Publisher: Trion Worlds
Much has been made of Warface's deeply silly name, but we rather like it. It's fun to say. Go on, try it out: Warface. Show me your Warface. Gears Of Warface. Full spread of photon torpedoes, Lieutenant Worface. Crytek's monicker might have been slightly lost in translation, but it has a certain goofy charm.
However, beyond these cheap laughs, Warface means serious business. Crytek's first foray into free to play has a lofty mission statement: to deliver a triple-A quality multiplayer experience, both in terms of gameplay and graphics, within your humble internet browser. Team-based deathmatches, co-op, customisation and clans. No clients. No down-payment or subscription. Just war. Face.
Having sampled the closed beta, we can report that Warface is certainly on course to set a new graphical standard for browser games, and provide impressively solid shooting for the bargain price of absolutely no money whatsoever.
Warface will act as the flagship title for Crytek's new social browser gaming platform, Gface, that draws inspiration from Korean coffee shops. Once they've made a free account, players can host and hang out in chat lobbies (confusingly known as 'Seeds'), before putting a game onto a virtual table - an actual, wooden table - to drop into as a party. Though Gface is currently in a very early and borderline broken state, acting basically just as a means of letting us get our hands on the Warface beta, we reckon that the idea of hanging out and playing games with friends without downloading an extra client is rather intriguing indeed.
Regardless, once you've downloaded a weighty set of libraries (currently only available for Firefox and Chrome, perhaps due to IE8 not playing ball), Warface starts playing in your browser window using a heavily modified CryEngine 3 build. Creating an avatar and browsing available servers is a cinch due to an immediately accessible and streamlined interface, plonking you down into the action as quickly as possible without bogging down in unnecessary busywork.
First impressions are of familiar solidity. Khaki-wearing tough guys with big guns, killing each other in wartorn streets. If you've ever played a military shooter before, you'll be well away. The arsenal feels weighty and solid despite boasting a fairly generic selection, while traversal proves to be pleasingly dynamic thanks to simple vaulting mechanic, cooperative wall-jumps and a lengthy sprint slide that lets you spend much of the game careening towards opponents on your backside. Though perhaps a little overpowered at present, it's certainly a unique way of surprising someone waiting around the next corner, and helps to make Warface feel just a little bit faster and more unpredictable than your standard shooter fare.
Warface's next major quirk becomes immediately apparent when you attempt to crouch, only to discover that pressing 'C' brings up a Crysis-style weapon customisation menu. Situational sidegrades like scopes, silencers and stocks can be switched out on the fly, which is a fun if arguably fairly pointless feature in a multiplayer experience. Since the intimate multi-level maps promise potential danger from any angle, chances are you'll end up shot rather than properly equipped.
There's a basic selection of small-team gametypes on offer, such as deathmatches, objectives and horde-style co-op challenges, putting the focus squarely on working together to survive. To do so, you'll need advantage of Warface's four classes. Riflemen and snipers act much like you'd expect, but with most matches making you sit out the rest of the round if you bite the bullet, medics and engineers will have their work cut out. Packing powerful gear like medical kits, defibrilators and armour repair tools, the two game-changing support artists are powerful yet extremely vulnerable thanks to their situational loadouts (shotties only, medics), meaning that everyone has to alternate between attacking, support and babysitting during each relatively short game.
Though simple, the urge to truly cooperate is a nice touch, and one that will reward groups of friends who communicate effectively. Gface seeds will probably be useful for planning strategies during downtime.
As you'd expect, completing matches, scoring kills and completing daily cooperative challenges will reward you with experience and in-game currency to spend in the all-important marketplace. Since Warface is currently in beta, the economy hasn't been finalised, but it looks like fairly standard 'pay or wait' chicanery. Most of the premium options tend to revolve around customisation and boosters, while free users should be able to get their hands on some decent kit given hours of continued play. We'll have to find out the true measure of the marketplace closer to release.
Unfortunately, it's often difficult to shake the feeling that we've played Warface countless times before. In terms of critique, I personally worry that it lacks a unique visual identity; devoid of vibrant colour, a consistent aesthetic and anything particularly interesting to look a beyond the occasional futuristic cosmetic visor. It's a military shooter, after all. Do we really need another one of these?
And then you remember that it's running in-browser. Indeed, it's all too easy to forget.
CryEngine 3 has proved to be surprisingly scalable here, offering a range of different options to suit your rig, while continually delivering fluid animations and sharp texture work. A mid-spec gaming PC or even high-end workstation should be able to run Warface on lower settings, while our GeForce 660-equipped test rig managed to clock a consistent 60-100 frames per second on maximum whack. In raw visual terms, it's certainly no match for Crysis 3, but manages to give Call Of Duty a run for its money (and beat ithe console version's texturing hands-down). Considering that this is running in Chrome or Firefox, that's nothing to be sniffed at.
Of course, it's worth noting that performance will be utterly reliant on the Gface servers at launch (something we've become keenly aware of since SimCity's launch last month) but the risk to consumers is somewhat lesser here thanks to the non-existent price tag.
Ultimately, it's clear that Warface is desperate to be better rather than different, deciding to tout the quality of its visuals as its unique selling point rather than much in the way of innovation. It's a strong foundation for a free to play title, but one that will rely on the strength of its netcode, the nature of its microtransactions and the long-term viability of Gface to survive. We'll check back in with Warface closer to its launch later this year.