Firefall is an upcoming free-to-play, squad-based shooter from Red 5 Studios, and we got our hands on a multiplayer deathmatch demo for the first time at PAX East. Firefall plays very similar to Team Fortress 2, which, for those that aren't familiar, is a team-based, class-driven, first-person shooter, but with a few distinct differences.
This game can be played in both first and third person mode, depending on your preference. You can also choose if your character is male or female, which is different, and a nice change for the generally testosterone-overloaded team-shooter genre. The game is multiplayer focused, but there is a singe-player campaign where you can acquire levels and items to upgrade your character loadout for multiplayer. Since the game is free to play, micro-transactions will be heavily featured at the game's release. During the demo, we started with a level one battle frame (or class) but were assured that the higher level battle frame you wear, the cooler your character will look and the more badass their abilities will become.
Fighting in the new Sunken Harbor map, the first battle frame we played with was the newly revealed Recon. The Recon, as with the other two battle frames in the game, has three abilities and mainly uses a sniper rifle. The first and second abilities modify the Recon's gun: the first ability, resonating bolt, sticks an explosive to the target and, after 10 seconds, it explodes a small radius, hurting the target's teammates if they were helping out nearby. The second ability, cryo bullet, coats the gun in ice and puts a slowing effect on anyone the Recon hits with it. The Recon can also lay remote landmines, and the sneakier ones managed to get me quite a few times. Curse you, Recon!
All of the abilities in the game are on a long cool down, but for the perks they grant your characters, it's reasonable. Otherwise, you'd have massively overpowered characters running around.
After we played around with the Recon for a while, we tried out the other two battle frames: the Medic and the Assault. The first, and probably most skill-based, ability the Assault had was called Crater. You use your jet pack to fly in the air and then activate Crater to quickly slam down on the ground and perform serious area-of-effect damage to your opponents. The action in Firefall is fast, so timing a Crater is tough but powerful if you manage to do it right. There is also an ability that allows the Assault to fly higher in the air for more Crater damage.
Medic has a healing gun similar to the Medic in Team Fortress 2. The abilities allow the Medic to instantly revive characters as well as over heal them beyond 100 percent at the cost of energy. The Medic also has a neat ability where he/she creates a bubble on the ground that heals any allies who stand inside of it; sort of like a band-aid shield.
In our demo, the goal was to be the first team to reach 25 kills. In order to actually get a point for a kill, you must both lower their health to zero and also execute them. Execute takes a few seconds to perform; you hold the "E" button for a few seconds to pull it off. It's interesting because this puts you at risk for those few seconds in order to get the point, and I kept getting shot while I had to stand still to perform the execution.
When you're killed, if the enemy doesn't execute you right away, then anyone on your team, not just the Medic, can revive you before a short death timer runs out. But, as with the execute, it takes the Recon and Assault a few seconds to revive you, whereas a Medic can use an ability to instantly revive their teammates.
One of the fun things about Firefall is the team aspect. You can face your five opponents as one Assault, two Medics, and two Recon, or any other variety to find the best way to take them out. Strewn around the battlefield are also a bunch of powerups, ranging from health restores to double damage and even ones that reset all of the cooldowns on your abilities. With the array of powerups and differences between the team interactions, those powerups led to a lot of intense fast-paced matchups between the two teams.
Firefall also seems to have a lot of eSports potential as well. With the ability to level up characters and customize them to be ultimate killing machines, I can see people trying to maximize their battle frames and compete in tournaments revolving around the game. The development team even added a spectator mode to help facilitate that, which is nice.
Firefall is set to release for the PC at the end of this year.