SXSW 2012: Firefall Hands On & Details

Greetings from South by Southwest 2012 in Austin, Texas! Today marked the start of the Interactive and Film portions of this year’s convention, though there is much more to come. This is my first time attending SXSW, and I have been having a great time so far. At the Interactive Screen Burn (the video game portion of the convention) I was able to get some hands on time and details about Red 5’s free to play MMO, Firefall. This is a game that we have touched on before here at P*N, when me and other members of our team were at PAX Prime back in August, but it bears mentioning again. So let us dive right in, shall we?

First off, Firefall is a massive online multiplayer third person shooter being developed by Red 5 studios that places players in the jet gliding boots of an alien blasting killing machine. As you play through the game you will be gaining experience and leveling up, earning cash to upgrade yourself with new weapons and armor, teaming up with other players to take on random world encounters and missions, and melting faces in PvP matches. Aside from five man squads, players will also be able to form ‘Armies’ (Raids?) of players to take on tougher challenges, though the exact number of players per army is still in testing. Battleframes (or classes), which allow players to take on specific roles such as Assault, Medic, Engineer, Recon, and Dreadnaught, can be leveled up independently and then swapped out at any time. Thus, you could have a level 15 Medic build, and a level 7 Recon sniper build, and then switch between them on the same character. Oh, and did I mention that it’s free to play?

I wasn’t able to get any sort of figure for the amount of guns in the game, but the answer always seemed to circle back to- “there’s a lot..” Players will be allowed to equip a primary and secondary weapon, which you can quickly cycle by pressing (default) Q. Primary weapons, such as plasma canons or sniper rifles, will be Battleframe (class) specific, while secondary weapons such as pistols and assault rifles will be useable by anyone. Your primary weapon will also feature an alternate fire, which will be one of the distinguishing features between the game’s guns. The plasma rifle I was using when I played on the assault character, for example, shot out a large bolt with it’s primary fire, with a nice scattergun short ranged blast for the secondary. A higher level assault character, on the other hand, might have a plasma rifle with a wide variety of secondary fire options.

As you earn more space cash and progress through the game, you can also expect to see some vehicles starting to appear. Although vehicles were not available for play, I was told that the gameplay can begin to feel a bit like Battlefield. Speaking to one of the level designers, he smiled as he recalled the fun he has had in his careful crafting the game’s roads, ensuring players would never been with out a nice ramp or jump to add a touch of danger to their virtual joyriding. Nothing quite like ramping off a jump in your armored Humvee, only to come flying out of the drivers seat with your jet boots, aye? You could even blast a baddie in the face on the way down for good measure. True, it’s nothing you couldn’t do in Halo, but then Halo isn’t an MMO- or free.

My only real complaint from what I have seen thus far has to do with the character models, which I feel could use some work. On the other hand, the environments and gun models can be very impressive on a good computer. Although we have only seen bits of the game’s ‘Coral Forest’ zone in demos and media, the game is said to feature a wide variety of settings, such as mountainous deserts, swamps, and everything in between. I will be excited to see how everything plays out.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a free game is a bad one; free is a relatively loose term in this world of growing world of online microtransactions. Just look at League of Legends. Firefall is currently in closed beta, but as our own Rich Montalvo has already pointed out, if you want to be invited, just drop by the this year’s SXSW Screen Burn in Austin, TX. You don’t even need a pass/badge to get in! Just come by the Screen Arcade at the Palmer Events Center.  If you don’t live in the Austin area, you can still try signing up for the beta on the Firefall web site. Be sure to keep an eye out for this game, there is some solid gameplay to be had in what Red 5 has managed to put together.

Stay tuned to Platform Nation for more news and updates from South by Southwest 2012!

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