Firefall Beta Impressions: Everything’s Better With Jetpacks

Firefall takes advantage of its vertical capabilities in a lot of cool ways, as well. Maps include lots of cliffs and falls, outposts usually include towers and other high structures, and a gliding mechanic allows you to fly long distances to reach new places. There’s also the ability to construct vehicles — one mission hands you a fast-moving motorcycle — and in total the entire experience feels a lot more Borderlands than it does World of Warcraft, which is for the better.

There’s also Firefall’s resource-gathering mechanic, known as Thumping. As mining goes, it’s kind of nice that your job isn’t to wait for your character to smash a pickax into the ground enough times; instead, when you need to “thump” for resources, you call a big drill to do the work for you, and spend your time defending it from a wave of enemies. It’s a system that turns resource-gathering and, eventually, crafting, into something of a more team-oriented exercise, as you often need help to handle the waves of enemies that will come after your thumper.

Though I enjoyed Firefall’s PvE content — though a few times I ran up against walls, at which point I no longer had anything to do — it’s the PvP portion that I’ve found really fun. Firefall does a great job of capturing third-person shooter mechanics, and adding jetpacks makes even simple things like Team Deathmatch a lot of fun.

Class-based play makes a big appearance in PvP as well. Playing as a medic during PvE, I didn’t have a lot to do in terms of enjoying my special abilities, especially when questing around Firefall’s world alone. Throw me into PvP, however, and I’m suddenly a great deal more useful. And when healing other players isn’t working out, I can quickly switch battleframes and bring out an assault class to deal extra damage, for example.

PvP is fast and exciting, and highlights that Firefall really gets its action right. This is an MMO that’s heavily based on action, and when blasting other people feels like it should, other elements are elevated just because the basic mechanics are good.

Firefall’s public beta is still going on now, and in fact the developer has another open beta weekend starting on Dec. 7 (sign up here). I found that it stands apart from other MMOs by feeling less MMO-like by doing a great job with its basic combat mechanics. The huge world, questing, cooperative play and other elements are layered on top of that solid foundation, and at least at this point, it’s pretty fun to play. Given that it’s free, it’s worth checking out.

Read more of Phil Hornshaw’s work here, and follow him and Game Front on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.

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