Cross Fire (PC) review
"CrossFire is a grain of sand in a desert full of free, online first-person shooters. The majority of these are played and maintained by fanatic Koreans with glazed eyes and twitchy fingers, going to any lengths to improve their skill. At first glance, this particular title fails to stand out from its peers; sporting low-grade graphics, two factions that are constantly at war for no real reason and a promotion system that will be uncannily familiar to the fans of Battlefield or Call of Duty. The gameplay, whilst repetitive, is oddly addictive and never really gets frustrating, despite having to fight alongside some rather incompetent people."
CrossFire is a grain of sand in a desert full of free, online first-person shooters. The majority of these are played and maintained by fanatic Koreans with glazed eyes and twitchy fingers, going to any lengths to improve their skill. At first glance, this particular title fails to stand out from its peers; sporting low-grade graphics, two factions that are constantly at war for no real reason and a promotion system that will be uncannily familiar to the fans of Battlefield or Call of Duty. The gameplay, whilst repetitive, is oddly addictive and never really gets frustrating, despite having to fight alongside some rather incompetent people.
Actually, my fellow players aren't that bad. Occasionally I'll stumble into a match where everyone appears drunk on stupidity, but this is generally accepted, given the target audience. The game is free and aimed towards those with little (or none at all) money. For the large part, this means children. However, the fast and furious method of playing makes use of the generally short attention spans the community display. Adrenaline is kept pumped up thanks to fast matches, and the option to play lots of rounds per game (with a penalty for leaving early) forces people to stick with their side. Subtly, this builds a sense of camaraderie between players. After playing five or six rounds with the same people, the player gets the sense that they've experienced quite a lot together, although each round is only two minutes long. It is a technique that many multiplayer shooters try to employ in effort to build a team-building and tolerable psyche within the community. However, many games are unsuccessful in achieving this level of bonding between players. Can you get a bunch of strangers to work together when their only reason for being there is self gain? As Quake and Halo have discovered, implementing a rewards system based on individual performance can breed contempt between temporary team mates, especially if one member is letting the whole side down. Despite CrossFire's younger demographic, the community tends to stick together and each faction's soldiers work towards a common goal. The extra incentives (such as money to buy better weapons) serve as a by-product of collectivist success, and each person is not Hell-bent on snagging their next upgrade, unlike in other titles.
The reason why CrossFire's community remains different and friendly is open to interpretation. Perhaps the regular players are not as young as I first assumed, or they are and haven't developed a universal hatred of their fellow man yet. Maybe I just got lucky and happened to play with more mature people. Then again, its probably down to superb game design.
Even with the full release of the title and new patches, the graphics have remained simplistic. There is a strong likelihood this is due to a lacking art department in the development studio, but it also helps to roll in the players. Gamers with low-end rigs (such as myself) can play without fear of lag or spontaneously disconnecting. This opens up the market beyond the usual FPS fanatics. People of all skill levels and attitudes are invited to play, thanks to the easy-going aesthetics. This initial appeal is coupled with an easy install process, and a new player can jump in within moments. It is no wonder that people sign up in their thousands.
Aside from the addictive incentive system, there are plenty of reasons why players continue to keep coming back. There have been three main modes of play since launch. These range from a death-match style free-for-all, in which each side tries to take out the other, to a typical C4-defuse scenario (one faction plants it, and the opposition defuses) and finally 'Ghost'. Ghost mode functions a lot like the bomb-planting maps. The difference is that the terrorists become invisible when not moving, and are only armed with knives. This makes for some pretty crazy fights, especially when the action takes place in a claustrophobic and strangely eerie abandoned laboratory. The counter-bomb squad have to stick together, lest they be picked off by enemies lurking in the shadows. It is satisfying to pull off a backstab on an unsuspecting player, but its equally exhilarating to secure a hit on a spotted stealthy foe as they franticly attempt to escape. Ghost is a surprisingly balanced way to play that will hopefully be expanded in future patches, but is worth picking up CrossFire to play this one mode alone.
The game does a great job at bringing new ideas to the table and keeping old ones fresh. This makes CrossFire an essential download for anyone who is looking for a new FPS experience, especially considering its free. Rounds can be joined in seconds, and you'll be having fun immediately. I often talk about replayability (or lack thereof) in the genre, but this title is absolutely overflowing with it. Each session will never be the same as the last, thanks to a mixture of great level design, a supportive community and a variety of game modes. All it really lacks are more maps.
Freelance review by Freelance Writer (March 27, 2009)
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