Hands-on with Crytek’s Warface and GFACE

When I originally played Crytek’s Warface, I was impressed by the promise of a free to play first-person-shooter with graphics of a triple-A title. The visuals of Warface impressed, but it was obvious it was running on great hardware. The demo at GDC 2012 only had team deathmatch, but Crytek talked about including different gameplay modes.

After spending about a year on the list for the beta, I finally received my invite for Warface and GFACE, the web portal for the game where you log in to join games. Crytek didn’t discuss GFACE at the demo, focusing on showing an amazing looking game that was planned on being a free to play title.

Crytek’s goal to transition entirely to free-to-play games rather than developing big titles is interesting because they develop with a powerful but proprietary engine. Warface was developed with CryEngine3 and is scalable based on the player’s hardware, like most games. The biggest difference with Warface is that it uses GFACE, a browser-based launcher, to access and launch the game.


NVIDIA GeForce GT 540M

Rough installation

Using GFACE sounds simple, you sign in through the website to access Warface, though other games will probably eventually be offered. The reality is that over the week of trying to access the site, it continued to be unstable. Attempting to load the GFACE beta site was a problem the first few days because it wouldn’t load the log in site. The GFACE beta site was hit-or-miss on Firefox 19 and Chrome 25. It’s a little better for Chrome because you can manually install the necessary GFACE Experience plugin, but on Firefox, you have to make sure you disable most add-ons like ad blockers. There is a known issue with Norton Antivirus blocking the installation of necessary files.

When I asked the Warface twitter account of the issue when I was first accepted into the beta, they responded:

Originally I tried accessing the page on both my workstation and my Samsung Series 9 laptop. I found success only when I installed a clean version of Firefox 19 on the Samsung. I was able to install the plugin in Firefox and the GFACE site loaded into the launcher for Warface.

Intel HD 4000

Warface is developed with CryEngine3 so the game has the potential to look very nice, if you have good hardware. Playing Warface on a better system produces much better results.

Currently, the GFACE site loads fine and I was able to sign in on an Alienware laptop through both Chrome and Firefox, install the plugin, download the game files, and launch the game.

Warface

ATI Radeon HD 3400

Playing on ultrabook hardware, the game doesn’t have the ability to take advantage of a discrete graphics card so it was running on Intel HD Graphics 4000. All settings on Low, the game didn’t look too bad. Not up to the standard that was shown at GDC 2012, but the gameplay was smooth and responsive. It’s good to know that the game is playable on weaker hardware though you won’t see all the effects.

Playing Warface with a discrete graphics card (tested with a NVIDIA GeForce GT 540M) yields much better results. The game looked closer to my original preview, but since Warface relies on a data connection, gameplay can suffer from limited bandwidth. While Crysis 3 may be the current benchmark for graphics, Warface was built on the same engine, but is smart about what to not include during matches. Since you will be running around smaller areas, the building exteriors don’t have that much detail, but the different soldier classes look very fleshed out. Multiplayer looks a bit less detailed than the co-op missions, but with co-op hosting fewer players a lot more detail and variety can be added.

NVIDIA GeForce GT 540M

Gameplay is typical of first-person-shooters. There are different modes with separate objectives, but I spent most of my time playing free for all and getting killed very quickly. Warface includes four classes – assault, medic, engineer, and sniper. Each class has their own weapons and specialties and the standard weapon depends on the class. There are also class support actions like ammo drops, healing, and laying traps depending on the class. Further unlocks give you more weapons and equipment, but it looks like equipment is more superficial than having any major affect on gameplay, unlike with different weapons.

There is also a co-op mode where you team up with other players and move from checkpoint to checkpoint, essentially removing any enemies from the area before moving forward. This may include sub-bosses like a mini-gun wielding tank class soldier or shooting a helicopter out of the sky. It’s a fun diversion from the player-vs-player focus of the game, but right now it doesn’t have a lot of variety in missions. Hopefully it’ll be fleshed out before released to the public.

Warface’s microtransaction model has more weapons that you can purchase, but many of them have a specified usage time, meaning you don’t own these weapons forever. In the beta right now, you can’t purchase points to use in the game. There are weapons that you can purchase to keep, but Warface appears to use a degradation system so you will have to repair these weapons with points. Purchasing points isn’t available yet and it sounds like Crytek is more focused on getting the game running smoothly before implementing all the microtransactions in the game that it wants to include.

Crytek’s Future?

The company has said it wants to go fully free-to-play. While it has a handle on the graphics side, the game still hasn’t proven itself as something more than a generic shooter. Using a browser as a game launcher is good because it saves player stats, but you still have to download local game files. There is a learning curve in how to present a free-to-play game to audiences in different countries and Warface will be the first test. I can’t imagine how much balancing will go into the game beyond the gameplay. Microtransactions are a difficult mechanic to apply correctly and with the secondary VIP currency, they may unbalance the game and disinterest players quickly.

Crytek is playing it safe with a FPS title as its first free-to-play game. What they need to do is create a community and listen to its audience. Warface has all the groundwork for a fun, free-to-play game, but it has a lot more things to implement to attract console and mobile players.

If you want to sign up for the beta, head over to GFACE’s site.

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