Platform: PC (F2P, browser)
Warface is a free to play military shooter, and that's perhaps the only interesting thing I can say about it.
It's a shooter. You can play it for free. It's a free to play shooter. Khaki-clad tough guys run and slide around some intimate maps, fragging each other for points and currency, forever. Sometimes the maps are grey, sometimes they're brown. Often they're both grey and brown, occasionally even throwing in a little green to blow our tiny minds. Now we're in a dusty middle-Eastern street. Oh look, a favela! Gosh, Crytek are really spoiling us with this nondescript rusty hangar full of anonymous gun-toting murderers.
Indeed, it's hard to shake the idea that we've played Warface a thousand times before, save that this CryEngine-powered shooter is actually playable in-browser without a client, spearheads a brand new social platform and includes fully-featured cooperative modes alongside traditional team-based multiplayer...
...ooh. Actually, that is quite interesting. Let's run with it.
Warface debuts on the Gface platform, a new initiative backed in part by Trion. Crytek's Cervat Yerli was reportedly struck by inspiration after visiting some Korean coffee shops, watching parties of laptop-toting gamers playing together and leaping from game to game, and tried to bring the same spirit to an online platform with virtual 'tables' and easy grouping. After registering an account, players can download Warface's hefty library files, then instantly get down to business with as little hassle as possible. The CryEngine-powered visuals are deeply impressive for a browser game and eminently scalable for a variety of specifications, making it noteworthy precedent and a masterpiece of optimisation. In theory, then, it's a fantastic step forward.
In practice though, Gface is an awkward middle ground between clients and browsers, and offers the worst of both worlds at launch. You've got the steep one-off download of a client, combined with the fussy interfaces of browser games, and lacking the remote loadout tweaking and stat tracking of something like BattleLog. Gface also has no other games on the service as-yet, making it feel practically pointless as a social platform. Servers are fairly shaky at launch, but even if it worked perfectly, Crytek's new platform still throws up far too much busywork and odd naming conventions (what's a "seed"?!) to ever be called convenient. There's potential here, but the current beta needs to seriously up its game to prove its worth as a worthwhile destination for sociable gamers. Emphasis on the word "beta," of course, so I won't mark Warface down for it.
Gameplay-wise, Warface leans heavily towards the tight fast-paced action of the Call Of Duty series, but occasionally channels Battlefield in a few noteworthy ways. Throughout some relatively intimate maps with a variety of elevations (which can be taken advantage of thanks to a cooperative boost move), we'll get stuck into a generous but breathtakingly familiar selection of team-based gametypes, using four classes who excel at specific ranges. The straightforward rifleman and sniper join a defibrillator-toting medic packing a shotgun and an armour-repairing engineer, providing some simple and effective ways to cooperate. It's no-nonsense, up-front online warfare, exactly as you'd expect. Only free.
In terms of genuinely new features, Warface allows us to customise our guns in real-time à la Crysis, a nice touch that would arguably be more useful if we didn't have to choose between working towards attachment unlocks to the complete exclusion of new weapons and outfits at any one time. You can also slide around on your bum, which is fun when you actually manage to trigger it rather than your bulky soldier just running out of breath.
Warface is initially rather addictive, like any FPS with a progression system, but the exhilarating honeymoon period will soon sour into mild entertainment or plain apathy for many players. The action feels clunky and flabby, nowhere near fluid enough to make the most of the parkour-inspired moves, while bullets make little visible impact until your target falls over. Or turns around and shoots you since assault rifles appear to fire lint instead of bullets. Once you find a niche, you'll likely enjoy yourself a lot more, but you'll probably notice a nagging doubt at the back of your mind that tells you that you could be spending your valuable time playing something much more interesting.
Worse, it just feels derivative to the point of being redundant. Warface makes no attempt to embrace anything remotely new or even slightly innovative, instead rehashing a tired old formula to the point of plagiarism. If not full-blown narcolepsy. The art design lacks unique visual identity, wasting its relative graphical oomph on the aforementioned smorgasbord of hyper-generic locations and character designs that are indistinguishable from almost every military FPS that came before.
It's not "bad," mind you. There's some fun to be had here for genre fans. It's just crushingly uninspired.
Crytek does needs to sort out the spawning situation - yesterday. I can't believe that this game was in beta for a year, let alone full release in Eastern Europe, with such rife and outrageous spawn camping. Some maps let snipers overlook the enemy team's spawn shed from the roof of their own starting building, or encourage you to run straight in and kill opponents as they appear. In free for all, you'll often spawn directly in an opponent's ironsights. I do mean directly IN their ironsights. This is unacceptable. While they're at it, giving players credit for assists would be much appreciated.
The co-op campaign could have helped to add lasting value and personality, and it absolutely does, at least for the first couple of matches. Its short and sweet shooting gallery-style gameplay is an absolute blast, like a Call Of Duty Spec Ops mission, but the addition of minigun-toting bosses (you can only shoot them from behind! Feel the innovation!) and helicopters practically ruins the fun factor, miring your team in repetitive and aggravating set pieces that take far too long to resolve. The story is also embarrassingly awful, focusing on an enemy PMC so evil that they buy babies for stem cell research. Really. Really? That said, at least PvE can be a heap and helping of fun, and will apparently update regularly with new missions. It's by far my favourite part of the package, formulaic and fleeting as it is.
Now it's time to talk about boobies. Warface allows you to play as a female avatar, an oft-requested feature in modern shooters, but Crytek recently came under media scrutiny for the way in which they implemented it. Despite their female characters being nowhere near as overtly sexualised as practically any fantasy-themed MMORPG on the market (at least they wear trousers!), you have to buy temporary female skins with in-game currency rather than choosing one from the outset, which is already a slightly discriminatory double standard in its own right. Regardless, it's impossible to ignore the figure-hugging outfits, impeccable makeup and exposed cleavage that pander to the lowest common denominator.
Personally speaking, Crytek's approach doesn't come across as particularly insulting or worthy of white-hot anger, rather it's just disappointingly lazy and cynical. How difficult would it have been to just rescale the existing male character models and add some female voices - especially since most characters wear enclosed headgear anyway? All they currently need are some flack jackets, extra pouches and a few little tweaks to turn their supermodels into character models. Whether they'll fix it or continue this embarrassing state of affairs remains to be seen.
It's a good thing that Warface is free, and for the record, it's an undeniably generous game in terms of content despite the glacial pace of new marketplace unlocks and annoying degradation of unlocked weaponry. But that's its only real selling point: it costs nothing. There's nothing unique here, no real draw, no single feature I can name that is totally, undeniably Warface. Apart from the name, I suppose. It's just another shooter, and one that's not quite as good as the games you already own. Being free is all well and good until you realise that better games are sitting on your shelf or Steam library.
Personally I feel that Warface released too late here in Europe. We've got the likes of Battlefield 4 and Titanfall waiting in the wings now. A new console generation. Plenty of shiny PC games to enjoy - including the superlative Planetside 2, Blacklight: Retribution, Tribes: Ascend, Team Fortress 2 and other Free To Play shooters that offer bigger battles, unique mechanics and hands-down more fun without having to pay a penny. What might have seemed forward-thinking and exciting back a year or two ago now feels generic and even a little backward. It's not enough to just turn up in this reviewer's opinion.
Warface is a free to play shooter that lets you shoot things for free. It works as far as it goes. If you really need to play another one, especially if you've got a medium-spec PC, I suppose that might be enough.
- Generous helping of competitive gametypes and PvE co-op
- Profoundly impressive and scalable visuals for a browser game
- Functional and utilitarian FPS action for free
- Grimly derivative and soulless; brain-shrivellingly bland art direction
- Syrupy movement, glacial marketplace unlocks
- Shockingly rampant spawn camping and bizarre FFA spawn locations
- Co-op stagnates in boring boss set pieces
The Short Version: Warface is free, looks great for a browser game and has an interesting name, but is otherwise wholly unremarkable. Functional and workmanlike to a fault, Warface does nothing unique or remotely new, instead ending up less enjoyable than the games you already own and thoroughly outclassed by any number of competing F2P shooters.
Worth a quick blast over a weekend, perhaps, but your time is ultimately better spent elsewhere. We hear Auraxis is lovely this time of year.