Offensive Combat review
Offensive Combat is a Facebook game from U4iA Games, an outfit comprised of veterans of the “triple A” games sector on computers and consoles. U4iA’s CEO Dusty H. Welch worked at Activision for 13 years, and is credited with playing a lead role in making the company’s popular Call of Duty and Guitar Hero franchises into worldwide sensations, so he is doubtless hoping to make Offensive Combat into a similarly successful phenomenon.
Offensive Combat is a free-to-play first-person shooter with impressive 3D graphics powered by the popular Unity engine. As with many other modern first-person shooters, a layer of MMO-like metagame is layered atop the standard competitive play, providing players with incentive to keep coming back and improve their character. Premium options allow players to purchase various customizations for their character, or to buy/rent various weapons and consumable items to give them an edge on the battlefield.
The first time Offensive Combat loads, it takes a very long time on slower Internet connections because of the large amount of data it is caching. These long loading breaks are repeated the first time a particular level is played as its assets are loaded, but once the data is stored locally, it may be accessed much more quickly. There’s no real way around this — Offensive Combat is throwing around a large number of high-quality audio-visual assets, and they have to be delivered to the player somehow. It may be worth U4iA’s time to set expectations for players and put a note on their loading screen that “first loads” will take quite a long time, but subsequent loads will be quicker — many other developers of graphically-intensive games do this, and it helps set players’ minds at ease that they are not going to be spending the majority of their time staring at progress bars.
Once into the game menus, players have three main options — run through a simple tutorial that introduces the controls, start a “quick game” (which picks a random game mode and map for the player to join) or start a “custom game” (which allows the player to pick both the game mode and map they would like to play on). There are seven different game modes and three different maps available for players to pick at the time of writing — though starting a “Quick Play” game also revealed a special Christmas-themed map which apparently enters the rotation occasionally. Game modes vary from a simple free-for-all deathmatch, in which players must all kill each other as many times as possible before time expires, to team games like capture the flag. By default, most game modes include collectible items and powerups on the map, but a couple of game modes remove these items, forcing players to rely purely on their skills and the weapons they have unlocked for use.
As the player levels up, they gain access to various perks they can equip on different parts of their body to customize their play style. Weapons also gain experience, making them more effective the more they are used. The game is still largely based on skill, so low-level players can potentially stand toe-to-toe with high-level ones, but having a higher level provides access to a wider variety of options with which to deal out death and destruction.
Offensive Combat is very well presented. The in-game 3D graphics are excellent, though the engine could use some optimization — at the highest quality level, the frame rate takes a significant hit even on relatively powerful graphics hardware. Dropping the graphics quality setting does not provide a noticeably negative impact on visual fidelity, but it does significantly improve the frame rate.
One annoyance with the presentation is that the menu screens cannot be displayed in full-screen mode, but the main game can. Since the menu screen is quite large, it does not fit on lower-resolution displays such as laptops properly, necessitating a lot of scrolling up and down to see everything. As the game uses its own proprietary account system linked to Facebook rather than Facebook’s own built-in invite and share mechanics, there is no apparent reason for the menu screens to confine themselves to the browser-based canvas — it would be much better to have the option to display the entire game in full-screen mode. This would also help placate some core gamers who prefer their games to be fully immersive rather than having browser interfaces and adverts intruding on their experience.
Despite this relatively minor flaw, Offensive Combat is an extremely impressive game. It plays well, looks great and appears to have reasonable server populations at the time of writing. It remains to be seen whether or not it will be able to maintain an active player base over time, but early indications are positive, at least, and in gameplay terms it certainly compares very favorably to both other browser-based first-person shooters such as Uberstrike and standalone free-to-play offerings such as Tribes Ascend. It’s well worth a look, in short.
One of the most visually impressive games on Facebook, and a good first-person shooter to boot.