Initially we really didn’t know what to make of this Disney meets Day of Defeat oddity. The third-person perspective felt wrong, the movement speed seemed tortoise-slow, the three character classes – Gunner, Soldier and Commando – woefully imbalanced. It took a day or two of play, a day or two of shaking off Team Fortress 2-based expectations and learning how to counter pesky commandos, for us to find the fun.
Until you’ve slain a man in a kilt and pointy Kaiser helmet by thwacking him with the wing of your low-flying Spitfire, it isn’t really fair to judge BFH. Until you’ve parachuted onto a lighthouse and backstabbed the trilby-wearing camper who’s just head-shot you three times in a row, laughing each time, it’s best to keep your opinions to yourself.
Play starts with registration (painless), a modest download, and some simple character creation and customization steps. Once you’ve gotten over the disappointment of a facial hair selection that doesn’t include a toothbrush ’tache, and a name vetting system that rejects anything even faintly Germanic (Prawn Goebbels? Verboten!), you’re ready to join the fray.
With luck the automated matchmaking process will drop you into a game populated by helpful team-spirited English speakers. With unluck you’ll find yourself fighting alongside a gaggle of uncomprehending Bordurians who drive straight past when you need a ride, and ignore all suggestions of cooperation. As the only mode available at present revolves around two teams – the German-like Nationals, and the Allied-ish Royals – battling for control of a map’s scattered flag points, games where everyone insists on doing their own thing can be pretty tiresome.
BFH begins to shine when combatants collaborate. When you’re down to your last sliver of health and some kind soul triggers their Battlefield Medicine ability beside you, when the man who got to the Bf-109 first waits until you’ve hopped on the wing before taking-off, or you and a fellow tanker advance together in an ad-hoc Panzer pincer, the smiles begin. Things also improve once you start playing to the strengths of the character classes, and getting into the swing of the upgrade system.
Your character is persistent, leveling-up over time with the help of kill-and capture-related XP. As you play you’re also generating Valor and Hero points that can be spent on new kit and abilities. Buying a natty stetson or a new pair of slacks won’t make you a more effective soldier, but thoughtfully upgrading abilities to suit your play style will.
Our biggest beefs with Battlefield Heroes are the shortage of maps (just four at the time of writing) and the reliance on that single play mode. Hopefully in the coming months DICE will deliver a few more venues (ideally with more of a battlefield feel – where are the craters, the ruins, the pillboxes?) and add something akin to Team Fortress 2’s Arena or Payload modes. There’s only so many times we can wingclip unwary noobs on ‘Seaside Skirmish’ before we start getting itchy feet.
Aug 11, 2009