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Pax Prime 2011: Viva La Jetpack! Hands on Firefall

Back when I was heavily into PC gaming a little game by the name of Starsiege: Tribes held my attention for quite some time. Tribes was the perfect blend of action and tactics combined with an incredibly polished vertical movement system… Jetpacks. Let’s face it, Jetpacks make almost any game better and Firefall is no different. Viva La Jetpack!

Pedigree: If you’re wondering why I brought up 1998’s Starsiege: Tribes the answer is simple… Scott Younglood. Youngblood was the lead designer on Tribes and also happens to be the lead designer on this jet-pack flavored shooter as well. Having played both the single player and PVP modes of Firefall, I can honestly say that we’re in for some good old fashioned jet-pack mayhem. Also, Firefall has another strange link to the past in the form of Mark Kern, former team lead on a little game called World of Warcraft. Together they form Red 5 Studios…sort of like Voltron eh?

The scout class can spot enemies from a distance and help out everyone in range by identifying targets

Sprinkle in some Ender: Firefall is a class based shooter set in the not so distant future. Mankind has found a new energy source by the name of Crystite (not to be confused with Crystal-light.. which is something else). Crystite seems to be perfect… until it blows them up. After the big-bang, the majority of Earth remains totally uninhabitable with only a small portion of South America suitable for human life. To make the shit storm even more shitty, a new evil race emerges who are hell bent on, wouldn’t you guess, destroying humanity… Way to kick us while we’re down, geeze. I’m probably not doing the story justice, but the entire backstory was told to me in about 60 seconds so… yeah. Oh! I almost forgot the backstory was penned by Mr. Orson Scott Card, best known for the novel Ender’s Game. (queue nerd gasps)

The only good bug...is a DEAD bug!

Under Attack: While on a “mission” to retrieve an NPC’s lost droid I made my way back to town due to an incoming enemy threat. I was impressed at how “lived in” the world looked, civilians ran for cover while other players zipped around in the air preparing for the assault. Soon, the other players and I were given three objectives to hold while an enemy drop ship pummeled us with mobs and laser fire. The enemies ranged from Starship Trooper-esque “bugs” to hulking gun wielding enemy soldiers. Even though I was only level 1, I still felt as though I was helping out and doing my part. It took the combined efforts of everyone on the team to hold off the alien assault and we managed to clear the event with only one objective still intact. Fun.

Guns and Classes: Whereas Tribes only allowed the player to select their armor size (light, medium, and heavy), Firefall has four incredibly distinct classes with more on the way (they would not say how many more classes). The medic, assault, recon, and engineer classes were all available to play with each displaying with their own skill sets and special abilities. The assault class for example, has a dive-bomb special that does increased damage depending on your altitude, whereas the engineer carries the obligatory deployable turret and repair gun. The classes all contain their own unique look and “silhouette” making them easy to identify on the battlefield. While all classes are stuck with their default primary weapon players will be able to pick up secondary weapons as well as alternate fire options for their primaries. Customization anyone?

The Look: The first thing you’ll probably notice about Firefall is its distinct art style. The colors are incredibly bright, the environment lush, the character models distinct and… well… fun to look at. While the “cartoony” look of the world may throw off some hardcore shooter fans, I would venture to say that visually its much more Borderlands than World of Warcraft. The cell-shaded blocky look lends itself well to the franchise and should allow the game to look “pretty” for years to come.

So is it an MMO? : I’ve noticed that recently the term “MMO” has become a bit of a dirty word in the gaming community. It’s almost as if everyone is just getting over their WOW hangover and are none too eager to dive back into the cycle of addiction. Shit, I played WOW religiously for many years and would love to have those “played” days back. While Firefall does indeed contain levels, loot, skill-trees, quests, boss battles, and a persistant state world, they assured me that it is in fact NOT an MMO… It’s a shooter damn it!

Firefall is Free: Firefall appears to have the quality of a retail game without the $60.00 price tag. Red 5’s shooter/MMO will be 100% free to download and free to play meaning that a large number of customization options will be locked behind micro-transactions. I for one love the idea of a-la cart gaming and have gotten responsible enough to only pay for what I really want. Using this formula Firefall is hoping to build a rabid loyal community much like League of Legends before it.

It was good… Viva La Jetpack!

  • Hoder

    Easily the best review on the game so far. Even though you missed some little details and didn’t have all the naming right, you got the feel of the game perfectly. ” While Firefall does indeed contain levels, loot, skill-trees, quests, boss battles, and a persistant state world, they assured me that it in fact NOT an MMO… It’s a shooter damn it!” This sentence, you can’t believe how good it feels to read this. It’s a thing the devs have always stated, it’s not an mmo turned to FPS. It’s a shooter++, and it’s always going to stay that way.
    Beta should be starting pretty soon so we’ll be able to have some more fun in this game soon.

  • Ash

    Thanks Hoder! I appreciate the kind words. The article was written in a sleep deprived PAX slumber so I’m surprised I even spelled my name correctly.

    hmm (checks for errors)… The energy source isn’t Crystal Light is it?

    • Alx223

      I have to agree with Hoder on this one I’ve read easily 30+ write ups on the pax gameplay in the last few days and yours is by far one of the best. It was actually different for once and you had some information that most others didn’t seem to get in their write ups. Keep up the good work.

  • JBWill

    Agreed with the above, this is an excellent write up about the game. You really do a good job of hitting on some of the most exciting points of the game. Well done sir, and welcome to the wait for beta invites ^^

  • warstratigier

    Its been much considered as quoted by others “First and foremost a shooter” along with some MMO elements. I’m a former WoW player myself and along wished I had some of those ‘played’ days back myself, I was also looking for a new direction as far as persistant worlds go. Thank goodness this game showed up! XD

  • (queue nerd gasps)
    Being a fan of the Ender Saga, I would be one of those people. I have every book and short story from the ender saga on my ipod. but i have been a fan of firefall much longer than that. when i heard Mr. Orson Scott Card was involved in the project, that was just the icing on an already frosted cake. I look forward to seeing more of the story unfold as well as being able to play the game.

  • Ash

    Thanks again gang – We appreciate the positive feedback.

    Also, if you drop by the site when we post episode 35 of our podcast (Rated NA) I’m sure we’ll talk more about Firefall at length. Have a good one!

  • SoulOfOrigin

    This is the best review of Firefall I’ve seen so far. I really hope I get in the beta, this game just looks awesome

  • TheJayde

    Actually, to clarify, they have said they do not have any current boss battles, but they will create them if there is a sufficient demand. Red 5 is all about submitting to our demands, because they actually know how to run a gaming company. They understand that we give them the money, and if they continue to make what we want, they will continue to get us to give them our moneys.

  • ImOnTheRadio

    I LOVED this hands on! First, you’re a Tribes fan. Second, you seem to have actually listened to the devs when they told you about the game, so there were lots of correct and important info. Third: you didn’t write this too seriously! Thank you, I have to agree with Hoder, this was the best preview of the game so far. You just got a new member on your site. 😛

  • Ash

    Thank you folks! I have a feeling the Firefall community is going to be a strong one. Looking forward to killing bugs with you all. More PAX Prime reports coming your way this week.

  • Illian.Amerond

    I totally am digging this and will catch the future shows Ash. I have been reading a great deal about FireFall and even waded into a few ‘scantly clad’ conversation trolls X)
    December is going to be a huge power month when this goes public.

    Currently Red 5 is pushing back the ‘sending’ date to a tentative Friday September 2nd. It is loosely understood that the first wave of testers will be under 2k and non 24/7 testing cycles as it will be scheduled.

    I am just hoping that we get people who provide feedback, test for bugs and not just gazel their way to ‘end game’ as a free ticket to early access…

    Catch ya on the flippside

  • Glowbeans

    I’m not sure which I enjoyed more, the ten second story overview, or the actual new gameplay details.

    Probably the story summary.

    Everyone and their brother has written about the alien invasion, but the details about silhouettes and NPC reactions was news to me, and I’m glad to hear it! Having scoured the web for every bit of info I can find, learning new things is always a welcome surprise.

  • Rick Sebring

    I got the chance to play both the Pve and Pvp content a great deal at PAX, and am truly excited to play this game. I completely agree that jetpacks make everything better. Which i think is why I didn’t get into the engineer, his jetpack energy is also used for his homing shot, so he felt grounded to me. But i’m sure there are plenty of people that will use him effectively.

  • iLLuSioN

    Great review, I really enjoyed reading it. As a big FPS and MMO fan this game definitely had me hooked the second I saw it. I have been waiting a long time for a game like FireFall to be announced, So I can’t wait to finally jump in and give it a go later this year.

  • Manuito

    Thanks very much for the review, different from the others and at last comparing Firefall to other games (I haven’t have the pleasure to play Tribes, but what you say seems to be very accurate and good for Firefall).

    I don’t think there needs to be any debate about if Firefall is or isn’t an MMO. It’s just the game we saw in Gamescon and PAX, a mix of several different types of games including MMOs and shooters. For some people it’ll always be an MMO and for some others it’ll be just a shooter… the same way that some people will only play instanced PVP and some other just open world PVE. Whatever you like, as long as you play Firefall.

    Obviously the devs at Red5 don’t want to give people false expectation (for example Firefall won’t have a huge world, at least at the beginning), that’s fair enogh.

    Also, what about a possible future PVP between armies in the open world, any rumour?