Firefall Review (PC)
Since the first massively multiplayer online game launch back in the ancient era known as the "nineties," we've seen countless variations on the formula. There have been epic role-playing games, gentle social games, and even first-person shooters. Developer Red 5 Studios decided to throw its hat into the MMO ring with Firefall, an MMORPG [An earlier version of this review referred to Firefall as strictly an FPS, but the game can also be played in third-person. - Ed.] with a long acronym and an even longer list of problems.
Firefall's story cribs plot elements from Ye Olde Book of Science Fiction Stories, involving an invading, interdimensional species, a war with no end in sight, and a rapid technological epoch, all of which are tied together with a score of lingo like The Arclight, The Chosen, and Melding. It's not exactly inspiring stuff, and if developers hope for players to sink hundreds of hours into their MMO, they might want to try a little harder.
In Firefall you'll go on quests, kill X number of bad things, and generally be at the back and call of every jerk with a problem on his or her hands. Rather than adhere to the traditional class system of most MMOs, here you have numerous "battleframes" [An earlier version of this review referred to these incorrectly as "warframes" - Ed.] to choose from, each with their own selection of guns and abilities. There are five [An earlier version of this review listed the game only included four. -Ed.] at base, and several variants of each which you can buy with Red Beans, currency you'll need to purchase with real money, or earn for free by reaching level 40 [An earlier version of this review only offered that these additional frames were only available by paying for them. - Ed.]. Though each class is touted as being distinctly different, they all end up feeling fairly similar. Some are faster, some are slower, some have bigger guns, some have better health, but ultimately feel like the same characters with different loadouts. This isn't helped by the endless waves of mindless enemies you'll encounter on your quests— foes so braindead it feels cruel to shoot them while they stand still, plinking away at your health with their inferior weapons. As you progress a few new enemy types do reveal themselves, but a majority of what you're doing feels like the same wash, rinse, repeat of other MMOs, but without the thoughtful flow of combat found therein.
You can customize your character's appearance and abilities, but in very limited degrees. After completing the introductory mission you can change your character's hairstyle, skin color, etc., along with placing a few paltry accessories on his or her head. Most of these cosmetic options cost money, however, so fiscally-minded gamers are probably going to stick with the default visual options and quickly grow tired of them. These options can also be earned by completing ARES Jobs, or using in-game vending machines. As you use each battleframe you'll gain levels in it, unlocking new abilities to arm yourself with. Most of these skills are uninspired variants of things we've seen in better shooters of the past, and since each battleframe starts at level one without any abilities, they all feel pretty similar until you've put far too much time into them. Firefall does, however, do a pretty decent job of integrating social functions, making it relatively easy to play with friends or use the in-game marketplace.
Firefall's visuals look incredibly dated; even on the highest settings, most of this game looks like it was built in 2007. The music is fine, if forgettable, and the voice acting is... uneven. For every character who sounds like he or she was voiced by a professional voice actor, there are three more who sound like programmers who were suddenly pulled into a recording booth to record a few lines. It's jarring, and makes Firefall seem amateurish.
As with most free-to-play titles, Firefall is frequently trying to cajole you into shelling out your hard-earned bucks. Expect small things like hairstyles to run you approximately five real-world dollars apiece, and anything more interesting like vehicles or pets to cut into your retirement fund. If you want to craft anything, expect to either wait around for a lengthy amount of time or pay some real-world bucks to get on with your life. Signage advertising red beans- in game currency- are around every corner, ready to pull you out of the game and into a browser should you click on them. Even for a free-to-play MMO, Firefall's prices seem incredibly inflated and its advertising aggressive.
Overpriced, unimaginative, and underfunded, there's little Firefall seems to do well. As internet speeds have increased and gaming has become a more popular pastime, MMOs have begun rising and falling like the tide, and unless Firefall makes some drastic changes, there's not enough to entice players into logging in and keeping this game alive. If you want to play an MMORPG, you would be better off spending a few bucks up front for something that's actually fun.
This review based on a download code of Firefall provided by the publisher for PC. [This review was updated with accurate terminology provided by the developer. -Ed.]