Warface Closed Beta Impressions – Slide or Die

Crytek, the game maker famous for the benchmark shattering series Crysis, is currently testing out its new free-to-play title, Warface (not to be confused with Warframe). I got the chance to go hands-on with the new title during its closed beta, and here are my impressions.

warface-menuWarface is a free-to-play, multiplayer, first person shooter for the PC. It features up to 16 players duking it out as four different classes, each with their own unique weapons and abilities. You’ve got your standard free-for-all, team deathmatch, territory grab, and “plant the bomb” game modes to play on a number of maps from cargo shipyards to backwoods villas. Those reading this with the attention span of a goldfish will have already swam off, dismissing Warface as another run-of-the-mill shooter trying to find its place in a market that’s already overflowing with them. And for those of you still reading, you’re probably wondering why you should even look twice at this title. But at least you’re open minded, and though it may sound deceptively generic, there are a number of distinct features that make Warface stand out from the rest.

warface-slideThe first notable difference with Warface is that it resides entirely in the cloud. No installing. No extracting .zip files. No more authentication keys and no more deciding where to put your 12 gb folder. The game is streamed entirely through a new service called GFace, paving the road for what is already becoming a growing trend in gaming. After logging into the GFace web page, players are presented with their personalized profile, list of games, and connected friends. Aside from a number of crashes and blank screens (increasingly more rare after several updates), the game will load directly in your browser. This push for a more social gaming experience is one that I can see being very successful. By abolishing the previous constraints tied to other games, the are very few barriers left between you, your friends, and your games. Facebook friends and Twitter followers need only point their web browser to a specific site to share fragging experiences together, without the time and memory commitments of full-fledged installations.

Streaming a game to thousands, potentially even millions, of players simultaneously is no easy task, though. Warface manages to handle this dilemma exceptionally well, but there are still a few notable wrinkles and hang-ups. I felt a slight delay in multiplayer matches, sometimes up to a few seconds long, and a few instances of lag teleporting. The delay is even more noticeable in the co-op mode. I would often shoot a target multiple times, and after seconds of wondering why there was no hit marker popping up, the enemy would drop dead having been killed by a teammate before I even started shooting him. Not even a single assist point. It’s an admirable feat to be able to bring the game down to only a few seconds of delay, but in shooters, where quick reactions earn kills, it can derail the experience. Hopefully, Crytek is working to minimize this as much as possible.

Footage taken from in-game

In terms of gameplay, you choose from one of four classes: assault, engineer, medic, and sniper. The assault class features the all-purpose rifles, engineers have sub-machine guns, medics carry shotguns, and snipers, you guessed it, have a deadly, 3 inch shiv (</sarcasm>). New tools of murder unlock as you progress through higher levels, just as they do in every other multiplayer shooter. Interestingly, Warface reverts to a more traditional mode, swapping out recharging shields for permanent health and armor. That means you’ll have to seek out a medic if you take too much damage and beg him to heal you. In cooperative mode, this works great; working together with your team, you replenish armor and health to stay alive until the last objective is completed. In competitive multiplayer, you’ll likely forget about it. The fast pace of the game favors repeated respawns over searching the battlefield for a friendly medic.

warface-coopThis is but one example of Warface’s push to a more cooperative experience. Maps are specifically tailored to include positions that no one man can reach alone. Certain boxes and obstacles, indicated by green holograms, allow two teammates to push/pull each other up to the out-of-reach sniper’s nests or high rise catwalks. A simple hit of the action button will throw your player into a crouched stance with fingers raised, communicating a “hey buddy, come give me a freakin’ hand.” In addition, as I briefly mentioned before, there is a cooperative component to Warface allowing up to five players to join together and tackle a number of missions. Although it is a nice change of pace from the competitive multiplayer, the gameplay varies little between missions and the “shoot … move up … shoot … move up” style gets repetitive quickly.

From weapons to game modes, the game feels familiar with one exception; the slide button. There’s no better way to make an appearance on the battlefield than by baseball sliding right in the middle of the war zone. Or sliding right on top of a mine, which is always a pleasure to watch. You can slide out windows, over boxes, and up hills, which adds an enjoyable and addicting twist to the genre. One of the greatest pleasures you can have playing this game is sliding up to an enemy and finishing him off with a point blank shotgun, rewarding yourself with the infamous “slide kill” medal.

Footage taken from in-game

Warface’s gameplay is frantic, solid, and enjoyable, but it isn’t it’s strong point. For the most part, you’ve seen it all before. But the ability to jump in and out on a whim strikes a perfect mix. The fine people at Crytek threw Call of Duty, Team Fortress, and Farmville into a blender and it birthed Warface. The ease of accessibility is the selling point here, requiring nothing more than a mouse, keyboard, and Internet connection. Warface offers a new medium for friends to connect and share experiences without the hassle linked to most every other game. Crytek’s free-to-play title has no confirmed release date yet, but when Warface does go public, I implore you at least play a few matches and then make a decision. You quite literally have nothing to lose.

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