Warframe may have been a PC-centric game when it launched, but it became a popular free-to-play hit on console at the PS4’s launch. It has further expanded its capabilities with a next-gen version that launched when the latest generation of consoles did as well. Which features of the PlayStation 5 did Digital Extremes opt to use, and to what effect? Our Warframe PS5 review dives in
On the PS4, Warframe certainly ran well, but the console showed its age throughout the years. As Digital Extremes piled on more campaigns, more content, and more complexity to their game, Warframe quickly grew in size, and had load times to match. Vast, open landscapes such as the Plains of Eidolon, Orb Vallis, or Cambion Drift take 45 seconds or more to load on the PS4. Here, on the PS5, that is cut down to ten seconds or less. Smaller, traditional levels now load in just a few seconds. Once again, the PS5’s NVMe shines, and Warframe feels better for it.
The PS5 boasts a lot more graphical power than the last generation of consoles, and Warframe on the PS5 is basically equivalent to running the game on high, in 4K, and with a targeted frame rate of 60 that is usually hit. There’s a lot of organic flesh-meets-metal and sci-fi technology that renders crisply A freshly-released rendering engine update from Digital Extremes has enabled more realistic lighting, though it is not using real-time ray tracing. Whatever it is using, the lighting is fantastic and believable. Missions like to throw dozens of enemies onscreen at a time, and the PS5 handles this without breaking a sweat. The only areas that show any slowdown seem to be the open-world maps mentioned previously, though any such slowness is short-lived.
The new DualSense controller has some impressive adaptive triggers, though like many controller features of the past, it does risk becoming gimmicky if only first-party Sony studios opt to utilize the functionality. Thankfully, Digital Extremes have taken great advantage of the controller. With so many varied weapons available, each of them affects the controller’s triggers as you’d expect. Pistols are easy to pull the trigger on, while fully automatic weapons have a kickback felt both in the adaptive trigger and via haptic feedback vibrations. There are more plans in the works, such as utilizing the voice coil actuators in the DualSense to simulate how it feels to walk (or glide, or slide, or flip…) through the varied environments found throughout Warframe, so that will be an interesting space to watch. As it stands now, though, the intense vibrations and convincing trigger adaptations are impressive and add to how this action looter shooter simply feels to play.
Since the last time we properly reviewed Warframe, a lot has happened to this freemium title. There have been no fewer than nine expansions, including cinematic solo adventures for players to go on. The universe the Tenno find themselves in is a dark, foreboding place, and the lore has been expanded to reflect this fact. Three open-world areas with side quests, multiple crafting systems, and even something called a Railjack which turns the game into a space flight combat simulator, are but some of the new elements introduced into Warframe since it launched a whole console generation ago.
Whereas before Warframe consisted of randomly-generated levels stitched together, now there are a plethora of mission types and locations to choose from. The game really has come into its own when considering its content, and players can easily sink hundreds of hours into it without things getting too repetitive. Sure, some of the mission types are similar, and there isn’t a ton of variety in enemies, but things are varied enough that most missions don’t feel like simple rehashes of earlier content.
Free-to-play games have to strike a balance between allowing players to obtain everything in the game without plopping down cold, hard cash, and letting players simply pay to win. Warframe appears to manage to keep this balance intact. Every single item on offer for Platinum, the game’s premium currency, can be grinded out and created by the player without spending any money. Even color palettes, a customization item which other games have no qualms about locking behind a paywall, can be unlocked by playing during certain events, or visiting a certain vendor.
The titular Warframes which players control have four or more abilities each, and those abilities must be unlocked by completing missions and leveling up. Thus, simply purchasing a Warframe for platinum is not enough – players must still master the Warframes, weapons, companions, and vehicles. All this equipment can have their stats modified by applying various mods which can be dropped by fallen enemies, found in lockers or containers randomly within a level, received as a mission reward, or even purchased in some bundles.
As items are ranked up, the maximum number of mods which can be equipped increases via an energy pool. Mods are represented as cards with an energy cost, which slot into one of at least eight slots in each piece of equipment. Mods can also be leveled up separately from equipment with an in-game resource called Endo. While some mods keep things simple such as boosting a weapon’s damage, others cause effects on enemies, such as electricity, toxic effects, or dealing extra damage against certain types of enemies. These effects can be mixed together, which means you can wield a katana which simultaneously shocks, poisons, freezes, and punctures an enemy for an extra kind of hurt.
Once an item has reached the hard-coded maximum rank of 30, some options open up such as adding a polarity to a mod slot. Each mod has a polarity indicated by a symbol in its upper-right, and slotting a mod into a matching slot on equipment allows it to be equipped for half of the energy cost. Adding this polarity to a mod slot results in the equipment having its level reset to zero, which means it now deals base damage and has a lot less energy available for mods, but ranking the item back up will result in better stats owing to the increased energy savings generated by the polarized mod slot.
This system is one of the oldest parts of Warframe, and it is well thought-out and robust, while also allowing for players who’d rather not bother with tinkering to click an auto-apply button to get on with the rest of the game. That being said, it is easy to spend several hours messing with loadouts, applying polarization, and heading back out to level up a weapon for yet another round of mastery. Watching those damage numbers reach dozens or perhaps even hundreds of thousands of points is rewarding.
One issue that still rears its head at players from time to time is crossplay. While Warframe may be available on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and even the Switch, unfortunately the only form of cross-platform play available is cross-generation within the same platform family, i.e. PS4 and PS5 gamers can play together, as can XBO/XBSX players, but none can intermix across platforms. Progress can also only be transferred cross-generation, which is a shame for PC players who may have wanted to try the game out on a next-generation console without starting over again or continuing from a very old, barely-used console account. Crossplay and cross-save are two things that seem to be more prevalent as the video game industry matures, and Digital Extremes has not completely ruled things out in this regard, but for now the restrictions in place are unfortunate.
Warframe has now successfully launched on two PlayStation consoles in a row, and both times as a launch title. Once again, this is the place to play if you don’t have a PC that can play the game at high settings. The PS5 is also the only place to play where haptic feedback plays into how the game feels. This helps to cement the DualSense controller as less of a gimmick and more of an accessory that enhances gameplay. Even without those enhancements, though, Warframe on the PS5 is a showcase-worthy action game that every console owner has truly free access to. Ninjas play free, after all!
Warframe DLC code provided by the publisher. Version 1.002 reviewed on a PS5. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.