Offensive Combat: TimeSplitters With Teabagging

Now might be a good time to start taking browser-based free-to-play games seriously.

It's no secret that free-to-play games are on the offensive right now; there are countless examples of games employing this "disruptive" business model that offer gameplay experiences comparable or superior to those in many full-priced retail games. World of Tanks, League of Legends, The Lord of the Rings Online, Team Fortress 2, Super Monday Night Combat, and Age of Empires Online are just a handful of examples that, if you haven't already, you'd do well to check out at your earliest convenience. You should also consider signing up for the Offensive Combat open beta, which is currently scheduled for sometime in August. This ambitious browser-based multiplayer shooter, which we had an opportunity to play for the first time recently, borrows liberally from numerous games that have come before it and yet still manages to feel unique--in part because it embraces emergent aspects of the genre that are rarely celebrated or even acknowledged elsewhere.

Steal a teammate's kill in Offensive Combat, and both of you will receive bonus experience points, for example. And if you engage in the noble art of teabagging (or "pwning" as it's referred to in-game) a downed opponent, not only are there loads of custom dance/thrust/fart animations to choose from, but that too earns you a bonus. Opponent humiliation is encouraged in other ways as well: having a soldier packing an assault rifle kill you with a headshot is one thing, but falling after a yeti with tentacle arms, chicken legs, and a Hawaiian shirt hits you with a cockshot is something else entirely. Such varied and occasionally ridiculous player models are the products of a robust customization suite that affords you the freedom to mix and match parts like you've just been handed a giant box of differently themed Lego characters. You won't have access to everything in the box from the outset unless you throw some money at developer U4iA games, but the coins that you use to purchase customization options, weapons, and consumables can be obtained simply by playing the game if you're not inclined to open your wallet.

Level designs look to be every bit as varied as the characters doing battle in them. It's possible to set up a conventional-looking game in which soldiers do battle amidst South American slums, but you can also shoot it out in less realistic locales, such as planetoids floating in space, with players who resemble anthropomorphic lizards and chickens, luchadors, robots, cowboys, sasquatch, or any combination of the aforementioned. Characters all play in the same way regardless of what they look like, but that certainly isn't true of the levels. Maps like the diminutive Dry Run that we played capture the flag on wouldn't be horribly out of place in a military shooter, while the Hydropwnic map littered with power-ups (double damage, speed boost, extra armor), weapons (chain gun, rocket launcher), and jump pads resulted in frantic free-for-all and team deathmatches more akin to those in Quake or Halo.

Banana guy is wielding The Hammer. See what they did there?

In these matches especially, taking the time to humiliate a slain opponent with a Tea-bo Bagginz or chicken dance animation is a risky proposition. The coins that you earn if you're successful move you up the leaderboard and are also the currency that's used to purchase new weapons and customization options. You can't cancel out of an animation once you start it, though, and it's agonizing to watch your lizard-headed luchador continue to play air guitar over a corpse as he's riddled with bullets. Subsequently watching your opportunistic killer suffer the same fate can be satisfying, but if you feel the need to get revenge yourself, you can bring one of Offensive Combat's many consumable items, the beacon, into play.

When equipped with beacons, you're given the option to place one on anyone who kills you, and then when you respawn, you can see where they are at all times. This affords you a distinct advantage where your rivalry is concerned, but from experience, we can tell you that becoming too focused on just one target in a game of team deathmatch is rarely a good thing. We can also tell you that the beacon system makes it much more challenging for the snipers among you to camp in the same spot for prolonged periods because--assuming you're good enough that you're killing people--beacons make it relatively easy for victims to respawn and track you down.

Yetis in Hawaiian shirts may well become a common sight later this year.

Beacons, humiliations, and irreverence aside, Offensive Combat plays a lot like multiplayer shooters that have come before it, while aesthetically it's evocative of the always-impressive TimeSplitters series, which, last we heard, wasn't getting a sequel to 2005's Future Perfect anytime soon. That Offensive Combat looks and plays like a modern console shooter is no mean feat when you consider that it's played entirely in a browser window and won't cost you a cent to play if you don't want it to. U4iA Games is of course looking to make money off you whether or not you part with any of your hard-earned real world currency, but based on what we've seen of the game so far, there are no overly obtrusive ads to contend with. In fact, the only advertisements we saw were floating alongside a scoreboard moving through the sky, which, if you don't deliberately choose to look up at it, you likely wouldn't even know was there. You won't even need to create an account to play Offensive Combat if you don't want to: you can log in with Google, Facebook, or Twitter, or simply opt to play as a guest.

No release date for Offensive Combat has been announced at present, but the North American open beta is scheduled for sometime in August. We hope to give away some codes for the closed beta before that, so be sure to check back for more Offensive Combat coverage--including details of how mobile and tablet versions of the game will work--in the coming weeks.

Discussion

Load Comments