Battlefield Heroes: The First Look

By Jim Rossignol on February 29th, 2008 at 11:27 am.

Proper screenshots beyond the jump.
Could this be the future of PC gaming? Battlefield Heroes has the potential to be one of the most important games the PC has ever seen. Free to play, funded by advertising, super-accessible, playable on a low-spec PC, and still attempting to capture some of what makes a classic PC title so entertaining to play: it’s one of the smartest things EA/DICE have ever done. And it’s funny, too.

Past the jump: my impressions from the GDC demo, the trailer, and the some screenshots.

The first thing that becomes obvious is that all the people griping that EA in some way “ripping off” Team Fortress 2 have nothing to worry about. Seriously: why should you care if another game taps into the kind of charm that makes Team Fortress 2 so good? Did you moan that Battlefield 1942 was ripping off Medal Of Honor? No, well maybe you did, and if that’s the case then you are destined to go to the special hell. Anyway, Battlefield Heroes makes the cartoon look its own, and it also delivers a game that is firmly, comprehensible Battlefield, with all the point-capturing and vehicle craziness that makes those games so entertaining. It’s a remix of the classic conquest game modes, albeit it stripped down and made easier to digest. Simplified to loveliness – it’s an action game that has learned from World Of Warcraft.

What? Yes: it’s in third-person. That might seem like an odd decision, but DICE argue that people are much better at navigating their surroundings when they have a World Of Warcraft behind-the-head view, than they are in first person. It might seem counter-intuitive to grumbly old gaming veterans like us, but you can see exactly why they’ve decided on this: Battlefield Heroes is intended to be accessible to everyone, and whatever makes things easier for the less skilled gamer, well, that’s what DICE have to do.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. What the Battlefield Heroes demonstration showed us was that DICE have created a game that is downloaded, configured and launched via a website, and that will not cost us a penny, but that has all the attributes of a fully-fledged shooter. (All this is expected to be paid for via the advertising you’ll see on the loading screen. Producer Ben Cousins joked that Battlefield loading times had always been awful, but that Heroes would be “optimised” so that we’d not spend too long looking at desperate adverts for Crysis…) You’ll have a persistent character, and that’s designed using the website interface. It’s truly impressive stuff.

What Heroes shouldn’t have, however, is the staggeringly impenetrable interface and unwieldy community vibe that characterises most FPS games. Battlefield Heroes will be tracking how well you do in your games and will, should you just hop into the game and play, pop you into a game with people who are roughly the same skill level as you. The game too is right at your fingertips – equipment is all tied to a number, the maps are as clear as a summer’s day, and the whole WASD-structure control is set out exactly as you’d expect. I couldn’t help thinking – between laughing at the slapstick lunacy of it – that this is exactly the kind of game that those time-starved older gamers have been looking for. I’ve lost count of the number of times my friends have lamented how hard it is to get a decent quick game of Counter-Strike, or Battlefield, or Quake III… this model could fix that instantly. It could be the ultimate five minute blast.

DICE weren’t clear on exactly how we’ll get to play with friends and online chums, but I’m sure that will come clear with time.

Anyway, the GDC demo showed off a single map in which two teams battled with toyish aeroplanes (with very shooty cannons) and funny little tonka tanks (that had great big howitzers attached). It was World War Two (except it’s The Royal Army vs The National Army) in Pixarland.

Battlefield Heroes retains the class-based systems of the original games, only this time there are three classes which are basically light, medium and heavy. The light have stealth systems and can turn invisible at range, the mediums are a standard machinegun-toting soldier type, and the heavy are strong-but-slow beasts of firepower. The range of different classes might have been diluted, but I really can’t see this as a bad thing. If anything, BF2 and ETQW went too far in making their classes varied and versatile.

Besides, there’s also a range of equipment available for each Heroes character. This might be a group-heal effect that allows you to patch up nearby buddies while patching up yourself, incendiary rounds for your gun, grenades, even a wall-hack system that allows you to temporarily see where enemy players are lurking. We didn’t get to see all such abilities in the demo, so it’s looking like the full spectrum could give us a game that is tactically pretty deep, despite the glossy, simplified presentation.

In summary: this is exactly the kind of game that has been brewing for the past couple of years. It plonks its feet firmly in the web-based, free-to-play, casual-but-complex trends that have been emerging from PC gaming. It’s going to run on a low spec PC (1ghz, 512mb RAM, integrated graphics) so you’re going to be able to enjoy the action on your crappy old laptop, or even your lumpen Dell desktop in the office. It’s merging the brilliance of classic PC game design (ie Battlefield’s tactical vehicular combat) with the kind of ease of use and friendliness that Nintendo thing they have a monopoly on.

There’s even a meta-game being built into the website, so that the battle can rage across their fictional Europe and players can jump in to turn the tide of a particular front.

And Heroes wasn’t even the most interesting thing that DICE showed at GDC. More on that in a bit.

But first:

You’re our heroes, Gametrailers.

Battlefield Heroes is set to arrive this summer.

Click for full image:



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67 Comments »

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  1. Max says:

    Maybe this could replace Open Arena as our in-lecture game of choice? :D

  2. Lu-Tze says:

    *sports massive want*

    *places money on the most impressive thing being Mirror’s Edge*

  3. Butler` says:

    Looking forward to seeing it in action.

  4. AbyssUK says:

    Its Codename Eagle 2 and I can’t wait!!

  5. dr_demento says:

    “Not even the most interesting thing DICE showed”? Oh, you teases. That’s the second non-mention of DICE’s NDA-protected announcement.

  6. roBurky says:

    That actually looks ace. The tanks especially.

  7. Flint says:

    “Staggeringly impenetrable interface” in FPS games, what?

  8. Kast says:

    Oh yes please. ^_^ Also: sitting on plane wings!

    The most interesting thing from DICE = Mirror’s Edge? Maybe.

  9. Jim Rossignol says:

    “Staggeringly impenetrable interface” in FPS games, what?

    Watch a non-gamer try to figure out what’s going on in UT3 or BF2.

  10. Flint says:

    Yeah, I guess. I think I’m too blinded myself when it comes to seeing the problem, with what FPS being one of my favourite genres and therefore being so used to the interface.

  11. Linus says:

    But will it run on Linux?

  12. Frans Coehoorn says:

    Played this for like 2 seconds at the EA/DICE hq in Stockholm last Tuesday and I liked it already! Unfortunately they had to kick me out because it was a print only thing but atleast I can say I am the first Dutchie to play Heroes. :D

    And yes, Mirror’s Edge is… ah well, you’ll read it soon enough. ;)

  13. Rook says:

    Trying to find a server in UT3 is about 10x harder than it needs to be.

  14. Matu says:

    “Watch a non-gamer try to figure out what’s going on in UT3 or BF2.”

    Murderin’? It seems pretty obvious.

  15. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    Heh, nice trailer. Looks like there are slots on the plane wings for players to sit on, which is a great idea. I’m increasingly warming to this game now, after intially being unconvinced.

    That this will run on integrated graphics makes me raise an eyebrow though, but I’d imagine it’ll be scaling down a fair bit for that (well either that or I’m underestimating their oomph).

  16. James says:

    A free, high-quality team based shooter in a perpetualish world that can run on my laptop? Oh, yes please. Yes please.

  17. Ghiest says:

    I really, really wanted to dislike this but from the lil vid there it acutally looks quite good. IF they can pull it off for free it will be big … really big I think.

  18. Okami says:

    Whistles along

    (World) War (2) has never been so much fun…

    Of course the whole premise of a funny ww2 game begs one question: Dürfen die das?

  19. Mark-P says:

    I had the misfortune to be eating yoghurt whilst watching the trailer and almost spray-painted my monitor when the Pirate Bay frontpage came up.

    This could actually be good. Is it really going to be browser based ( Flash? o_O ), or a downloadable client?

  20. anonykins says:

    Not gonna lie, this game looks horrible. I don’t see what the writer’s hype about it is.

  21. MisterBritish says:

    I was ready to be an uptight twichy bitch about this but it looks brilliant, hurrah!

    Is this one of those ‘pay to customise you avatar’ dealies?

  22. oryly says:

    “and you don’t download it on Bittorrent.”
    (with a screenshot of The Pirate Bay)

    This is one of the most hilarious parts of an official trailer ever.

  23. Zeno, Internetographer says:

    Best way for a developer to prevent piracy: make the game free. Speaking of which, are they still doing that microtransaction thing?

    so you’re going to be able to enjoy the action on your crappy old laptop

    I’m a happy bumblebee.

  24. AbyssUK says:

    Hmm Spitfires with American stars on them… only very very few American spitfires were used… but still tis only a game.. at least it has spitfires…

  25. Fazer says:

    Honestly? It’s third-person shooter, so it won’t be as fun as FPS. For now, the faces look horrible. We’ll see if the gamplay and balance is allright. But most of all – Team Fortress 2 was first ;-)

  26. Niall Sheffield says:

    Aww, I know so many 15 year old boys who are going to swear profusely over this, repeatedly.

  27. Meat Circus says:

    Good ideas: All of the things this game is doing.

    It seems that, despite all that self-indulgent whining, PC Games *can* compete with free after all. Whoda thought it?

    Bad idea: Those mustaches.

  28. Seniath says:

    Well, colour me unjaded. Upon first hearing about this, I was of the ‘too close to TF2′ school of thought, but watching this trailer I’ve certainly warmed to it.

    And at the end of the day, it’s free. Who can possibly complain about free stuff?

  29. Okami says:

    I wonder why the people who complain that it’s ripping off TF2 don’t accuse every FPS ever made of ripping off Doom? Or Wolfenstein3D?

    EDIT: Of course every right thinking person knows, that Battlefield Heroes is ripping off XII, which was the first FPS to feature a comic look!

  30. Turin Turambar says:

    Very interesting, but you know, this article reads as an advert from EA. :P

    The vehicle gameplay seems fun, the shooting-while-walking looked slow and clunky. ;S

  31. Jim Rossignol says:

    I think EA deserve a round of hyperbole, frankly. The DICE presentation dwarfed pretty much everything else I’ve seen this year.

  32. Kitt Basch says:

    Yay, that was a really fun trailer.

    Then again, I’ve always thought Battlefield games look fun, but whenever I try to play them I just find them dull.

    Still excited though. Trying to make a profit off a completely free game is one of the most original ideas I’ve ever heard, and making a game focused purely on the idea of being fun is unheard of, surely?

  33. Ben Abraham says:

    Hey, it’s March 1 already everywhere east of the wonderful land of OZ, so does that mean you can tell us (and *only* us living in March already) what this super-secret-NDA-clad future game thing is??? Send me an email! :D

  34. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    Hmm Spitfires with American stars on them… only very very few American spitfires were used… but still tis only a game.. at least it has spitfires…

    They have RAF roundels on the fuselage though. It seems a bit silly to get pedantic about it though when the Allied faction seems to incorporate both British and US elements, not to mention that the designs are broad caricatures anyway.

    Edit: Gametrailers now have a HD version up for all to ogle at.

  35. Marcos Castrillon says:

    I’m probably the biggest WWII buff out there and yet this still gets a thumbs up from me

    I mean, shooting a 50 cal, while sat on the wings of a Stuka? Sign me up!

  36. Will Tomas says:

    That was the best game trailer I’ve seen since… ooo, the TF2 Soldier movie? Obvious comparison I know, but this was genuinely funny. I heartily approve.

  37. realmenhuntinpacks says:

    mmmmmmmmmmmm

    in

  38. Michael says:

    This is sooo effing sweet!!!

  39. Nick says:

    The sitting on the wings thing has sold (given it freely?) it to me. That and the piratebay part which literally made me “lol”.

    I take back my previous lack of interest.

  40. Gylfi.Fenriz. says:

    If this game brings nothing of interest gameplay-wise then it’s gonna be a terrible waste of ingenious marketing moves. Casual is good but i will not play something i already played before just because it’s free and it has cutsie cartoonish style.

  41. Daniel says:

    I must admit that when BH was first announced, I wrote it off as a TF2 knock off and didn’t really have any interest. However, that trailer really made me want to play it… :)

  42. Rich Powers says:

    Me want. Battlefield 1942 is still the most-played game on my machine precisely because I can quickly join a game and Alt-F4 out with zero system lag. In other words, it’s perfect for the 20 minutes of gameplay I enjoy between other activities. Subsequent BF’s are too complex and clunky for me tastes. Oh ya, I can also Alt-Tab out of the game without my system grinding to a halt.

    Devs should realize that multitasking is part of the PC’s allure. As such, games should be designed as one part of the whole multimedia experience, not monolithic processes that can’t easily be started or quit.

    Oh ya, the utter over-the-top ridiculousness is a bonus too.

    PS: Has it surprised anyone else that more games haven’t use a skill-based matchmaking service?

  43. Fat Zombie says:

    What a hilarious trailer.

    This is Battlefield by way of Team Fortress 2 and Advance Wars. And it looks brilliant.

    The only thing I’m not sure about is the playing from a website. I like my games playable offline. But the rest? Awesome.

  44. Razor says:

    After seeing the trailer, I’m a bit more excited for this one. So long as the ad nonsense doesn’t totally F it up. Although I’d like to see a choice of 1st and 3rd person perspective.

  45. The_B says:

    I’m firmly on the looking forward side of people with this one, and my inital scepticism has faded.

    I also am agreeing that the trailer is pretty damn good, and I think is a really good reponse to those that claim that EA ‘aren’t in touch’ with gamers anymore…

  46. Cyren says:

    Allow me to echo all the comments praising the trailer. Genuinely funny and does a good job of showing what the game is about.

    As long as they don’t succumb to the temptation to allow microtransactions that effect gameplay, this should be pretty awesome.

  47. FaceOmeter says:

    I’m all over this. Especially after the “15 year old boy” line.

  48. Jives says:

    That trailer made it seem like there are no rag doll physics. If so, i call blasphemy

  49. Gylfi.Fenriz. says:

    unreasonable fanboyism, here and everywhere :)

  50. SwiftRanger says:

    “BF2 and ETQW went too far in making their classes varied and versatile”

    Accessibility is good and all but keeping it too simple makes for a boring game, some folks might not want to hear this with all the recent “let’s expand gaming so everyone can enjoy it!”-hype but more complexity in a shooter from time to time wouldn’t be bad at all.

    Battlefield Heroes looks cool though (especially sitting on those plane wings), let’s see how it plays.