World War 3 Impressions

Farm 51’s new multiplayer shooter is military sim meets Battlefield.

Platforms: PC
Developer: Farm 51
Release Date: October 19, 2018
Reviewed by: Zach Robertson (@BearClawGaming)

*This impressions piece is based on a few early access hours and does not represent a final verdict

World War 3 is not the game developer Farm 51 thinks it is. In the run up to the game’s early access launch last week, numerous trailers pitched it as a spiritual successor to 2013’s Battlefield 4. With sprawling, modern maps filled with ground vehicles and squad-based combat, the parallel is easy to make. But it’s also not the most honest.

In truth, in its current early access state, World War 3 plays a lot more like ARMA-meets-arcade. The game can be fast-paced and combat can feel lethal, but more often than not, it feels pulled back, tactical and a little punishing. Battlefield 4 was a game with weapon customization, emphasized squad systems and tight controls. But it was also a game where players could jump out of a jet, throw C4 on an enemy plane and land back inside their jet before it crashed. None of that silliness can be found in World War 3.

Courtesy of Farm 51

Perhaps one of the most exciting elements of World War 3 is the staggering amount of customization at players’ finger tips. Currently, I found that all customization items were available at the get-go without any real-world or in-game currency holding me back. From helmets and scarves to gloves and boots, there are, literally, thousands of customization combinations at your disposal. I would like to see the game expand its character customization to include women. One, because in a modern World War 3 scenario, women would likely be drafted. And two, more importantly, because why the hell not?

Farm 51 definitely has some work to do when it comes to introducing mechanics to players. Without an expansive tutorial, I often found the in-game spawn menu a little convoluted, with squad spawning seemingly only available when a squad leader is alive. Additionally, the main menu of the game where you can queue for matches and customize your avatar is also home to a world map that shows the progress of the war divided between East and West factions. It seems through real-world time, the map will update and the tides of war will shift. This appears to be akin to For Honor’s world map, which had similar attrition systems that rewarded factions for successfully attacking or holding regions. Again, I found the explanation for this system pretty lacking in World War 3, but I’m interested in seeing how it evolves as the game leaves early access.

“This constant push and pull between arcade and simulation gameplay is definitely jarring and complicate the game’s identity.”

World War 3’s maps feel plenty of open spaces that are cluttered with sandbags, destroyed tanks and guard rails. While this environmental litter doesn’t do much to prevent a tank from steamrolling infantry, the spaces, based on real-world locations, look lived in. The maps have several capture points similar to what Battlefield players might expect from Conquest mode. The big differentiator is capture points having a pair, like A1 and A2 or D1 and D2. If a team owns both pair, teams can earn points faster. This capture system encourages team synergy and keeps combat encounters tense.

Gunplay in World War 3 is a Frankenstein’s monster of sorts. At times, heavy recoil makes encounters feel deadly and skill-based. Other times, some weapons have a longer time-to-kill than you’d expect, making things feel decidedly arcade-y. The running slide and almost comically fast reloads also add to the arcade-like handling. But then, elements like mantling and recovery time from falls make the game feel much weightier than games like Battlefield. This constant push and pull between arcade and simulation gameplay is definitely jarring and complicate the game’s identity.

Or maybe Farm 51’s new game has its own identity. Sure, it was easy in the lead up to launch to pitch the game as everything the Battlefield series used to be. For fans of classic Battlefield, or those that like to conflate misogyny with nostalgia after Battlefield V’s announcement, World War 3 is a new home. Farm 51 likely didn’t intend for this to be some bad actors’ new stomping ground, but that might be their new reality.

Riding the coattails of Battlefield might give people the wrong expectations going into World War 3, but what’s there is a solid shooter that blends casual multiplayer with more grounded simulation games like ARMA or Squad. Who knows, at the very least, World War 3 could be a great onboarding experience for players who might otherwise feel overwhelmed in more established war sim franchises.

World War 3 was played via early access beta code provided by Farm 51 and Evolve PR.