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Battlefield Heroes - first look

Fun and free. Everything you need to know about Battlefield Heroes can be summarized in those two short words. Fun and free. Everything that the developer behind Battlefield is attempting with this newest entry in the franchise can be traced back to those two guiding principles. Make it fun. Make it free.

Emphasizing such adjectives might help lessen the shock for longtime fans. Heroes' surprising new direction will no doubt appear drastic and - upon first glance - disheartening to followers of the multiplayer shooter series. Gone are the ultra realistic graphics of past games, replaced by a Saturday-morning cartoon style that most closely resembles Snoopy vs. the Red Baron (or, ahem, Team Fortress 2). Soldiers bounce as they run, waving happily and flashing "thumbs up" to their teammates. Tanks and planes have been squashed to resemble playground toys. The cause for war is a throwaway joke - apparently, the National Army has invaded the Royal Army's territory over a disagreement in the Olympic cycling results.

Above: Battlefield Heroes (left), Battlefield 2 (right)

Strategy is still a part of the experience, albeit in a much smaller capacity. Players can choose between three classes, each with unique skills and advantages. The Gunner is a thick-skinned behemoth who can carry a lot of weapons and shrug off a lot of damage. The Soldier can counter this power with special abilities - unleashing fiery ammunition, for example, or spotting enemies through solid walls. The Commando rounds out the balance with a sniper rifle, a backstabbing knife and semi-transparent cloaking.

Matches are more than simple deathmatch, too, ending only when a team has lost all of its "tickets." Each army starts a game with 100; each death costs the loss of one. Capture the map's flags and you can take away two or three tickets for every enemy frag. A metagame visible on Battlefield Heroes' official website tracks overall victories and defeats, rewarding the winning side with in-game money for outfits and avatar accessories.

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