Release date: 3rd Quarter, 2008
Published by: EA Games
Developed by: EA Digital Illusions CE
ESRB: M (for mature)
There is a god. I have been one of the chosen few to have a chance to play an early release of a game that is being heralded as the future of PC gaming. Battlefield Heroes has the potential to be one of the most important games the PC has ever seen. Free to play, funded by advertising, super-accessible, playable on a low-spec PC, and still attempting to capture some of what makes a classic PC title so entertaining to play: It’s one of the smartest things EA/DICE has ever done. And it’s funny, Battlefield Heroes introduces the player to the various game mechanics during the opening chapters; think of the first chapters as the tutorial for the rest of the game. An ingenious way of getting the player into the action without having to explain player controls in too much detail. And while legally I cannot reveal to you, the reader, any real details of the game, I’ll do my best to explain what EA/DICE is hoping to achieve.
The first thing that becomes obvious is that all the people griping that EA is in some way “ripping off” Team Fortress 2 (created by Valve) have nothing to worry about. Seriously: Why should you care if another game taps into the kind of charm that makes Team Fortress 2 so good? Did you moan that Battlefield 1942 was ripping off Medal of Honor? Well maybe you did, and if that’s the case then you are destined to go to that special hell. Anyway, Battlefield Heroes makes the cartoon look its own, and it also delivers a game that is firmly, comprehensible Battlefield, with all the point-capturing and vehicle craziness that makes those games so entertaining. It’s a remix of the classic conquest game modes, albeit stripped down and made easier to digest.
What? Yes: It’s in third-person. That might seem like an odd decision, but DICE argues that people are much better at navigating their surroundings when they have a World of Warcraft behind-the-head view, than they are in first person. It might seem counter-intuitive to grumbly old gaming veterans like us, but you can see exactly why they’ve decided on this; Battlefield Heroes is intended to be accessible to everyone, and whatever makes things easier for the less skilled gamer, well, that’s what DICE has to do.
Battlefield Heroes retains the class-based systems of the original games, only this time there are three classes – basically light, medium, and heavy. The light class has stealth capabilities, and can turn invisible at range, the mediums are a standard machine gun-toting soldier type, and the heavy are strong-but-slow beasts of firepower. The range of different classes might have been diluted, but I really can’t see this as a bad thing. Each class has their own special brand of dealing with “problems.” The way they dress to the distinctive weapons each class uses may or may not give the player the advantage over his or her foes. What is very clear about Battlefield Heroes though, is that teamwork is the central focus of the game and essential to winning against the other team of combatants.
This is exactly the kind of game that has been brewing for the past couple of years. It plonks its feet firmly in the Web-based, free-to-play, casual-but-complex trends that have been emerging from PC gaming. It’s going to run on a low spec PC (1 ghz, 512 mb RAM, integrated graphics) so you’re going to be able to enjoy the action on your old laptop, or even your crummy old Pentium III desktop in the office. It’s merging the brilliance of classic PC game design (for example, Battlefield‘s tactical vehicular combat) with the kind of ease of use and friendliness that Nintendo thinks it has a monopoly on.
I’m still out on this one!