Firefall Beta Impressions: Everything’s Better With Jetpacks
The world of Firefall is beset by an alien menace called the Chosen, because of something called the Melding, and that means the skills of battlesuit-wearing mercenaries like you and me are at a premium to the human military known as the Accord.
And that’s the outset of Firefall. Welcome to Copa Cabana, where there’s mutant wildlife and work. As I fired up the Firefall beta, I was treated to the fairly lush world that made up a former tropical paradise, retrofitted to be part community, part military base. Apparently, I’m here to make my fortune in the most dangerous way imaginable, but there’s no shortage of adventure.
Story exposition aside, Red 5′s free-to-play MMO kicks things off in a hurry. For one, you grab your battlesuit and head off into the world without a lot in the way of fanfare. My suit, a medic rig called the biotech, gives me certain support abilities for helping out teammates. But I’m not limited to just that one: as I soon discover, purchasing and outfitting additional rigs is fairly easy in towns like Copa, provided one has the funds.
And then we’re off — following the fully voiced instructions of various support characters, speaking to the player through the ever-convenient headset mic. Apparently I have a few folks on my “team,” whose contributions are of the “telling me where to go and filling me in on stuff I see along the way” variety, and they want me to start syncing up with local hardware to get the lay of the land.
Player vs. environment content in the Firefall beta is unfinished and getting patched in, I’m told by colleagues, but there are at least a few hours to keep me busy as I follow the various waypoints, gather materials, and fight off bad guys. It’s largely the common fare you see from MMOs like this one: At one point, I have to gather resources; at another, I’m clearing out indigenous evil things; at one point I even have to repair a water valve.
The major thing in all these experiences is not that they’re a lot like what you see in other MMOs or RPGs — they are — but how you deal with them. Firefall’s fundamental difference the fact that you’ve got a jetpack strapped to your back, and that changes things drastically, adding a whole lot of verticality to everything you do. You have to fix the water valve and defend it from enemies, but you can also fly. You have to clear out bad guys from a sensitive area, but you can also fly. That means you’re darting back and forth, luring enemies toward you before zipping up to a canopy above, doing your best to avoid contact and enemy fire while also dishing out punishment.
It’s not a completely novel addition, the jetpack, and yet it helps to make Firefall feel very different from the other MMOs I’ve been playing of late. It’s much more shooter-oriented, and gives those missions in which you’re gathering things or killing X bad guys a more tactical feel in every case. Defending a position in a game like Star Wars: The Old Republic feels completely different than defending a position in Firefall, because the latter is much more action-oriented, and you have to think much more tactically.