While the online FPS game market is currently stronger than ever, there is usually little room in most games for the casual player. Those that are only able to get a few rounds in on the weekends can rarely ever compete with the hardcore players that spend hours honing their skills. Now EA and DICE are setting out to create the first true casual online shooter known as Battlefield: Heroes, a completely new style of game within the franchise that aims to appeal to the not so hardcore crowd.
Part of the casual aspect of Heroes is getting into the game itself, which you will be able to acquire free of charge from the game’s website. EA has explained that they will be able to offer the game for free by selling advertising on Heroes’ website, and also through micro payments, which have not yet been fully revealed. If the idea of using advertising makes some of you worry about seeing Pepsi adds while you’re playing, fear not as DICE made it clear during our demonstration that the only ads will be on the website. After hitting the big “Play Now” button on the site’s homepage, users will be taken to a simple registration form that can be filled out just as quickly as any ordinary forum registration procedure.
After that you will be given the option to play as either the National or Royal Army. This will be a permanent choice as DICE wants to create a persistent territorial conflict meta game, that will keep track of territories held by the opposing factions. Upon starting up the game it’s clear that it has a very WWII kind of look, however the armies and conflict are fictional, and we were told that the war has erupted over a debacle concerning the next Olympic games. This bizarre reason for war is part of the game’s humorous presentation as it possesses graphics not unlike Team Fortress 2 that are friendly and inviting to casual players, but at the same time do look impressive for a free online game. We were also told that you won’t need a beast of a PC to run Heroes either, as the game only requires a 1Ghz CPU, 512 MB Ram, and a 64 MB video card.
Next during the presentation we were shown the player dropped into an empty map known as “Olive Grove” a simple European farming village, with fields on the outer areas of the map. The developers showed off how the game will control from the third person, in order to help appeal to the casual audience that sometimes has trouble with the first person point of view. DICE was adamant about an emphasis on character construction, which we think could possibly be where micro payments may come in the form of buying new cosmetic additions to your character. They also made clear their devotion to the matchmaking system, which will ensure that you play people of your own skill level and never have to worry about getting destroyed by advanced players.
We were then introduced to the three basic classes of the game, the Commando, Gunner, and Soldier, all with their own unique special abilities and weapons. The commando is the stealth class, with the ability to cloak and knife enemies in the back. The Gunner, who can carry heavy weapons such as rocket launchers, and can shovel up grenades to toss them back to the enemy. And finally the Soldier, a well rounded class that carries a sub machine gun and has the ability to get a health boost.
After giving us a basic introduction to the game the developers started up a recording of an actual match with multiple players engaging one another on foot and in vehicles. There is only one mode available in the game, which is basically a trimmed down version of the conquest mode found in most other games in the Battlefield franchise. You will be tasked with taking over flags, but the game can also be won by simply defeating the enemy forces and reducing their tickets to zero (each team starts out with 100). So while flags can be captured, there isn’t necessarily any pressure to complete these objectives, allowing for more relaxed play.
During this match we got to see some vehicles in action, such as the M4 Sherman tank, and like the on foot gameplay DICE is intent on making the vehicles easy to control. DICE also pointed out that measures have been taken to ensure that tanks won’t be able to dominate players on foot. Another vehicle shown to us was the Spitfire plane, and judging from the demo these will also be a breeze to control as well. The best part about the planes is the ability to pick up a fellow soldier or two and have them ride shotgun on the wings. The Spitfire also looked effortless to land, as the pilot hopped onto the wing and simply let the aircraft drift to the ground, remember the focus is on accessible fun.
So far Heroes looks to be a quality experience for a game that you get to play for free, and has one multiplayer gaming’s best developers behind the wheel. Although the play mechanics are quite simple, there are some hard core elements such as a levelling system, which will certainly appeal to players that want to have some kind of progression in place. The only downside we can think of is that because the game is so simplistic, with only three classes and one mode, how long will it stay entertaining for? Heroes does look to be full of quirky fun, but as the designers said it is meant for people who only play once in a while, and it could only be worth playing just that often. Never the less this is probably one of the best looking, and most advanced casual games that we have ever seen available for free, and we can’t wait to try it out.
Battlefield Heroes is scheduled to be available for the PC this summer.