Think 'free games' and you think Java action, tower defence clickfests or browser-based timewasters. With Battlefield Heroes, though, what you get is a gorgeous slice of warzone blastery from the creator of superb multiplayer mashes Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield 2. For absolutely nothing. Which is why, it seems, Battlefield Heroes will only launch on PC.
"On PC we control the whole experience" explains DICE executive producer Ben Cousins. "If we went through Live or PSN we wouldn't be able to launch it from our own website, or have our own forums, and the player profile page wouldn't be there. Microsoft and Sony would be taking a cut of our fees. Consoles are too restrictive for the free-to-play model". Though Cousins does hint that things may change in the future.
Battlefield Heroes is surprisingly weighty for a free-to-play, and therefore pretty disposable, shooter. The suitably brash website (with an excellently judged 'PLAY NOW!' big red button to launch the game) controls registration and downloads, etc. as well as giving a home to your characters. All of which can be customised to a fantastic degree.
The alignment you choose - Axis or Allies, effectively - dictates the wardrobe on offer, but then it's up to you to choose boots, shirts, trou, hats, weapons, even gestures like waving at friends or goading your enemies. Heroes also puts a new spin on achievements - as you play the website gathers all your stats together on a single page, alongside a number of 'missions' for you to take on in each match.