Free to play shooters have given us some of our best gaming memories and introduced us to dedicated communities. Here, we reminisce on our favourites from a fickle market where games sink or swim.
Free to play, the old way
We have seen many shooters come and go in the Free2Play market over the years. This was not always because it was a bad game; sometimes the reasons were being “pay2win”, bad management, a shift in player interest in the market, technical issues driving players away or simply bad luck.
Some games have failed to gain interest, shut down and come back under a new publisher, new name or a new strategy. While it is less common nowadays, where games take a more business-oriented approach of dropping a project if it doesn’t hit the ground running, we have seen some developers refuse to let their title fade into obscurity and try, try and try again.
Here are some shooters that we at Free2Frag wish would make a comeback, in some form or another, so we can relive the good old days with the shiny new technology available today.
#1 – War Rock
Currently still running and on its third publisher since coming to the Western market in 2006.
This unique FPS by Dream Execution managed to capture the love of fans by offering 3 different “modes” – “Close Quarters Combat” for those who primarily enjoyed small maps, no vehicles, search & destroy and round-based gameplay; “Urban Ops” for larger maps, flag capturing, limited vehicle use and respawning; and finally “Battle Ground” for large-scale warfare using a variety of land, sea and air-based vehicles, point capturing and long distance fights. The variety of modes and gameplay styles meant there was something from everyone, even if your preference was Counter Strike, Call of Duty or Battlefield styles.
War Rock also managed to separate itself from the competition by offering a wide range of movements, so the player could sprint, lean, crouch, prone, bunny hop and even roll their way around the maps meaning a variety of play styles was available, keeping games fresh and interesting.
The game gradually lost players due to widespread cheating, bugs, a peer-to-peer network setup causing laggy gameplay and being notoriously pay2win. Over the years, the free to play market eventually began offering more solid alternatives, although arguably not many which were as fun.
It’s worth noting that after over 13 years and against all the odds, War Rock is still running on Steam, albeit with a small player base. We would love to see the game remade with all the issues addressed that plagued it from launch.
#2 – Bullet Run
Bullet Run was a free2play FPS developed by Acony and published by Gamersfirst and then Sony Online Entertainment (SOE). The free shooter went under the names of Parabellum, Hedone and finally Bullet Run.
Bullet Run had the unique premise of making you contestants in a fictional combat game show. Arenas were littered with cameras, announcers provided commentary on your game and kills gained you points which unlocked temporary abilities such as deployable turrets and akimbo MP5s. Decking out your characters with new clothing items, emotes and custimisable weapons set Bullet Run apart from the standard military shooter which was so prevalent at the time. Bullet Run’s weapon mechanics were excellent with customisations being made to the guns having a noticable feel on their handling and performance, letting the player tailor their favourite guns to their playstyle.
Unfortunately, the game failed to attract players, suffered poor reviews and accusations of being pay2win. SOE decided to drop the game, arguably in favour of their other new Free2Play game at the time, Planetside 2. Acony then shut up shop, meaning Bullet Run, unfortunately, will not be able to have another chance to win hearts. Still, we would love to see Bullet Run be reincarnated and realise the potential its fans felt it had.
#3 – Repulse
Repulse was a free online sci-fi FPS from Queen’s Soft which respawned with a different name an alarming number of times. Since 2010, it has been published by Ijji and Aeria Games and many more, under the names of Genesis A.D., Repulse, Peta City, Phyrok, Run and Fire, and Another Day.
Despite its constant inability to find success, the gameplay was very fun. Players were able to walk, run, jump, booster pack, cloak, wall jump and dodge jump their way around a multitude of modes and maps. The gunplay was solid too, with maps catering for both long and short distance fights.
It had interesting mechanics in its day and if released today, it would still offer movement mechanics and gunplay that would surpass the competition. Maybe in a more modern game engine though, please?
Gone But Not Forgotten
The free to play shooter market has been something of a rollercoaster ride over the last couple of decades. Smaller Developers and Publishers took risks as everyone tried to suss out the market, meaning players have gotten to experience some truly flawed gems. These flawed gems would never pass testing nowadays, let alone make it to market with any chance of succeeding.
With the advancement in game engines, networking technologies and even just general internet connections of today versus ten years ago, the problems that these games faced could be addressed. The market has been tried and tested in terms of what works and what doesn’t, that monetisation can be done fairly and rewarding, and communities will keep a game alive forever on the social aspect alone.
Today, the free to play market has matured and the big boys have moved in, providing polish, expertise, and investment that some of the older titles could only have dreamed of. This maturity potentially means that we won’t see the likes of the above titles again, at least not with any sort of commercial viability, but we can still do our best to wish them back into existence. In the mean time, you can find what free to play shooters are available to play today, and in the future, on our Free Online Shooter Games List. Here’s to the rose-tinted glasses, folks.