2014 is here and it hails the start of the first full year of a new console generation. One of the biggest things becoming the norm on consoles like the PlayStation 4 (PS4) is something that we PC gamers have enjoyed for quite some time Â the rise of free-to-play. While some games such as DC Universe Online and Free Realms were available on the PlayStation 3 quite some time ago, many more are now crossing the console line, one of which is Warframe.
If youÂre unfamiliar with Warframe, itÂs a cooperative third-person shooter with Guyver-like space ninjas referred to as Tenno. The game is developed by Digital Extremes, a developer known for their work on the Unreal Tournament series, Dark Sector, and a number of other games. Warframe, which is currently in open beta, is available for both PC and the PS4. And while those two platforms currently exist in their own realms, Digital Extremes does plan to add cross-platform play in the future. This weekend I dove into Warframe to see what a few hours as a space ninja fighting off cybernetic war clones has to offer a player without ever spending a dime.
When starting out in Warframe youÂre treated to a short tutorial to get you familiar with the gameÂs controls. This mostly consists of a brief introduction to combat, movement, warframe powers, and the ability to pull a Spider-Man and run across walls. The new PS4 controller makes gameplay simplistic by using a fairly standard third-person shooter control scheme, which you can change around to fit your playstyle. The one twist in the controls is how you activate your warframeÂs special abilities and map. This is done by utilizing the PS4 controllerÂs new touchpad. One swipe of the touchpad in any of four directions will activate whatever powers you have available. Push the touchpad and youÂll open your minimap to full.
ThereÂs not much of a difference in the way youÂll get started on the PS4 version in comparison to its PC counterpart. In fact, save a few changes, many things are still quite similar to our early beta Warframe Intro Guide. But one thing that does deserve to be pointed out about the PS4 version of Warframe is that it includes one big feature that is usually left out in many console shooters that I was quite happy to see Â a Field of View (FOV) slider. This is a welcome feature to see on consoles where FOVs are often locked in.
Warframe is a game that you can play completely free if you really want to. Most weapons and warframes can be unlocked through regular gameplay. This, however, does include a bit of a time investment and a little luck as youÂll need to accumulate credits, components, and schematics to create the new weapons or warframes using the Foundry, the in-game crafting system. Once you have acquired the needed components, you can craft an item, just be prepared for this process to take upwards of a full day to complete. Alternatively, you can unlock the same items from the in-game store by using Platinum, WarframeÂs microtransaction currency.
There are certain items that can only be obtained with Platinum such as boosters, cosmetics, certain colors, and a few exclusive items for the largest premium item pack. You begin with two warframe slots, so youÂll need to purchase additional slots with Platinum for any warframes beyond that. But if youÂre just playing casually or with a group of friends, youÂll be happy to know that there is no pay wall to get started. Digital Extremes was also kind enough to give new accounts 50 Platinum to get started, so you can purchase some small items within that range on the house.
Probably the most in-your-face microtransaction that youÂll notice if you tend to die a lot are revives, which youÂre given 4 of per warframe. This isnÂt really a huge issue if your team is paying attention when you get dropped. When that happens, your warframe enters a ÂLast StandÂ type of mechanic where you can continue to shoot enemies with your pistol and hope that a teammate picks you back up before you bleed out. If not, you'll die and have to decide if you want to use one of your 4 revives. If you expend your supply donÂt worry, they will refill each day automatically or you can opt to refill them yourself by paying a small amount of Platinum.
ItÂs important to point out that even if you run out of revives you can still keep playing new maps. You just wonÂt have the ability to revive yourself if you die until theyÂre replenished.
When you first begin your adventure as a space ninja, youÂre given an option to choose from one of three warframes following the tutorial, but there are many more that can be obtained. Your starting choices are the Excalibur, a well-rounded warframe for beginners, Loki, a warframe that focuses on distraction and stealth, and Mag, a warframe with increased shielding and capable of dragging enemies and allies with magnetic energy.
Warframe's and weapons are leveled up with affinity.
Warframe's advance by gaining affinity, which can be earned by completing missions, challenges, and by scooping up any affinity orbs that drop along the way. Your warframe and weapons each have their own advancement system. As you level up your warframes and weapons, youÂll unlock additional options to upgrade them with mods that you acquire through normal gameplay, by purchasing packs with Platinum, or by trading with other players. These can be anything from health and damage boosters to new skills. You can even fuse multiple mods from your arsenal window to make them even stronger or try your pay a few credits to try and transmute four mods into a new one.
Warframe is mostly a PvE game, but there are some instances where you can engage in PvP. At current, PvP is available through duels in your clanÂs dojo or on planets with a Conclave arena. Conclaves offer a small team PvP option provided that you meet the warframe build requirements.
One of the big downsides to WarframeÂs setup is that there are no dedicated servers, so each game is a player-hosted session. If youÂre familiar with this then you already know why it can be a problem. For the uninitiated, if the host leaves or gets dropped, youÂll find that the game comes to a complete stop as it transitions to a new host. This can sometimes instead end the game and kick you back out to the map screen. The other problem is latency, which if you end up on the bad end (a host with a slow connection or too far away for example) can give your game a severe case of the rubber banding effect, which I have experienced a few times. You can set your ping limit in the settings, but that doesnÂt guarantee a smooth experience every time and can increase your wait to find a squad, something that IÂm happy to say I havenÂt had much of a problem with thus far.
If youÂre not suffering from latency issues, WarframeÂs gameplay is both smooth and solid. Your warframes can climb surfaces, run across walls, and fight with melee weapons, guns, and energy skills. Missions can feel a bit repetitive at times despite their procedurally generated nature, but the real meat of the game is in its combat, which can be quite fun and a real bargain at the extra low price of free.
Despite very fluent combat, it isnÂt flawless. Sometimes the enemy AI gets a little, well, confused. This comes in various forms such as enemies assaulting in full zerg formation without regard for personal safety, which can be quite fun with a number of warframe skills. At other times some enemies will ignore you as they jog into a wall while you unload a full clip into their back. Luckily, this isnÂt always the case and youÂll have plenty of fights where enemies will act as you would expect them to by ducking behind walls and taking shots at you. ThereÂs no real cover system so to speak, so donÂt get too excited.
Assassination missions are one example of Warframe's combat done right as they can put your squad against a stronger target that has his own set of special skills. In my first Assassination mission, our squad was tasked with killing an enemy that could apparently only be damaged by headshots, had high shields, and liked to toss an orb on the ground that would shoot one target and spread to any other players nearby. It was good fun but may be challenging for uncoordinated groups. Other missions like Endless Defense, which are technically WarframeÂs Horde mode, allow players to fight off multiple waves with a periodic chance for evac. Players can at that time vote to take the evac and claim their prize or to keep fighting for a chance at richer rewards.
As with most any multiplayer game, youÂll get more out of Warframe if you bring some friends along that can coordinate and chat. Striking that, finding a PUG isnÂt difficult at all thanks to the in-game matchmaking system. You can also swap your online settings around to play alone or in private matches where only friends can join.
So to summarize:
- As one of the first free-to-play titles on the PS4, Warframe is shaping up to be one of the best that you can play for absolutely nothing.
- The combat is solid, fun, and engaging.
- A variety of mission types.
- Various warframes can spice up gameplay along with an assortment of weapons and infection missions (think space zombies).
- Most weapons and warframes can be obtained through gameplay.
- Multiple mission types across several planets.
- Matchmaking is pretty quick.
- NPC chatter through the PS4 controller speaker is quite awesome.
- ItÂs free-to-play and doesnÂt require a PlayStation Plus account.
- Maps can feel repetitive despite the procedurally generated content design.
- Unlocking new stuff through crafting can take quite a bit of time.
- The at times lag-ridden, host-changing process of non-dedicated servers can be a painful experience.
- The tutorial and introduction doesnÂt adequately explain or even discuss specific features such as the Foundry, arsenal, and progression, making research a necessity for new players.
- Basic story.
- PC accounts currently canÂt be used or copied to the PS4, though an option to copy is coming along with cross-platform play down the road.
Warframe doesnÂt cost a thing to play aside from the time it takes to download it, so if youÂre curious about it I recommend that you go out and give it a try for yourself be it on PC or PlayStation 4. And if you like it, IÂm sure Digital Extremes wonÂt mind if you spend a little bit of cash. A devÂs gotta eat.