Feminist gaming blog with a heaping dash of science and politics

Firefall: Jetpacks and Hot-pants take over Pax’11

Red 5 Studio went all out at this years PAX Prime promoting their new free-to-play FPS, Firefall, as it headed into its beta testing phase. Adverts, fliers, and even statuary for the game filled every nook and cranny of the convention center, and even seeped out into the surrounding areas of downtown Seattle. A nerd could hardly turn around without being bombarded with some form of Firefall marketing or gameplay footage. Luckily at least one of those things, the gameplay, was worth all that attention (the marketing is a whole other story, which I’ll get into in a different post).

Firefall or Firefail? We shall see! (Sorry but they made that way too easy)

The game is definitely a whole lot of fun and feels very polished even at this early stage of development. I demo’d the multiplayer as a Recon class (one of the four currently announced classes, the other three being Assault, Medic, and Engineer) and had an absolute blast. The jetpacks that all classes come equipped with add a great three-dimensionality to the gameplay and works especially well with the Recon class. I found several cozy little nooks on rooftops and mountainsides from which to spy on my targets, who all crumpled quite satisfactorily to the ground as I sniped them from my perch. The rounds were fast-paced, but not so frenetic that it was hard to keep up with what was going on and you could switch armor (called battle frames) and even classes on the fly if you wanted to change tactics. Now, I know these all sound like basic components of this genre, not all that different from Team Fortress 2 if it had jetpacks, but there is one major perk that Firefall has over almost all of its competitors: gender selection!

Lady snipers in the house!

I know it seems like a small thing, but honestly being able to have female characters makes me vastly more interested in the game than I ever have been in TF2 (pyro fan-fic aside). However, that interest is greatly tempered by how gender was implemented in Firefall. All of the female versions of the classes are sexed up compared to their male counterparts, but two of them, the Engineer and the Assault classes, are particularly egregious examples of the ‘sex sells’ mantra getting in the way of logical armor designs. The female Assault wears only a small pair of booty shorts underneath her battle frame that leaves her midriff, cleavage, and most of her legs bare. The male Assault, while also bare-chested, is wearing full length pants underneath a battle frame that covers most of his chest and about half of his legs. For the Engineers, the male is wearing a body suit underneath his battle frame that is missing one of the sleeves. The female Engineer is wearing the same suit and battle frame, except that in addition to being one-sleeved, her body suit is also only one-legged. As I’ve said many times before, the lopsided sexualization of women in games sends out very particular messages to the players: that these women, and perhaps even all women, are there first and foremost to be sexy and sexual for the presumed heterosexual male gamer with any heroics on her part coming in as a distant second to her status as a sexual object.

Amazing! A mecha suit with both a boob and midriff window!

The outfit.... doesn't even make sense....or look sexy, just exposed

Now this is, of course, all based off of the demo I played that was a pre-beta build where the maximum amount of customization offered to players was hitting a randomize button right before entering a match. I am assuming/hoping that there will be a much more extensive character customization process in the full build of the game. Perhaps, even one that let’s the player choose the arrangement of the bodysuit underneath the battle frames. Let those who want to leave their bare skin exposed to the flames of a jetpack do as they please, and let those of us who appreciate fully armored women go about putting the first group out of their crispy-fried misery. It’s a win-win scenario and I honestly don’t understand why more games, especially those who tout customization as a primary feature, don’t choose this route more often. Allowing both male and female characters to have both skimpy and covering armor/clothing/whatever gives everyone the option to play the games as they want without being forced into the role of sex object just to play the game.

Overall, Firefall is a ton of fun to play, even in this early stage of development and it gives the genre a much needed advancement with it having women as options for all classes. However, the current gender differences in the battle frames for the Assault and Engineer classes make this a serious case of two steps forward, one step back. I’ll be keeping tabs on the game as it progresses through it’s beta, but whether or not I play it at launch may end up revolving solely on how they handle criticism of the female battle frames and what, if any, changes they make to them.


13 responses to “Firefall: Jetpacks and Hot-pants take over Pax’11

  1. JBWill August 31, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Yeah I tend to argree with you about the female engineer, I really don’t particularly like the look of it. It just seems awkward and lopsided. That being said it’s not going to stop me from playing the crap out of this game. I do very much hope that they at least offer a way to change it for the many people I’ve heard that it bothers much more than me.

  2. ImOnTheRadio August 31, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Great preview, I’m certainly sure the game will have more customization than PAX had, atleast if you use real money. I hope you’ll end up trying out the game when it releases, after all it’s free! And biotech? Never heard of that one, I think you’re meaning Medic. It also would’ve been nice if you’d mentioned the open world PvE with events happening like chosen attacking the town and if you fail to defend, you lose some features that you could otherwise use in that town and the only way to get them back is to regain the town.

    • Zaewen August 31, 2011 at 11:07 am

      Ah, see I saw it both Biotech and Medic, so I just picked the more sci-fi sounding one, whoops lol. Guess I’ll go fix that in the post 🙂

      As for the PvE and open world, I didn’t get a chance to demo it. Those stations were always full, but from what I saw it looked to be just as much fun as the PvP aspects.

  3. TheJayde August 31, 2011 at 11:12 am

    I’m gonna wear hot pink hot pants. My whole army is going to be forced to, because those are going to be the colors of my army. We will win fights against the men because they will either assume we are women, and take us too lightly, or assume we are gay and be all homophobic. Either way, the subliminal psychology behind it is sure to give us the wins!

  4. SoulOfOrigin August 31, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Yeah, the engineer with the bare leg doesn’t look right to me. It doesn’t make me want to stop looking forward to this game though. The game still looks amazing, and the closed beta starts at the end of this week by the way.

  5. Alx223 August 31, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    Yeah I personally don’t like the female engineer’s suit, but I’m ok with the female assault, I don’t know why the female engineer just seems kind of odd. Anyways the gameplay seems great so I’m quite looking forward to both the PvE and the competitive side of the PvP.
    The first wave of invite should be out soon, but the testing is going to be scheduled so it probably won’t start right away. Keep an eye out on the official forums because they are going to make an official post when the invites go out.

  6. Dee August 31, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    If nothing else, that hotpants-and-halter-top combo looks like it would just be flat-out uncomfortable.

    Power-armour chafes, man. And there’s nothing sexy about a crotch-rash. 😦

  7. Hoder August 31, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    If you’re still as interested as you sound you were in this game, you could try and contact some of red5 themselves and try to get your hands on some beta keys to do a give-away here. Should be fun for the people reading this.
    Now I like my female chars, now i’m a male so I don’t mind me some skin, but the amount of options endgame could be bigger then just the basic starting frame.

    If you’re still interesting be sure to sign up for the game on the official site and keep checking it out, the info avalanche has only just begun!

    • Zaewen August 31, 2011 at 5:23 pm

      I’ll be following the game, actually have been keeping tabs on it on and off since Pax Prime last year. I even had a chat with one of the devs this year about this issue. I’m hoping, because I really did enjoy the game, that something is done that lets us have control over whether we’re wearing hot-pants or not during the beta, be it thru customization options or some form of cash shop stuff. ‘Cause otherwise I’d be stuck playing Medic or Recon the entire time and lose out on half of the game (if no more classes are announced) because I have no interest in being forced to play a male or half-naked character, its just not my style.

  8. uz3r013 August 31, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    I like the idea of being able to customize your body suit, And it is possibly something red5 might and could implement to appease all of the “unease” as for the out already, I like it. Yes i am a hetro sexual man, but the sexyness is not just the reason i like it. I feel it is a nice tribute to a roman gladiator style look. The gladiators that only armored one arm have always looked cool to me. In WoW the few short months i played it, my favorite armor was a shoulder armor that was only on one side because it made me feel like a gladiator. it might not be common practice now, but in the gladitor arena, it was common practice to just armor what was most valuable to you inorder to stay more mobile. Ass for the engineers its not armor that covers them but gadgets and tools (maybe even parts) to build and repair their constructs. Besides the spine armor and the kneepads the rest looks like tech tools.

    but i do hope they allow body suit customization. i would like to strut my stuff in the buff. 😛

  9. Pingback: Firefall: Jetpacks and Hot-pants take over Pax’11 « Zee’s Blog [ AZEROTH. ME. ]

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