Battlefield: Heroes Beta Impressions [PC]

Kevin Pabst April 30, 2009 - 2:27 am

Reviewed on the PC

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For those of you not in the know, browser gaming is the new fad. Between the open beta of Quake Live (Quake 3 Deathmatch in your browser) and the release of Battlefield Heroes, this could be the new face of casual PC gaming. You do run the game from a browser by navigating to the website, but the entirety of the game is hosted on your hard drive at a hefty four gigabytes. The game isn’t so much the future of cloud computing/browser games, rather it could be seen as a new anti-piracy scheme. You’re required to log into the website multiple times, and again once your game client starts up. The system that QuakeLive has developed, the downloading of maps on the fly to keep the local space allocation at a minimum is much more desirable for on-the-go gaming.

Ahem…enough background information. The game itself is a simplified version of the previous iterations of the Battlefield series (Battlefield 2, 2142, Bad Company) supported by micro-transaction, with your team against the enemy team and various objective points scattered throughout the map you’ve got to capture. Stand next to the point, capture it if no enemy is in the vicinity, and from then on you and your allies spawn from there. The more points you hold, the less each death of a teammate deducts from your score. The team that reaches zero points first loses, simple enough.

At character creation, you’re given the choice between the Royal Army or the National Army, blue and red respectively. Choose both your side and class carefully, since as of now you’re not able to delete any characters and you can only have four separate characters without shelling out any real cash. It doesn’t really matter what side you choose though, since you’ve got access to the same three classes, vehicles, weapons and abilities regardless.

The three classes are:

  • The soldier who’s pretty well rounded in terms of his health, relative to the other two classes. Starting weapons are a sub machine gun and a shotgun, with a quick heal for him and his nearby teammates for his first ability. Each class is able to learn different abilities, but more on that later.
  • The gunner, who’s probably closest to Team Fortress 2′s heavy super-glued to the demo-man, has the slowest movement speed but the most health. He starts off with a massive machine gun, a shotgun, and an ability that reduces the damage he takes for a short period of time. He can later purchase an explosive powder keg to throw, and his own unique set of abilities as well.
  • The commando, who’s a mix of Team Fortress 2′s sniper and spy; starting with a knife and a sub machine gun and invisibility from all enemies except those within a certain range. He later has the option to purchase simple pistols, and sniper rifles which give bonus points for headshots. Similar to TF2′s spy, he’s able to sneak up behind enemies while invisible and backstab them for massive damage.

battlefield heroes screenshot splash

As you play the game, you earn different points including Valor Points, Hero Points, and Battle Funds.

  • Valor Points are issued when you win a match or complete different “Missions.” These are essentially items that you equip to your character that are gained in a similar manner to a quest, but have a broad scope, requiring you to kill enemies normally, with a vehicle, and so on. VP are used to purchase different items for your character ranging from a new weapon to “widgets;” finite use items that help you in battle. Items like band aids or wrenches, that both repair your health or the health of the vehicle you’re in, fall into this category. Think of them as something like potions from an RPG.
  • You use Hero Points to upgrade, or purchase new abilities for your characters. Abilities are similar to perks in Call of Duty 4 or 5, except they’re all active abilities instead of passive. These are abilities like throwing a handful of grenades(aptly named “Grenade Spam”), temporarily increased accuracy, or even flaming bullets.
  • Lastly we have the actual cash, the micro-transaction Battle Funds. Using BF you can purchase a wide variety of things, like new outfits for your character to make him look like he’s as out of place as he can be in the world, or new emotes to make him wave around and make obnoxious noises. You’ve even got the option to buy widgets(items) that increase the experience points you get by a fixed percentage for a day to level yourself up faster then the competition. This may all sound confusing with different points and unknown objectives, because it is.

A few things come off to me as being rather strange though. First of all, there isn’t an ability to browse between different servers and choose which map you’re going to play, what location the server is, or any other options when finding a game. This could be with the fact that it’s in beta, and all servers are hosted internally, or it could be catering to the casual target audience’s lack of caring for where they play and what they play. This I have a problem with, most especially since it’s one of the most basic features that has been present in essentially every online PC game, with the occasional quick match option, but with always a browser option. Secondly, there isn’t a friends list in any form; you’ve got to write down the names of  any friend’s characters manually, and paste them into the “Join Character” box. Again, this may just be a symptom of the game being a beta, but the two issues combined makes it awfully hard to find a server that has more than a single spot open, and I’d imagine that it’s even more difficult with more then a few people. In multiple instances, a friend and I were trying to have one of us join a game, and the other person join right after with the “join player” option. For a good twenty minutes we kept getting thrown into games that had one spot, so the other had to sit it out, or we had to go in search of a new server.

While complaining, the game times run rather short. I have no issue with this, since the game is browser-based, the idea is to get in a few minutes here and there between any work you were supposed to be doing. But despite all of the efforts to cater to the newcomer and to be a light-weight program that you’d be able to install on your office computer, you’re required to install third party software that isn’t a simple browser add-on, weighing in at a mighty 4 gigabytes; enough that any system administrator would notice, delete, and block the program from further use.

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I wonder who the target audience for the game will be after launch. There are many inclusions to help people new to the series along in the form of skill matching, XP boosts. But to counter those, the items that you purchase vanish after a set amount of days, discouraging any on again-off again players. Even though the weapon purchases come in seven day or one month lengths, what happens if Greg the office worker saves up for three months between work, playing for ten minutes at a time, buys his gun, and it’s gone in seven days? He’s at least disappointed, and at most discouraged from even bothering to play anymore.

Either way, the game is shaping up to be fun, if needing a little work in a few areas. Look forward to it when it’s supposed to release this Spring!

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