Publisher: K2 Networks
Release Date: August 2009
The online shooter world is a very crowded space. What Counter-Strike essentially started has turned into one of gaming's most dominant genres, with titles like Call of Duty and Halo topping the charts on consoles while Counter-Strike mods are just as popular today as they were when they launched. Into this already well-represented genre jumps Parabellum, a free-to-play title that hopes its nonexistent price tag will be enough enticement to carve out its own online space.
When many players hear the words "free to play," they often translate that into meaning "low quality." That isn't the case here, as Acony has lined up an all-star team of devs in spite of being a new studio. Their crew consists of folks from the Call of Duty and Counter-Strike teams, as well as talent drawn from such respected studios as EA, Sony, Square Enix, Atari and more. Just in case you were wondering, these guys know what they're doing.
When in the game, players choose sides between the CTF (Counter Terrorism Force) or the Syndicate. Players and are then dumped into a metagame that spawns several maps and individual gaming sessions. In the example we were shown, the terrorists have placed a bomb in downtown New York, and the CTF has two-and-a-half hours (in real time) to get to the location and disarm the device. Each stage serves as a battleground, and the winner determines where the action moves to next. For example, if the CTF can press to a certain area, they are granted with a helicopter lift to another battlefield way across the map, which saves a ton of time. The Syndicate can counter these maneuvers by blocking off certain paths to these more advantageous battlefields, thus forcing the CTF to go the long way around and eat up all their available time before the bomb detonates. It's this tug-of-war game mechanic that really makes the title stand out from all those other "play a match, go back to the lobby" shooters.
The other major draw of Parabellum is the fact that characters and guns are extremely customizable, with the team promising over 1.2 million potential combinations of weapons, armor, upgrades and interchangeable parts. Chances are that if you end up looking just like someone else in Parabellum without coordinating, then you're both just poor lost souls with no sense of creativity.
Since the title isn't charging any sort of subscription fee, all income will be handled through in-game advertising and microtransactions. Again, these are words that make most gamers hiss with discuss, but Acony knows that, and they are being very careful to make sure that this stuff is handled the right way. Ads will only be displayed in locales where it makes sense, say a billboard in Times Square rather than in the middle of a forest. Also, while the microtransactions grant boosts, none of them will factor directly into gameplay. Players who don't have a lot of free time can purchase experience boosters so they level up faster, but they won't get any perks or bonuses that aren't available from good, old-fashioned grinding. Also, the team saw the ill will that EA garnered with the super weapons that were being considered for Battlefield: Bad Company, so Parabellum will only feature new weapon skins; absolutely no powered-up exclusive weapons allowed.
Acony and K2 are making all the right moves to try and make this game as appealing as possible for shooter fans, but the question is will it all pay off? We'll have to wait until later this summer to find out, but I will definitely be rooting for the little developer who could.
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