|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA DICE||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Q4 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: Multiplayer||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Electronic Arts and DICE (Digital Illusions Creative Entertainment) will be bringing their next installment of the Battlefield series once again to PC, but this time the experience will be free. The game is also a bit of a departure from previous games within the franchise, requiring only moderate PC power and exhibiting a more tongue-in-cheek, cartoony vibe and presentation.
The official game name is Battlefield Heroes, and it looks to be tentatively slated for Q4 of this year. The developers are now holding closed beta testing, and though they've had to ramp up the production process a bit from what was initially intended, the game seems to be coming along just fine.
For the uninitiated, the Battlefield series generally puts players in the first-person perspective, and the gameplay fits snugly alongside other wartime favorites such as Medal of Honor and Call of Duty. Battlefield has taken players through World War II, Vietnam, and even into the future. This time around, however, players will enter a fictional war theater from a third-person view.
The gameplay in Battlefield Heroes adheres to many tried-and-true mechanics the series is known for, though the Team Fortress-inspired, playful look is sure to pull in a wider range of gamers. This is strictly an online affair, however, and though the PC entry level is quite low, DICE hopes to ensure a mostly lag-free experience by keeping the connection requirement at the broadband level.
There will be two factions to choose from - the National Army, who seem modeled after the Nazis, and the Royal Army, modeled after the British military - with three classes for each. The soldier class is kind of your all-around fighter who's both effective in the fray, as well as offering support with a healing ability. The gunner is more of a tank character who can dish out and withstand more damage than the other two classes. And lastly we have the commando, who is the covert character - master of sniping and assassinations.
Each class has its own unique abilities, and you'll be able to customize your character before skirmishes. Not all items and abilities will be free, however, and it's here where EA likely stands to turn a profit on the game. The good news is DICE has stated they will not be selling any items or abilities to players that offer a gameplay advantage over what will be readily available for free. On the other hand, players can look forward to paying for variety, though the playing field will remain balanced regardless of how much you choose to spend.
According to DICE, new content will be continuously added to Battlefield Heroes - new maps, abilities, accessories for characters - and players will be kept up to date on changes as they appear. We're not sure if EA will be implementing various forms of advertising to make their ends meet, but Battlefield Heroes seems like a great test bed for delivering high-end content that can successfully bypass some of the pirating that has become rampant in PC gaming. If the publisher can turn a profit by offering great gameplay for free (with optional add-ons), then everyone stands to win.
Since the game is now in beta, what we're seeing is likely a good representation of the final product - minus tweaks based on user input - and from what we've seen, Battlefield Heroes looks great. Frantic skirmishes with a great sense of humor and an art style that looks fantastic whilst making few technical demands on the average PC. The character models look a bit low-poly, but there is plenty of detail in key areas. Environments are lush, though there seems to be plenty of destruction going on as well. We'll be very curious to see how it all runs when the servers get loaded up, but so far, we're very excited. The sound effects, music, and voice work, too, sound great, and everything in Battlefield Heroes has a wonderfully chaotic motion to it.
Free games aren't a new concept. Sites such as NewGrounds and Kongregate are quickly finding a mass audience, and demos have been an institution in gaming since the medium's inception. However, there's a level of craft, quality, and depth that appears to be going into Battlefield Heroes that surpasses pretty much anything currently available on the "for free" market. Additionally, getting into a game will be incredibly easy, as all players will be required to do is press the Play Now button on the game's official website (once the game launches). Obviously, EA and DICE will have to pay the bills somehow, but the additional priced content is meant to add depth and personality to a player's experience, rather than give them an edge over free subscribers. Will the model work? We sure hope, because Battlefield Heroes is looking really good.
CCC Freelance Writer