Updated Fri, May 13, 2011 by Stow
Since PAX East 2011, Red 5 Studios has kept mum these last few months about FireFall, a team-based PvE and PvP shooter sporting classes, jetpacks, a cell-shaded graphical style, and much more. Recently, during an event tailored to eSports broadcasters, we got a sneak peek at what the PvP side of the game entails. Does FireFall appeal to the masses who prefer a slower console-style shooter, with headshots the moment you come out of cover? Or does it appeal to those of us who bunny-hop as fast as possible in the hallways of our house to build speed, and always seeking the rocket launcher in games?
Neither. So the question is which niche does this game fit into?
Unlike most futuristic shooters, Firefall is bright and colorful on most maps, and most of its PvE is outdoors and vibrant.
In the hour long team battle we saw, gameplay was a mixed bag of futuristic combat. The characters are your typical big assaulters, medics, and snipers, and each one has a jetpack. The problem is the levels that we saw were like something out of Halo, and had no real areas to maneuver with a jetpack. You might be able to cover a little vertical ground up a sandy hill, or jump on the mast of a ship, but that’s the extent of which vertical mobility helps you. For a game coming from the minds that gave us Tribes 1 and 2, it's really unacceptable.
The other primary problem is that Firefall has pretty much the exact same combat and classes (called Battleframes in Firefall) as Global Agenda. This would be fine if Global Agenda was using the subscription based model it planned to when it launched. But with the recent Free Agent patch, Free-To-Play has arrived in Global Agenda and Firefall now has a serious, established competitor in the market, and the fact that Firefall’s combat flow and Battleframes mimic the game means that Firefall really has to go out and hit something out of the park in terms of a specific killer feature that no other game on the market has.
It is one thing to say that all squad based shooters are the same, but the similarities between Global Agenda and Firefall are uncanny. Medics heal with green lock-on beams and grenades spiked at their feet for an AOE heal. Recons snipe from afar, with rounds difficult to trace, and assaults spearhead the charge with great durability and heavy weapons. It does have a downing/revive system, but that's been done and overdone since Gears of War. Where’s the originality?
With all of these big guns, you go down in a second of burst fire. Fortunately, you also revive in a split second if a friendly medic is nearby!
PvP aside, the PvE has the potential to shine and be that one big thing that sucks people into the game and doesn’t let go. They’ve promised an open PvP world, with dynamic world events, vehicles, and more. This’ll lead to a lot of team vs. team action with monsters spawning and wrecking everyone’s day, and more importantly, just lead to PvE that isn’t a complete snore. Even in shooters, PvE has devolved to exploiting the AI and cookie-cutter builds that maximize damage and leveling speed. It’ll be nice to finally play a game where the PvE exists for entertainment and not just farming.
The developers need to make their game stand out if it's going gain any kind of a significant fanbase, so perhaps it needs to stick to its unique strength in its persistent, open PvE and PvP world. Putting an emphasis on creating an exciting world where anything can happen, rather than throwing their hat into the ring with a busy PvP shooter market will bring Red 5 Studios glory. CrimeCraft has proven that you can get some traction by having a great PvE experience in their new BLEEDOUT expansion set. That's not to say that the PvP experience of this game is a complete wash--it just doesn't make the game a must buy or a must play in the case of a F2P business model. Now imagine if they took this open, persistent, random world and divided it up into quadrants to fight over in PvP combat as well. Suddenly we have a stylized successor to Planetside on our hands, something people have been dreaming of for years. Get to it guys, I won't take credit for the idea!
As the futuristic F2P FPS market slowly begins to fill up, Firefall’s appeal diminishes. It’s launching late 2011, which means they have plenty of time to refine it. If they launch it as is, Firefall will be nothing more than your average Korean F2P shooter, but with a little more love and a unique feature or two, Firefall could definitely stand out as one of the major games of the winter.