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Battlefield Heroes Preview

The Battlefield series has been around for years, with its multiplayer following continually growing. DICE have generally used the same gameplay for their series, but this time they're bringing something a little different to the party.

Whilst the core mechanics of Battlefield Heroes hasn't changed much from its predecessors, it still has a sense of newness about it. You join a game and spawn in at one of four control points, depending on which ones are owned by your team. You choose a class, each of which has access to a selection of weapons which are very different to any other classes. The objective is for you to take over the control points by eliminating enemy in the area and protecting the location of the control point until the flag has changed from your enemy's to your own. Any Battlefield veteran would feel as comfortable jumping in and playing Heroes as any other Battlefield series.

The variation of the game lies within every other aspect. As I say, the core gameplay remains the same; it's everything else that makes Heroes feel entirely new. Most noticeably is the graphical change. Battlefield has always been a ‘realistic' game, with the series aiming for convincingly real graphics and weapon and vehicle models. Not so with Heroes. DICE describe Heroes as a ‘cartoon shooter', and have put an emphasis on fun rather than seriousness. You'll want to take the plane for a sightseeing tour first, just to absorb in the gorgeous landscape. The characters themselves are caricatures, with the vehicles being exaggerated and pronounced versions of their real-life counterparts. If DICE are highlighting fun as a major part of Battlefield Heroes, then the graphics go a long way to help with that.

Battlefield Heroes

Each map begins with fifty ‘tickets' on either side. Each time someone dies, they use a ticket to respawn. Depending on how many control points is owned by your team affects how many of your enemies tickets are used per respawn. Fifty tickets isn't an awful lot, with most matches lasting about fifteen to twenty minutes. It's mostly each to their own on whether they'd prefer a longer match, but it seems to work well. There are usually a few rounds to each map, which makes up for this shortness. A counter to represent the total wins on that map and, thus, an overall winner would benefit the game, but considering the drop-in/drop-out style of play seems to negate the need for such a counter.

The largest part of the change behind Heroes is not an aesthetic one, however. It is, in fact, the system behind how the game plays. Rather than having an account which tracks your overall abilities and achievements, you have individual characters which each have a separate name and level. You initially create the character on the Battlefield Heroes website, choosing a name, a faction, his class and a few appearance options. The classes available are the Commando, Soldier and Gunner; who each represent the light, medium and heavy spectrum of fighters and cover all the stereotypical attributes you'd expect.

Currently you can only create a limited number of characters and you are not able to delete them, but I expect this will change once the full game is released. However, the point of the game is not to have a variety of characters with which to play. Instead, DICE intend for you to concentrate on a single character, working on levelling him up as much as you can, rather than shifting your time between your current choice of play style. Anyone who's played an MMO will know this familiar concept; working to make a single character great rather than keeping a selection of low level characters.

The MMO similarities don't stop there either. Obviously the game is multiplayer and multiplayer only, yet the maps currently only hold sixteen players per map. Whilst the levels seem the perfect size for the number of players, sixteen can't be classed as massive by any stretch. However, the interface of the game seems directly related to an MMO. You control your character in third person with a bar running horizontally at the bottom of the screen. Here you'll apply your available weapons and abilities to the bar, with a number on the keyboard representing a slot on the bar.

Battlefield Heroes - In-game Interface

Then there are missions, which are personal goals for you to carry out during your playtime. You can pick up to three missions at once, which vary in tasks from killing a certain number of tanks/infantry to scoring a set number of points. These can be culmative or per round, as well as some having to be completed without dying a certain amount of times. You start off with one mission, and unlock more as you complete different ones, with each mission focusing on a different style of play. Whilst I enjoyed this idea, I have a fear that it may result in players seeking to achieve their mission goals, rather than working as a team to win. This implementation of abilities and missions is a vast difference from any other in the series, and may be the thing that will deter diehard Battlefield fans, but it does add to the sense of fun that DICE are pushing.

Customisation is the keyword with Heroes. The abilities that your characters use are unlocked using ‘Hero Points', which you gain every other level. Each class has about six abilities, each with fives slots to upgrade. Add one Hero Point to an ability and it becomes unlocked to use, anymore will increase its effectiveness. This brings a whole new depth of to the series, allowing for each player to personally choose how they would like to play. For example, one Commando could focus on his stealth abilities, trying to get close to quickly finish off the enemy with his knife or pistol, whilst another could focus on the sniper abilities to become deadly from afar. Second to that, another player could be a jack of all trades and unlock all of the abilities, rather than concentrate on a single one. This level of customisation not only brings depth to the game play, but also allows a player choice of their character's progression.

Just like any good MMO, customisation doesn't stop at the abilities you use. The clothing of your character can be changed with the use of two types of funding. There are ten available slots for clothing, from head to feet, in which you can customise your characters appearance, with each faction having different options available to them. This brings me onto the main focus of Battlefield Heroes, and the brunt of its innovation. This game will be free-to-play. As such, DICE have decided on micro-transactions to fund the game, with much of the costumes and items being available for the two types of currency.

Battlefield Heroes - Menu Interface and Store

Firstly there are Valor Points (VP), which is gained through playing the game, provided for defending/attacking a control point and larger amounts given for completing missions. Then there are Battle Funds, which are bought with real life money and used to purchase the better items earlier on. Both of these are used in the in-game store for buying items, though the items currently available for VP are particularly limited. As you level up you unlock more items available for VP, but even still the options are scarce. For £4.50 you will get 700 Battle Funds to spend, which could attire your character with a modest outfit. For all the bells and whistles, such as belts, gloves and other accessories, you may need to spend a bit more. I respect DICE's decision to fund the game in this way. It's new, it's innovative and it takes a great deal of effort to do something new in the industry; but if the items you've bought with real, hard-earned money last for no longer for a month, you can see why people might be a bit vigilant about splashing out.

It is a relatively new idea, especially for the online shooter, so you have to give DICE their dues for trying, and the game itself is highly enjoyable. I expect the service will evolve and expand as they figure out what is best for them and for their user base. Saying that, for a game that, in essence, costs nothing, it's worth anyone trying it when the full version is released this year. Just expect to get addicted to a new age of Battlefield.

TimmyShire | 1st May, 2009
POBmaestro's picture
A nice insight into what lay ahead in the almighty BF series. Since this will be (for the most part) free, it sounds like it's definitely worth a try
cloud_ds's picture
Well micro-transactions is a bit of a con.

You pay for something that last at max up to a month, then the item disappears and you need to buy it again.
So yes, if you buy a set of "clothes/items" and whatever with your money, play for 2 weeks and go on holiday for 2 weeks, yup that's it... you cannot use them any more and have to pay again and frankly, no.
I'll pay to play an mmo every month, there's so much more content in those games and I don't lose things I pay for and have to buy it again.

So in the long run you may spend more than actually buying a boxed game like Battlefield 2.

That's my only gripe about it, the game is okay and all but if I buy something I expect to keep it forever or be able to come back a few weeks later and play where I left off.
Pick up and play people, pick up and play.
Maggy's picture
only last 4 weeks??
rofl

in my eyes to make it a success 3 things need to happen. 1, dump this "match making" crap. i hate it on the xbox and i hate it here. i have an IQ of more than 5 im sure i can find a game that suits me, not what you are telling me. 2, 3rd person... what can i say? are you on acid? 3, rofl 4 weeks on macro transactions..

heres hoping 1943 is better....

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