Let's start with the bad since that's probably the first thing many people will notice before they can adequately give it a chance: this game is a buggy mess. At one point in my first week of playing the social network went down for about an hour or so, so there were no squads, no local chats, no zone chats, no private chats. That was...interesting for an MMO. Also count in the sheer amount of times youll have to /rui or simply relog on the game and it's easy to see more than a few problems with this "new" release. One other thing I wasn't particularly impressed with was the voice acting. Some of the higher 'brass' sounds like little more than some doughboy CS developer-type guy. Some of the voice acting simply sounds LAZY, where you expect the person you're reporting to to at least SOUND like he/she commands some sort of air of authority. Additionally, more than a few of the accents sound forced. OK so fair enough, this game didn't cost me anything to download but spacetime. Despite the issues, this game has a LOT of redeeming qualities and so now we'll move on to why I recommend it.
While the level cap is low for an MMO (currently only 40; I've gotten a little more than halfway there at this point in time), Red 5 offers within Firefall a world lush with touristic scenery (the first town, Copacabana, is similar to an island vacation destination), Borderlands-esque graphics (cell-shading) and gameplay, and random bad guys including oversized bugs (giving it a Starship Troopers kind of feel at times), various rebel factions, and a cult of sorts that goes by the name of the Chosen. In this world, the "Melding" has descended after a massive semi-apocalyptic event called the "Firefall", spawning the Chosen and as an ARES mercenary it's your inevitable destiny to push this purple tyranny back into the shadowy depths from which it came. As someone who just hit their 20's in game, I don't know if there's ever an overall resolution towards this problem but I'm sure having a good time getting to that end point.
As you level up, there are several towns for almost every level range so location diversity is never really a problem. Each of these towns has it's own job board which supplies you with a set of level appropriate gopher/defense missions to help you level. There's also a main string of campaign quests that you steadily unlock as you level up that add to the story of the war against the Melding. In some of these missions you actually push the melding back by activating a SIN Uplink in the area (so THAT's what those are for!).
In your time spent playing Firefall, there are several other things to do if you don't like the mainstream find/grind missions. Several random missions occur in your local area, ranging from melding tornados (around level 15-20 it seems are the lowest ones you can find) that you have to spend some time shooting down to random LGVs and Thumpers crashing down in your area which you can save for a decent chunk of xp and resources. Sometimes Chosen dropships like to pay visits to SIN Uplinks in towns or at watchtowers and attack/take them over, after which it's team ARES' responsibility to liberate and take back the area.
Using Thumpers in itself is another gem of this game's overall existence. Yet another choice while exploring the world is to scout out mineral nodes that randomly spawn throughout. Find a node, call down your thumper, and prepare to defend it for the next 5 minutes while it mines resources for you and bugs are trying to destroy it. A successful thump gets you xp and resources based on the % of the minerals present in the area you're thumping. An unsuccessful thump sees your thumper destroyed, but that's OK! You can just craft another one!
Crafting is one area of the game that seems a bit overwhelming at first, but it actually ends up fitting into the game quite nicely for those higher teens and lvl 20+ areas. Almost everything you pick up is salvagable, which gets you research points, crystals, and refinable materials that can later be used in crafting.
Mobility EARLY game is KIND of an issue, but not really. For the most part you'll be walking around everywhere until level 25 when you get a reusable ground vehicle, but there are some alternatives. 1-use ground vehicles drop from quests and I believe they're also craftable if you so desire. In addition to the possibility of ground vehicles you have the entire hang gliding system which is it's own source of entertainment, not to mention a much quicker way to get places. I especially enjoy climbing the highest mountains (there are achievements for climbing these mountains as a matter of fact) and spawning a glider pad to fly off of them. Some of these mountains literally make it possible to fly clear across a region from one side to the other, just don't fly near the Arclight! :D
As far as replayability is concerned, you don't have to ever create a new character if you don't want to. All the different classes are separated by what are known as "battleframes" in game, which one can change not unlike a shirt or some other equippable article of clothing. Now, each time you equip a new frame you haven't played before it starts at level 1 but all the early missions are replayable for xp/resource credit. I should also mention that starting out as a free player you only get access to the 5 different accord frames, which are the basic frames in each of the 5 different battle classes. Here's the beauty of this particular free2play game, though: you don't ever have to spend a dime of your real money in game to get everything there is to get, it might just take a while longer. There is always the option of buying stuff for those that are impatient and want to try out some of the elite frames sooner rather than later, like me. Bought Electron and Bastion on the first night.
All-in-all, I do recommend this game. It has a lot of potential. It's very engaging; the gameplay is moderately-paced and 3-dimensional based in a wide-open world. Listening to the soundtrack is often pretty relaxing. This game also does have PvP, though I've spent next to no time exploring that particular venue cause there's so much other fun stuff to do in PvE that, quite refreshingly, doesn't seem so repetitive. Even the campaign missions you unlock changes up the scenery and the objective in each one so it's not simply a generic mission formula. It's obvious they took some time to plan the campaign missions out. Now if only they'd spend the time to make sure that some of my local town job quests didn't get stuck loading the next objective or that I'm at least ALWAYS able to invite my friends to quest with me in a squad (I will not forget that ONE experience, but to any potential players reading this, it was just the ONCE).
Try this game if you like F/TPS, cooperative gameplay, and a decent story line.