travel. Weapons can be customized as players see fit with collectable modules that add new Alt-Fire effects to weapons.

During my demo the invading army known as "The Chosen" assaulted three capture points in dynamic, terrifying waves. These beasts attack with impunity, assaulting from the sky and dropping into the once safe zone below. For one of my first quests I was tasked with recovering an item from one of three locations, which I could explore in any order I decided. Of course, the item I needed to grab was found at the third site--something Red 5 founder Mark Kern said would always be the case for players to explore more of the surrounding areas.

At PAX, Red 5 had the invasion world event on a timer to ensure it was experienced by as many players as were waiting in line to play the game. In the final version things will work differently, I'm told. Rewards are based on progress, for example. In the invasion quest, players involved in halting the progress of enemy pods during the dynamic event were rewarded with a random Battleframe (an item that determines your class and primary skills), but if the entire Mothership of the invasion was taken out the reward would have been much greater.

There are a lot of intricate elements I was able to employ during combat. You can jetpack into the air and stomp the ground hoping to crush enemies below, you can activate a sniper bullet that sticks to an enemy and explodes after a few seconds, you can dash forward into danger or away from death. There's a lot here, but it's surprisingly easy to get a hang of it all.

Characters felt balanced throughout my time with the game. The geometry of the battle areas offered multiple routes to attack. Defending those areas gave off the right level of stress and reward for successfully covering each sector properly. Firefall does sport a cartoonish look but it isn't venturing into the Team Fortress 2 realm, it gives off a more subtle Borderlands look with fewer hard black lines. In short, I really dug the way it looks.

If the overall experience features enough dynamic content and has a strong enough community to support its Player Versus Player options, Firefall could be a PC gamer's surprise time sink. I'm excited to play it again, personally, and I anticipate Firefall will steal many hours away from my life when it launches later this year.

For more on Firefall, make sure to check out the game's official website.

Click here to comment...

Comments

See All Comments | 1 Thread | 1,127 Comments*