And there’s something I thought I’d never write out in a preview. Firefall is Red 5 Studios’ attempt to bring the gaming fanbase a triple-A first person open world shooter for free. When it releases, you’ll be able to register for the game, download the client and play it for absolutely nothing. The idea is ambitious, and the game itself is looking enormous.

During our preview of the title at PAX East, Red 5 VP of Production Development/Executive Producer James Macauley showed the brand new story trailer (not the one embedded at the head of this post) and then took us into the open and perpetual world of the game.

We did not see any of the PvP content (it’s there, promise). Instead, Macauley showed us what it’s like to take part in the living world of Firefall.

Humans are fighting for survival against an alien force. That’s happening constantly. The AI of the game is consistently working towards recapturing human bases or thwarting human progress as Earth’s original inhabitants fight to claim their world back.

Macauley took his character into one of the first settlements in the game. Copacabana is a place where beginners will learn the ins and outs of the Firefall experience; that includes crafting, mission structure and the SIN system. Each of this core components will play a massive part in the gameplay of Firefall.

Everything is perpetual and works in conjunction with the players participating. The body of users will fight to push the fog of war and reveal more areas of the game’s map. Places will be inaccessible until the player base can mount the supplies and tech necessary to beat the Melding, or fog of war, back.

World events work in the same way. If players fail to keep aliens away from settlements like Copacabana, aliens will actually take those locales over and start building up their forces. It will require whole groups of human players to team up and retake cities and settlements, which, of course, translates to massive battles and world events.

The brand of combat within this title is what’s most exciting for me personally. I was a huge, huge fan of Tribes and Tribes 2. To me, there’s nothing quite like jetpack-based combat next to a host of deadly and explosive weaponry. There’s a constant sense of speed and gravity at work in the combat of Tribes, and that leads the an exhilarating experience that’s hard to tire.

That combat appears to be a huge part of Firefall. It’s a massive game that actually requires skill and strategy in real-time to fight effectively. It looks addicting, and it looks huge.

Finally, Macauley took time to show off the customization system of the game. Players will have modules in each of their loadout options. Those modules can be fitted with equipment that alters the stats per each player’s style. The thing that I really liked here? Macauley explained that they’ve had high-level tournaments in the studios’ office. Given resources and high level, Red 5 tried to make the best character builds they could…

The thing about that was that they couldn’t actually agree upon the single best build. That means the game plays more towards skill and style than simple stat obsession. You’re going to be able to play this how you want to, and your skill and preference as a player will determine the gear and modules you use.

Finally, Macauley explained that their free to play system is not pay-to-win. Money will buy aesthetic changes and convenience unlocks. You will not be buying the best weapons and modules with your hard earned scratch. Hear that? Relief.

Firefall is currently in a beta phase. You can head to their official site to check out more of the game and request access into the test group in order to experience it for yourself.