Combat Arms Review
Micro transaction based games are slowly becoming more prominent in the Western market, after being a huge success in far eastern locations, such as China and Korea. A lot of these games are based around free base gameplay, with the option to purchase cosmetic or functional upgrades through an in-game marketplace. This is essentially the basis for Xbox Live and the Playstation Store, which offer numerous upgrades for many game titles. Electronic Arts may have attempted to get into the market when it was leaked that some weapon unlocks for Battlefield: Bad Company may have been for sale over Live, instead of garnering the necessary achievements. Although it was later announced that the weapons would be free for all users, there was a huge outpouring of negative publicity. EAís upcoming Battlefield Heroes will still feature micro transactions to some degree, although as of now, those will remain purely cosmetic.
One company who has as history of free, micro transaction based multiplayer games is Nexon, developers of Maple Story and Combat Arms, a multiplayer only shooter. Combat Arms allows players to create a character through their servers and connect with other players around the world to engage in real world combat action. Combat Arms boasts some interesting features, from full clan support, to a Ďblack marketí where players can go to purchase some time with new weapons that will give you an edge in combat.
Once you log into the game servers, you gain access to the configuration screen where you can not only rent weapons, but also attachments to any weapons you currently have equipped such as ACOG scopes or silencers. Upgrades can be purchased either by using the in-game currency, or game points which is earned by playing online with bonuses for headshots, nut shots, (not a typo), or leveling up. Each time you play through a complete match, you earn experience points based upon your performance and you level up to a new rank once youíve earned enough XP. An important thing to note is that to earn GP, you have to play through an entire match. While you can join a game in progress, Combat Arms does not reward you for dropping early.
The pricing of weapons in Combat Arms varies depending on how long you want to use them for. On average, purchasing a weapon for 90 days will run you roughly $12 or $4 a month. Itís strange that when you purchase a weapon or attachment, you only get it for a short amount of time instead of indefinitely. But since the game is based on micropayments, I assume itís how Nexon pays the bills for bandwidth and server management. Given the MMO aspects of the game however, itís still cheaper per month than the average $15 a month most MMOís run you. However, we would like it if Nexon would throw people a bone at least every few levels; perhaps a free attachment or weapon every couple of ranks. Thankfully, the game doesnít suffer as a result of people choosing not to spend money to play. The default rifle, an M16A3, can be quite deadly in the right hands and players can pick-up weapons dropped by fallen players.
Combat Arms has quite an impressive suite of community features as well, including full clan support. Once you achieve the rank Staff Sergeant, you can create a clan of your choosing. Clans can easily keep in contact, arrange matches or share NX points, the in-game currency which functions similar to Microsoft or Wii points. NX points can be redeemed by buying pre-paid NX cards or buying a set amount of points online in blocks of 5,000, 10,000, or 30,000. NX points are roughly $1 for 1000 points.