Looking for a multiplayer FPS game with a great deal of versatility and being launched via a well known free-to-play MMO publisher? Then look no further than the recently come-to-public-beta Soldier Front 2 published by Aeria Games. It follows the same vein of many modern-day shooters that put players in the position of soldiers dressed in camo, with helmets, and numerous modern-day guns—although the addition of an aliens mode (a MOBA “Hero” game mode with aliens in it) might give it a little bit of a science fiction edge.
SF2 is an extremely good looking game and appears to run atop the Unreal Engine 3 to deliver high quality performance (in fact, on my machine this game runs at about 120fps regularly.) The game rests heavily on the standard FPS game modes from deathmatch, to team deathmatch, and a few others like sabotage or escape; but it also combines odd game modes such as “Shatter” (explained below) and even that interesting alien-based MOBA “hero” mode.
From my first few hours of play, it’s obvious that SF2 falls solidly into the modern-soldier FPS market pioneered by games such as Call of Duty and it’s being sold to the MMOFPS player audience. It sells itself extremely well, in fact; but if you’re deciding on what game to play in that market, keep reading below.
Graphics and sound: It’s a shooter—and it does that extremely well
Being that this game runs on the Unreal Engine 3, it has an excellent renderer beneath the hood and that’s apparent from how well defined the graphics are. Keep in mind, this is an Internet multiplayer game selling itself to the MMO audience and not a AAA grand-adventure such as Call of Duty. However, even with that in mind, the graphics are amazing, cracks in the walls, asphalt, the sky glowing overhead–but once and a while up-close-and-personal with a wall I felt like I wasn’t looking at that high-quality of a texture (if nothing else, this probably helps the game run as fast and as well as it does on my system and will help lower end systems stay in the game.)
Playing through the game, I’ve seen several different environments—in fact, there’s a lot of different maps here—most of them feel really small, but there are bigger maps and smaller maps for different game modes. All of them have everything expected to suggest the environment you’re in such as Cathedral that’s fought inside of a huge religious building, an urban desert map that looks somewhat dusty, and one that is extremely long-but-narrow (and possibly wet) map atop a dam.
As with most FPS, it doesn’t matter always how good the models happen to be (especially enemies) because by the time you see them, you’re being shot at. For the most part, I could tell the difference between my teammates and the enemy because of a bright orange object that looked like a fannypack, although I never got a good look at it. From what I’ve seen there are a lot more models for players than those we start with (so that’ll get expanded a lot no doubt.) The hitboxes seemed pretty well placed as well; but I didn’t get enough time to play with sniper rifles to see if that was true all the time.
The gun models are extremely good—and that’s important because you’ll be staring at one a great deal of the time. Some of them are fancy looking, or have specialized skins, and there’s a lot of cosmetic upgrades that will enable players to do things to their guns that allow them to personalize themselves (yet another important element in a modern-FPS game.) Yes, there’s even fancy-looking grenades…
There’s definitely music in this game, but it’s not that memorable—it’s fairly standard—but it wasn’t bad or annoying so I didn’t find myself shutting it down. I did, however, eventually turn it off just so that I could play my own music while I shot at the enemy team.
As for in-game sound, there’s plenty of that. It feels like a very good job was done with every element. I didn’t spent a lot of time attempting to listen for other players in motion (and generally that was drown out by gunfire) but the sound of guns certainly had a stereoscopic effect that allowed me to use my headphones to tell where gunfire was taking place and track accordingly. During the game voices would state current status at me from such things like “Tango down!” or telling me that the enemy had been sighted, or even that I was the last person left!
Gameplay: In the FPS market for free-to-play MMO seekers it stands out because of variety
Soldier Front 2 stands out to me primarily because of the variant game types and maps available—and the weird game types available—as per my graphics and sound review, it’s a standard solider-type FPS game with a lobby and doesn’t stray very far from that. As a result, if I were to review it on its face for gameplay I’d have very little to say: “It’s an FPS modern-day shooter. Does what it says on the tin.”
You fire with the mouse button, aim-down-sights with the other one, switch weapons with the mouse-wheel—grenades are a weapon-type and not a “Press G to throw”—and this somewhat restricts how the play works to an extent. There’s crouching and running and all the expected types of engagement. I’ve even crouched near corners to catch people coming down long corridors off guard to cut them down.
There’s definitely an accuracy model going on in this game: guns have very real sway, there’s noticeable recoil that changes per gun, and apparent bullet drop. If anything, even with the different modes, SF2 stands out as a game seeking to be a proper tactical twitch-based FPS game. Add in that there’s elements of the game that are destructible—i.e. walls that can be blown open, cars that explode, or even explosive barrels (Borderlands envy here!)
What really caught my eye was the sheer number of weird game modes available and two stood out to me: Shatter and Hero Mode.
The first odd game mode that I’d like to mention is one named “Shatter.” It’s played on a special map named Fun House. The basic idea of this type of game is two squads go team death match (with elimination) and either kill one another or break the floor beneath one another so that people fall to their deaths. The Fun House consists of two floors of hexagonal glass panes that can be shot out, and falling through the bottom-most floor drops people onto lethal blades—or to weird rubber bouncers that repel people back upwards. To win one team must kill the entire of the other team either via damage or dropping them out of the map.
Next up is “Hero” mode or the MOBA-styled FPS game where players find themselves on one map called “Valley” and are tasked with attacking the enemy base. Creeps spawn on both sides are called Xanthids and they can be used as meat shields (or as target practice) in order to cross the map, take the other base, and destroy the target within it. This reminds me of SMITE, which is much more of a TPS MOBA game, that has been built into an FPS game—there’s creeps, enemy teams, and a march to defend and attack. No items or buying or leveling as with a standard MOBA (instead its your guns), but it’s still an interesting mode.
Finally there’s the usual variants on sabotage and this one called “Escape.” In escape it’s the job one team to kill the other to the last man (via elimination) and the job of the escaping team to rush to a transmitter to call in a helicopter and then get to the drop zone. The map felt a little bit small, but it was filled with choke points, and even side areas that allowed both escapees and assaulters to flank (or even camp the chopper.)
Freemium: As with most free-to-play multiplay FPS games strong gun lineup
Like most Aeria Games Soldier Front 2 uses a virtual item shop that enables players to purchase guns with both in-game currency or AP (Aeria Points) so that they can grab weapons earlier. Currently, most of the guns in the virtual item store are not time-limited (all of them state they sell “forever”) but there’s definitely the likelihood that there will be time-limited items later.
Altogether, the item shop reminds me of most Aeria Games virtual stores: it offers a nice mixture of packages (discounted guns, gear, etc. as a themed set) as well as Founders Packs that give new players a boost in their wardrobe and guns, as well as quality-of-life XP and SP boosts. All of this is pretty standard and doesn’t appear to be game breaking at all.
There’s a way to buy into a random-win system that basically tosses out guns for people who buy a capsule and that’s what tends to supply limited-time guns. I haven’t seen much so far showing that all guns will be limited-time (or pay-to-rent style gameplay) especially because every gun that I saw in the shop had the “forever” option as the only one.
So far so good.
Conclusion: It’s a multiplayer-FPS with a lobby sold to the free-to-play MMO audience with a good community
I have yet to play an Aeria Games game that didn’t have a lot of people playing it already. While this game only recently came into open beta, it’s full of people and it’s really easy to get a match going as a beginner. With that many people playing, matches are quick, they’re all over the place, and there’s very little wait to see what’s going on. Even after I had my character wiped from the closed beta, I still found it easy to get back into matches in the open and find people to play against.
The weapons feel pretty much standard to most modern-FPS games and the lobby menu isn’t difficult to navigate. It does a good job of doing the lobby-menu seen in every game and there’s no learning curve there. In short, it’s industry-standard and doesn’t really make any waves.
As I’ve said above, what makes Soldier Front 2 stand out for me and likely other players is the variety of new and different game modes. Already there’s almost 10+ maps to play across (although many of them are locked to particular modes) but it suggests to me that Aeria Games will be seeing even more maps added in the future and possibly revamped and made more interesting. The addition of destructible areas and environmental dangers (barrels) means that tactics change a little bit when approaching human opponents.
Grab your gun, soldier; it’s time to do some damage.