On release, Global Agenda made a bold attempt to combine third-person, Team Fortress 2-style arena gunplay with the levelling and loot of a traditional MMO. Now it's free to play, which means everyone can sample its strange but satisfying mix of genres.
It's the aftermath of the Third World War and the oppressive Commonwealth has risen to unite the world under a single regime. It's evil, naturally, so it's up to you to create an elite agent and team up with others to fight the power. You can do this by completing quests in the overworld, defeating hordes of NPCs and boss monsters in group missions, or by sparring with each other in the excellent player vs player arenas, earning experience and upgraded equipment as you fight.
Given enough time, it's possible to see the entire game without paying anything for it. There's no level cap or limit on the areas you can visit. You pay for faster progression, or for cosmetic vanity items.
In spite of huge signs telling me exactly how much experience I was losing every time I completed a mission as a Free Agent, I didn't feel the burn of the slow levelling curve until past level 15, which was more than long enough to explore Global Agenda's selection of game modes.
The pricing model offers about a dozen hours of unhindered play, and thankfully doesn't go down the path of selling guns for cash. Global Agenda is as fair and balanced as it was as a paid-for game.
As a shooter, the game still favours teamwork over pixel-perfect accuracy. A lack of convincing physics or location-based damage can make one-on-one firefights feel slippery and imprecise, but the jetpacks every character wears offer an addictive freedom of movement. With enough players, scraps are agreeably manic.
The slight sloppiness of the battles is offset by the stream of better guns and incremental upgrades earned as characters level. The interface for keeping track of your items and skills still feels clunky, but it's deeply satisfying to see your bionic warrior improve between each fight. The levelling system and skill trees aren't as deep as you'd typically expect from an MMO, but it's enough to make it worth fighting for extra XP.
For a one-off purchase of £15, you can be promoted to an Elite Agent, and instantly double the amount of money and experience you get from missions. Forever. This also unlocks access to in-game email, auction houses and Agencies (player guilds). After that you can still buy booster packs that increase money and experience gains for a set amount of time (about £10 for 30 days).
There are better free-to-play shooters out there, and better free-to-play MMOs. But Global Agenda combines the two in an accessible jumble, and ends up striking a surprisingly good balance.