As gas and oil begin to fall below acceptable levels, the super nation states of the world look to the Arctic Circle—America and Russia are the first on the scene to take advantage of these new spoils. Of course, they brought their guns…lots and lots of guns. In Arctic Combat published and developed by Webzen, this MMOFPS brings players together in a massive brawl between these well-armed forces over the dwindling resources and the advent of World War III.

The game is based on the Unreal Engine 2.5 and full of fairly excellent cinematic animations and sound effects—of course you can only go so far with an MMOFPS when it comes to cries of the wounded, explosions, and gunfire. However, none of this holds this game back in its genre and in many ways AC does an excellent job of being an MMOFPS.

Upon entering this game, you can expect the usual number of game modes (from deathmatch, team deathmatch, demolition, and PvE) and a quite a few maps. The graphics are excellent, the sound is solid, and it falls solidly into the meter set by other MMOFPS games both free-to-play and pay-to-play. It may not be a triple-A title put into the market by a massive developer; but it’s hit all the necessary keys to build an excellent looking and mechanically apt first person shooter.

The game has entered into closed beta and here’s what we thought about it—be sure to leave your own review here at GameOgre and let us know what you think.

Graphics and Sound: It’s a pretty solid showing in the FPS market

Arctic Combat comes with a launcher and a lobby element that gives users a window to find their game from. The game itself is not necessarily windowed (in fact it expands to full screen from here once a game is found and launched) but the lobby is so I’ll distinguish the two when speaking about how the game’s graphics affects the gameplay.

The lobby is fairly easy to understand, although there’s a little bit of a learning curve to determine what each button does—not that just clicking on them doesn’t take me to familiar places—and numerous game modes are shut-off from new players before they reach a particular rank so that might be a little confusing. In fact, much of Arctic Combat is locked away from players who haven’t spent at least two hours playing to bring themselves enough experience levels to unlock them.

I’m used to games who prevent players from equipping particular weapons/equipment based on rank—in a way, allowing the game to suitably fence newbies from veterans and giving them greater equipment choices as they advance. However, that the Search & Destroy game mode seems to be blocked from me because I’m still a Private and not yet a Lieutenant felt a little odd.

The lobby is fine, fonts are readable, buttons are pressable, and the UI for changing equipment can be understood and used to make sure that I’m outfitted and prepared for the battle to come. In fact, the game even allows for multiple loadouts (should you have enough equipment) so that I could change loadouts according to the game mode or team that I was about to hook myself into.

After launching, the game takes over the full screen and permits full resolution—all the way up to my whopping 1920×1080. I have an excellent high-end system and it didn’t slow the game down at all once I launched into the highest that I could alongside a lot of options set higher it looked very good. As this is a free-to-play game, our expectations can be set somewhat low; but Webzen has done an excellent job of delivering a solid FPS game. The textures are nice, it’s not at all difficult to navigate the maps, and I found myself quickly learning the mechanics as I played.

At first the game seemed to be a little bit odd when it came to rendering (the synch rate felt off) and the map slides around a little; however this didn’t take long to get used to. I’m not sure if it’s my computer, the beta, or if it’s just an aftereffect of their renderer but the edges of the screen tend to pull at my eyes. As I said, the issue went away after less than ten minutes of playing and it didn’t mess up my game. Otherwise the graphics are great, it renders nicely, and it’s easy to get immersed.

This game appears to have reasonable stereo-sound. I say this because more than once wearing headphones I was able to pinpoint the approach of an opponent and mow them down as they were about to come around a corner. Footsteps, explosions, and gunfire have a fidelity that allows a certain level of apprehension of location from the sound. Although, when it comes to explosions, I could have lived without the sound of the flash-bangs.

There’s some voices, mostly shouting in what sounds like English and possibly Russian—in many cases the shouts are such as “Fire in the hole!” or “Grenade out!” Good enough for me, because it added a human element to the battlefield to have voices speaking in the mayhem; I suspect that they could make the game continue to work well if they added a few more vocalizations that involved battlefield expectations—even if they did give the enemy an idea that a grenade had just fallen in their midst.

The music is not bad at all. I tend to mention when music in a game is overwhelming, boring, or too-often-repeated ad nauseam. This is not the case with AC. The music in game feels a little bit epic and I  did have to reduce the sound on it a once or twice

Gameplay: This is an FPS; it’s a free-to-play FPS; and it’s a fairly decent FPS

To call Arctic Combat a basic FPS would not be an insult—in fact, as a free-to-play game launched by Webzen, it seems like the attempt is to place it solidly in the vein of the titular FPS.

When it comes down to it, there’s very little to separate this game from every other FPS on the market. To this end, I’ll describe how it’ll run. First I am thrust into a lobby that allows me to find a game that someone is hosting where they’ve set the game mode and the number of people welcome to join in. Once joined there’s a little bit of a wait and then foom it’s thrust into combat. People who have just spawned have a brief period of invulnerability and then it’s off to die horribly in the trenches!

There’s several game modes from deathmatch, team deathmatch, search and destroy (a demolition style gameplay) and there’s even a setting that allows players to co-op fight against computer controlled opponents. I’ve seen at least three maps, one set in what looks like a plaza with Middle Eastern desert architecture, another that’s like a training room (with boards for walls), and one that’s actually arctic (with snow and ice and all that.) Needless to say, getting into the arctic map felt difficult as a beginner because every game that used it required a higher rank than I had until I leveled up and people generally play C&D on that one.

Beginning players receive one automatic weapon (usually some sort of assault rifle), one pistol (for when ammo runs out; or reload recovery), and a grenade—there’s both fragmentation grenades and flash-bang grenades. I discovered the hard way what flash-bangs are like, they efficiently white-out the screen and add a screeching noise. I am surprised I’ve survived as many flash-bangs as I had because generally I’d use one and then mow down everyone I hit with it. Of course, flash-bangs have a much larger area of effect than fragmentation grenades. And, I’ve discovered that most of the time frag grenades kill everyone in their effective range.

Running out from the spawn point, all the maps have multiple, branching paths, they often have upper and lower areas to fire from—and the ability for you to lay down on the ground. Doing so does make it harder to see you and hit you for someone moving; but it also means that a single grenade will ruin your day. Very quickly, enemy (and friendly) teams began to pick up tactics and choke points and places on the map to use for particular strikes, be they grenades, sweeping around corners, or laying down atop flat surfaces to get a bead on an exit.

Oh yes, and there’s sniper rifles.

I know that many modern FPS games such as Call of Duty have a “streak” system where particular perks become available for how many people you’ve successfully killed without being killed yourself. Currently in the AC beta there’s only a few such as C4, a flamethrower, a rocket launcher, and even a UAV (shows the position of all enemies on the map.) I’m not sure I’ve seen any flamethrowers in CoD or even Modern Warfare but someone might be able to point one out—still, it adds a particular amusing edge to the game when good players receive those perks. This also what lands AC in the solidly-its-FPS genre.

Freemium: Virtual item shop available; very similar to other free-to-play FPS games

Arctic Combat is still in beta but they’ve already got a virtual item shop available and things can be bought for “points” (available in game) and cash (potentially the microtransaction currency.) Right now, everything in the item shop can be purchased for points and there’s nothing available for cash. So I cannot give a good idea of how much things will cost or what to expect.

However, one thing I should mention is that many of the items in the shop are time-limited; i.e. this means that you purchase them and they only last a certain number of days, weeks, or months. The cost appears to fit the duration and that’s something that we’ve seen in quite a few other games—especially FPS style games give you equipment that expires. Many of those games use this to cause a player to keep coming back and rolling out multiple games a day in order to keep their points flowing in so that they can keep their equipment intact.

However, many of these games also sell duration-limited for-cash items—because these items can also be bought for the free-to-play currency there is no pay-to-win aspect with this, however, it does mean that players are really only renting their equipment. Other games allow cash transactions to buy permanent versions of the duration-limited items; whereas points-players will always need to keep playing to upkeep their equipment.

We’ll have to wait and see where Arctic Combat goes with this.

Conclusion: Good FPS game in the free-to-play market taking its queues from consoles

If I were to guess, I’d say that Arctic Combat wants to be the free-to-play answer to games like Call of Duty. It’s not quite in the same caliber, but it’s a free-to-play offering with a lot of good going for it so far. The graphics are quite well done, the equipment and item shop work out fairly well, and as long as they keep adding maps it’ll be something people will probably flock to.

As I’m not someone who plays FPS games of the CoD vein I was bothered that I was locked out of game modes, maps, and equipment until I ranked up; but I can see why a game might do that in order to give it more hang time as players began their journey. Also, there were lots of ways to gain experience faster by using the in-game missions (similar to quests) that asked me to use a particular weapon, play a number of games, or get a number of headshots for extra points and experience.

After playing some of the other free-to-play FPS games that are currently on the market, AC doesn’t set itself apart so much with its graphics or it’s lobby-based setup; but it does take a solid rung in what seems to be fairly good handling of the genre. It’s embedded in itself everything that we already expect from an FPS game and it delivers it packaged together in a way that it highly accessible.

I think the kill-or-be-killed element of this game once it comes into open play is going to be how they handle the cash shop as well as an introduction of more maps and game modes. Right now Arctic Combat provides an excellent scaffolding for a game that people can look forward to.