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Platform: PC
Genre: First Person Shooter
Publisher: K2Network
Developer: K2Network
ETA: TBA

 

 

 

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War Rock

 

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War Rock is a free to download, free to play multi-player FPS with elements of many well-established online FPSs.  The game is currently in a limited Beta that was made available for E3 attendees and I’ve had a chance to both see the game behind the scenes at E3 and to play it for a few hours.  My early impressions are below.

 

There is, the saying goes, no such thing as a free lunch.  However, if you were at E3 2006, you would have seen that there is a such thing as a free game—sort of.  One of the catch phrases of this year’s show seemed to be “Free to Download, Free to Play.”  How do companies make money from such things?  Two other catch phrases provide the answer: “Microtransactions” and “In-game advertising.”  War Rock is a free multi-player FPS that uses the first of those two terms to generate cash for the publisher, but K2 wasn’t quite ready to reveal specifics about the in-game economy at the show.  They did say something that will matter to a lot of readers—players won’t be able to buy their way to better performance in the game—something that I’ve seen in the micro-economies of some of the free MMORPGs.

 

The key feature of War Rock is that it is basically three FPS titles in one.  The game has three different modes of play: Mission Combat, Infantry Combat, and Vehicle Combat.  The three modes cover most mission styles seen in other popular FPS titles.  In fact, War Rock 

wears its inspiration on its sleeves.  While playing, it is hard not to notice the derivative nature of much of the game.  For instance, let’s look at the modes more closely.

 

Mission Combat—if you haven’t been living under a rock (a war rock perhaps), you will notice that the Mission mode is a re-hash of Counter-Strike.  In fact, the only mission available in the E3 Beta is a place-and-diffuse-a-bomb scenario first made famous by CS.  This is the only section of War Rock with small, crowded urban maps, so if you like the up close, Black Hawk Down-style combat, you are going to be playing this mode.  Despite how familiar and unoriginal it is, this mode is a lot of fun and very 

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hectic.  It would especially be good for those that haven’t burned themselves out on CS or those that crave more CS action than the original game can produce.  I’m looking forward to the other missions becoming available.  At E3, the company specifically mentioned a VIP escort mission—something I’ve loved in other FPSs.

 

Infantry Combat—this is the medium-size urban map mode, and once again it reminds me of another shooter.  In this case it is Day of Defeat, another popular Half-life mod.  As in DoD, the goal in Infantry mode is to control certain map points (which double as spawn points for your team).  Like DoD, the available maps are all urban.  Unlike basic DoD though, the Infantry Combat mode of War Rock feature access to a number of vehicles.  The vehicular combat is a little odd in the crowded streets, but the vehicles work well for quick transport to other sections of the map.  This is easily my favorite mode of the available three in the E3 Beta.

 

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Vehicle Combat—this is the mode that feels the least derivative, if only because I haven’t played every modern-era FPS on the market.  In Vehicle Combat mode, players have the opportunity to use a variety (a huge variety) of different vehicles to aid in the taking of map points.  I personally love using the motorcycle to rush between map points (and to search for all the hidden ramps), but other players likely will prefer the aircraft.  I’m told the aircraft are available in the Beta, but I have never managed to join an aircraft-enabled map during play testing.  I did however see a great demo of aircraft combat while interviewing the K2 guys at E3, and it looked like a blast.  Even without the flying vehicles, the Vehicle Combat mode is a lot of fun and it appears to be the most popular mode with the current Beta testers.

 

I’ve talked a lot about how unoriginal the modes are in War Rock, but I don’t want to leave the impression I don’t like the game.  This is easily my favorite current online FPS.  I couldn’t be more excited to see what new modes the K2 programmers come up with.  Even with the limited number of maps and modes available in the Beta, War Rock is a blast.  It is hard to believe a game this polished and well-programmed (especially when it comes to performance on low-end machines) could be free.  I echo what I’ve heard (seen on-screen actually) from a lot of the beta testers—this is a game I would pay to play.  It is amazing to get it for free.  I’m also intrigued to see how the game’s economic system (disabled in the Beta) works.

 

All in all, I’m really excited about War Rock and K2 in general.  As a company they seem driven to deliver great games that work on nearly any system and that provide a ton of great game features absolutely free.  In an era when new games are creeping toward sixty dollars (U.S.), that seems like a great goal to me.

 

Danny Webb

(June 5, 2006)