In space, no one can hear you fall.
As space programs around the world continue to make advancements towards expanding the reach of the human race beyond the stars, have they ever thought about the repercussions, or the potential threat of an all-out space war? Well now might be the time to start planning ahead. Freefall Tournament is a frantic web-based third-person shooter, set in the throes of space, where no one is safe from a rogue laser blast.
There is never any attempt by Freefall Tournament to introduce a storyline, but that exclusion is not too sorely missed, as players can just jump right into the nonstop action without skipping a beat. There are eight different player classes for you to choose from; but don’t worry, you’re never locked into your choice, and you can always change things up before your next respawn. The classes are gunner, tank, scout, tech, blazer, blaster, assassin, and shocker, and they each have their own distinctive style of fighting. In addition to their primary and secondary weapon, each soldier comes with a unique special ability to make things a bit more interesting on the battlefield, like invisibility for the gunner, or planting turrets for the tech.
The weapons are by far the best part about Freefall Tournament. There is a huge variety of them too, from flamethrowers to ricocheting lasers and everything else in between (two words: ambush blades). Aiming is a breeze, and the gunplay is fast and feels great on the powerful servers that let you blast your way through space from right in your browser window. You will notice some chunky, or blocky animations when your character runs, but I think you’d look pretty blocky too if you were weighed down from head to toe in all that heavy space armor.
But wait, I haven’t even told you about the aerial combat yet! Each character comes fully equipped with a jetpack, which lets you hover around in space and engage in some seriously awesome mid-air firefights. But since the jetpacks let you go virtually anyway on the map (even on the underside of the big central space station), sometimes it can be hard to locate the other fighters when everyone’s just jetting around all over the place. Of course, the upside is that you never have to worry about falling to your death or just floating off into the great unknown (hence the name “Freefall.”)
Another nifty touch is that the damage points you inflict on the other space soldiers are represented by flying colored numbers, akin to the Borderlands series, that tell you precisely how much pain you’re shelling out shot by shot. It’s also really easy to converse with your teammates and strategize from right within the game window.
Unfortunately, there are a few missteps in design that make Freefall Tournament feel a little less than fully realized in its current state. For one thing, there seems to be an extreme lack of maps for the game, and in all the time I spent playing, I could only ever find a game match on the “Training Area” environment. I don’t think it was just me either, as I noticed a few other freefallers complaining about this shortage in the live Twitter feed as well.
There is also a real lack of instruction for beginners, aside from a few basic control tutorials that pop up in the middle of your first match. Initially I wasn’t even sure if there were any other game modes besides Team Death Match, as I’d never come across them and saw no indications to tell me otherwise. But after doing some research, I discovered that there are a grand total of three maps, and King of the Hill and Control Point Scramble game modes can be unlocked after players rank up to the General tier. Granted, it’s a free-to-play browser game, but that’s still a lot of repetitiveness in setting and gameplay before reaching those milestones, and I feel like many players will run the risk of getting bored with the same map over and over again, and start drifting off to other ends of the universe.
In between rounds, you can visit the in-game store and do some window shopping with the ‘slug’ currency you earn from finishing matches, or buy in bulk with your own money through Amazon.com credit. However this store falls incredibly short of its full potential, as you can only purchase different character types to unlock. There are no weapons, no upgrades, and no modifications. This becomes somewhat unnecessary, as the game features a rotating system of availability that randomly unlocks different character classes every 24 hours. So if you’re really dying to play as the blazer or the tank, just wait a little bit, and odds are he’ll become available before too long. It’s also a heck of a lot cheaper than unlocking them yourself from the store.
Freefall Tournament is still a game in progress, and players are encouraged to report any bugs or glitches they encounter from right within the game’s own interface; so the developers can keep rolling out the fixes and updates, and make sure that no one strays too far from the stratosphere. Even though the game feels a bit bare in its current version, the core gameplay is still a blast, and the fantastic weapons and aerial combat show some incredible potential for an online shooter that’s literally out of this world!