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Battlefield Heroes - hands-on

When Battlefield Heroes opens to the public early next year, it might make action figures obsolete. Playing it, you’re reminded of all that time you spent lining up squads of G.I. Joes on your living room coffee table to do battle; but with Heroes, you’ll never have to worry about picking your toys up before dinner or losing any plastic accessories between the couch cushions. Oh, and it’s free.

My time in BH’s early beta revealed some promising stuff: fast entry into gameplay; friendly visuals; combat that’s simple without being shallow; and a leveling system that bears fruit in the form of unlockable weapons, abilities, and apparel. Like many multiplayer shooters, Heroes’ best moments came when comedy crept into combat: running over a peg-legged machine gunner with our tank’s treads, or parachuting onto a rooftop to lob grenades at a group of defenders, then taunting them with a chest-beating gesture to lure them out of position.

Playfulness permeates the gameplay, and as a package, Associate Producer Aleksander Grondal says DICE is delivering not just a product, but a service. “From a consumer’s point of view, Heroes is so much more than just the game itself. I’m tempted to describe it as a ‘Social Game Service’ or a ‘Social Battlefield Experience.’”

For the low, low price of zero dollars, players will have access to stat-tracking, leaderboards, and groups (Heroes’ clan equivalent) via the game’s Web portal, along with regular content updates. But if you’re skeptical that Heroes’ gratis gameplay will lure you into post-release purchases, don’t fret. “Just like getting gold in an RPG, the ingame currency that you earn by playing lets you buy new weapons, but everyone who plays will be able to access these items. Real money buys visual upgrades, like new clothing items and emotes. You’ll also be able to buy what we call convenience items, like one that doubles how quickly you earn XP,” says Grondal.

In other words, aside from these “convenience items,” you might spot an opponent sporting a nice bow tie, but he won’t be toting a game-winning megagun just because he opened his wallet. Moving forward, the studio will look to its community for new content ideas. “Right now, I’d say we have a good platform for further development, and where we will be heading in the future is really up to the players, as we will be basing all future development on player feedback,” Grondal emphasizes.