Here's a little bit of setup, because I've tried to talk to people about Warface before and I find most people haven't heard anything about it. Warface is a free-to-play FPS developed by Crytek. To be clear, Warface is being developed by Crytek Kiev, co-developed by Crytek Frankfurt and Crytek Seoul. Thus the newer Kiev studio receives all of the resources and support that comes from being associated with Crytek's core franchises like Crysis.
Crytek's ridiculously high production standards have already paid off, with Warface becoming one of the most popular online titles in Russia (where the game has already been launched) and one of the most anticipated titles in China (where it's currently in closed beta). Warface is planned to be released in 2012, though you can register now for the closed bet which should be starting soon.
Did I mention this game is free-to play? Let me tell you why I'm still having a hard time believing it myself.
Crytek's Lofty Standards
There's a standard of quality associated with Crytek in terms of cutting edge graphics -- they're in a tier of its own some might say. As I was introduced to the game by Crytek producer Peter Holzapfel, it was the visual fidelity that immediately left its mark in my mind. I'm used to first person shooters like Call of Duty that look very nice in motion, but are frankly disappointing under a microscope. Holzapfel assured me that Warface was intended to impress even overclockers, yet also be extremely scalable. Only in this way could the game meet the graphical expectations associated with the Crytek brand while maintaining the accessibility of a free-to-play title.
Warface's production values are robust and extreme all around, likely due to CryEngine 3. The physics, particle effects, lighting and shading all look brilliant. Sliding into a dude with shotgun and blowing him away felt heavy and forceful -- it felt well executed all around. I should clarify that I never pulled off such a move on my own, but I had plenty of experience taking those brutal hits myself.
In terms of gameplay, and I'm not really an authority on the current FPS environment, Warface felt a lot like Call of Duty to me. Peter Holzapfel told me gameplay was heavily inspired by Crysis, including the sliding mechanic, which I oddly don't recall -- again, not my area of expertise. In practice, it felt like lateral movement was very deliberate, almost at a plodding pacing, in conjunction with very fast, almost twitch gunplay. How you approach combat depends entirely on what guns your class is equipped with, or of course you can plow through the map with a shotgun like I have a tendency to do. That's about as in-detail as I can get with this style of game, unfortunately.
Crytek's Future is Online and Free-to-Play
It's no secret Crytek is going 100% free-to-play after the release of Crysis 3. The unspoken reason for this is likely related to Crysis and Crysis 2 being two of the most pirated games ever, but on paper they say they believe there's a lot of unique and creative ideas they think they can bring to the environment. How many $20-$30 million free-to-play games made by triple-A studios are out there right now?
The current plan is to evaluate the North American environment, in order to produce a proper monetization scheme. Crytek is currently surveying the territory, much like they've already done for Russia and China, weighing whether they should sell an in-game advantage or stick with non-gameplay changing premium items. Either way, customization is key, and as an example I was shown an large variety of weaponry and customization options. All of which can be purchased with three different currencies, earned through general play, real-money, and in co-op missions.
Yes, Crytek made a currency exclusive to their cooperative missions just to encourage players to partake in Warface's daily missions. Holzapfel mentioned to me that they were influenced at least in part by Left 4 Dead when designing this side of the game. For instance, they wanted co-op players to have to rely heavily on their teammates, though I believe Holzapfel intended the comment to reference the addictive and social nature of the game. They also wanted a unique experience for gamers every time they played, and so every day the missions and maps change, offering new challenges at varying difficulty levels. The most difficult of which is said to have a 7% success rating in Russia.
It's this mixture of cooperative and competitive play, in addition to social features that Crytek believes will make Warface an online mainstay in coming years. Providing something for everyone, with content that can be converted into multiple gameplay scenarios, where premium purchases can also be used on both competitive and cooperative sides -- it's truly as unique experience that can only be built out of a free-to-play experience.
I can't describe how refreshing it is to see such a great looking game that will be coming out completely free-to-play. We live in an era where this style, this near-future warfare FPS, is becoming more expensive and dare I say exploitative of its fanbase. Map packs, exclusive DLC and now season passes and premium services grow in popularity on consoles, and even on PC. The nature of competition should counter this trend, and at least on PC it looks like Warfront is going to be the vanguard of this movement.
Crytek's CEO himself has said that premium services are, "milking customers to death." Such a statement in itself is both an insult to services like what Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty are offering, but also an insult to consoles themselves. Xbox Live itself is both limiting in that it prevents many gamers from playing online period without paying, but also in how it promotes these expensive premium systems and DLC by not allowing free content releases or free-to-play games. Crytek, at the birth of a new generation of consoles, is saying they're dedicating themselves to PC and the ideology associated with that. It's incredible, and it's impossible not to support them, at least at this stage of development.
Of course, that's all very meta and irrelevant to my actual hands-on experience with Warface. I just want to clarify that while this game looks amazing, but it's still limited by the scope of a the near-future warfare FPS genre. The cooperative play looks very exciting, though I wasn't able to partake of it due to my short appointment. In the end though, since this game will be free-to-play, I really have no reason to say Warface isn't worth checking out. So check it out.