|Publisher||Sony Computer Entertainment|
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Warframe is a free-to-play third-person action game that’s currently in beta on PC, but it was revealed during E3 that the game will also be coming to the PlayStation 4 as a launch title. The basic premise is simple: You’re part of a race of aliens—space ninjas, really—that can inhabit powerful super suits and wield a variety of abilities and advanced weaponry. Once you’ve customized your own loadout, you can jump into a four-player co-op match and fight off waves of increasingly difficult enemies and bosses in procedurally configured levels.
I’m always hesitant to get too excited about free-to-play games, since a lot of my enjoyment inevitable comes down to the profit model they employ. I’ve been burned too often in the past by broken promises that the split between earning in-game items and shelling out real-world cash won’t boil down to a pay-to-win ecosystem. Nonetheless, I’m still really looking forward to Warframe.
A lot of that has to do with the fact that the game does a spectacular job delivering on its space ninja premise. You can run along walls, sprint into long-range slides, and generally run circles around your foes. Better still, these parkour abilities don’t feel dumbed-down or automated. They’re real, skillful maneuvers that are tricky to master and which offer substantial benefits—namely huge increases in damage—to players that take the time to learn the ropes. I didn’t have a ton of time to become an expert, but the first time I got a running start, slid past a baddie, aimed behind me, and blew his legs off with my dual shotgun pistols as I passed, I’m pretty sure I peed a little.
There were, however, two things that took me out of the experience. The first was the fact that you had to activate your special abilities by swiping the PS4 controller’s touchpad. I never got the hang of it, and it felt clunky to have to take my thumb off the stick, remember which direction did what, and then execute the gesture. Thankfully, I was assured that by the time the game launches, you’ll also be able to just use to D-pad if you prefer more traditional controls.
The second thing was a nagging suspicion that the fun might not last forever. There’s only so much Horde mode–style co-op I can handle before I want a change of pace—even with randomized levels. Still, developer Digital Extremes is already adding content to the PC beta at a rapid pace—including new one-on-one PVP duels—so they’re clearly interested in keeping things fresh over the long term. I hope they can provide parity on that front when it comes to the PS4.