I wasn't fully up to speed on Warface as I entered the showroom at Crytek's offices in London. Equipped with an open mind I settled in to learn all about the German outfit's first venture into the competitive free-to-play shooter space.
Executive producer Joshua Howard gave us a brief introduction of where Warface is at currently. It's already been out for a year in Russia where apparently it's doing really well. It's a near future fiction where the player assumes the role of a mercenary sent to deal with conflict zones all over the globe. You earn points by fighting along side your squad mates, and these points can be spent on better weapons and equipment, ultimately making you a true elite soldier. The game also supports microtransactions (as you may have suspected), allowing for a quicker rise through the ranks. The game is now making its way to open beta in mainland Europe and several new features will also be implemented, including female soldiers.
With the brief introduction out of the way we're allowed to sample the co-op mode. The first thing we notice is that our options are limited to a few introductory missions, and a tutorial level where those who need a little practice may get it. The explanation for this is that you need to complete these early missions before unlocking the more substantial missions.
Having chosen a mission you're sent to a lobby where you pick your class and equipment, much like you would in other shooters. Once the host feels enough is enough the mission starts.
The first thing I notice are the graphics. The visuals are stunning, there is a nice flow to the action and it clearly makes good use of the CryEngine 3 tech. Clearly it's not on the same level as say Crysis 3, but it's still impressive as far as free-to-play games go.
The level starts out in a helictoper where, together with your squad mates, you prepare to hit the ground running. Before setting down you get to pick off some enemies on rooftops through the windows, but it's when the door opens and we hit the ground that the bullets truly start flying.
Everything feels very familiar. It's a solid shooter from the get go, that clearly has what it takes to entertain. In addition to the equipment you choose before the mission you can also buy extra upgrades on the go, allowing for things like new scopes and silencers as soon as you have the necessary points.
We complete a mission that's divided in two parts, and it is clear there is a heavy emphasis on teamwork in this game. Each of the classes is designed in a way that they offer support to other squad mates, either through repairing armour, regeneration of health, supplying ammunition, and these abilities tie everything together into a cohessive whole. There are also several spots in the levels that invite co-op actions, like helping each other over walls and up on rooftops.
Once this preliminary missions is completed, as promised the first proper mission is unlocked with three difficulty levels (each unlocked as you complete the one prior to it). The following mission brings more challenges, and our teamwork is put to the test as a more heavily armoured enemy, with its weakpoint in the back, blocks our way. Playing Warface is fun and it's great to see that the developers have not only made teamwork a necessity, but also made sure that it's entertaining. Paired with a deep PvP component, this makes Warface an interesting package.
As we're done playing I'm given some time with Joshua Howard to learn more about the Western plans for Warface. My first question and one that is always asked when it comes to these kind of shooters is "how they avoid falling into the pay-to-win trap?". Howard assures me that they have worked hard to avoid this. They will only offer minor advantages and conveniences to paying players. Things like a modest boost to the experience points earned and resurrection coins - that can be used to quickly jump back into the fight after getting killed. Another thing they offer are Mystery Boxes that unlock a random weapon for the player's class, but all of these weapons can also be unlocked with the in-game currency. It sounds very reassuring, and I'm told the developers constantly monitor the game and make changes to the system if need be.
There is little doubt this could be a home-run on the European free-to-play market as it's already a major success in Russia and other big free-to-play markets. It's obvious Crytek has taken development seriously, and from what I've seen it's clearly a game any first-person shooter enthusiast should give a closer look. Warface is just about to go live in Europe on PC, and the game is expected to hit Xbox 360 early next year. As for next-gen Joshua Howard had no comment, but if Warface is successful it ought to be a distinct possibility further down the road.