Battlefield Heroes, the free to play casual browser-based team shooter just went into beta so I jumped in to have a look around and drive some tanks into people.
You pick a side in the ambiguous war between pseudo-allies and pseudo-axis troops and create your character, preferably with the silliest facial hair you can find, and press go. Thoughts below.
There’s a sketchy class system in place consisting of Sturdy all-rounder Soldiers, big blammo gunners and sneaky commandos. It’s a stripped down version of TF2’s labrynthine class system which works fine, but doesn’t encourage the same complex team gameplay. Soldiers and gunners cluster together, Commandos do their own thing behind enemy lines and there’s no real need for teams to communicate and organise themselves.
Character movement feels a bit slippery, the weapons feel like pea shooters and the gunplay lacks any sense of impact. You’ll drag your crosshair across your foes and see small xp numbers float serenely out of them as they unflinchingly run for cover. Vehicles are the probably the highlight, especially when you fall victim to plane in which the pilot is flanked by two soldiers casually seated on the wingtips.
Despite this, as things stand, if you’re a regular gamer then this just isn’t going to satisfy. It’s too shallow for Enemy Territory and TF2 players, too slow and imprecise for Quake and Unreal addicts.
The thing is though, comparing Heroes to TF2 and Quake is like comparing a wordsearch with a game of scrabble. They’ve both got words in, sure, but one is five minutes of mindless entertainment and the other will actually work your grey matter. Heroes isn’t about serious competition, it’s about silly trousers.
You see, whenever you hit someone, kill someone, cap a point and win a game you’ll gain experience. Experience earns you medals which can be spent in the store to buy your character new items of clothing, including many iterations of the aforementioned trousers. I was searching for the draw in this game, the thing that would pull me back in time and time again, and found it not in the shooting and the war, but in the wardrobe. The reason that this is appealing at all is because visually the team have nailed a sense of fun and mindless nonsense which is amusing and easy on the eye. The TF2 influences aren’t hidden here and visually it’s sharp, and ran like silk during my time with it.
Dressing up your character is fun, but not especially addictive, and that’s the main problem with Heroes at the moment. In a game that requires a huge userbase to be commercially viable, the worry is that it’s not compelling enough as an overall experience to keep people playing. Only time will tell.