Battlefield Play For Free Beta Impressions - Warbuff Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Battlefield Play For Free Beta Impressions

Battlefield Play For Free is a PC browser based game slated for release sometime in 2011 and its name sums up the experience.  Meshing together different aspects of the Battlefield franchise DICE is creating a Battlefield game anyone with a computer can enjoy.  The title is currently in the closed beta state and I've played it for around 8 hours.  I'd like to share with you what I've experienced in hopes of informing both the Battlefield faithful and skeptic.  This is by no means a review.

Overview

The Battlefield franchise has always been about battles taking place over large maps.  Players choose a soldier class to play as which dictates the weapons and equipment they spawn with.  Vehicles are a big part of gameplay and often the reason some FPS fans steer clear.  The beta has one map and one game mode; conquest on BF:2 Karkand.  Conquest is a game mode where the 2 teams fight over 4 territories.  The more territories under your control the faster points are earned.  Reach 1000 points before the other team to win.

Mechanics in use from previous Battlefield Games

Soldier roles from Bad Company 2

This means there are 4 combat roles, Assault, Medic, Engineer and Recon.  Assault class gets an AR and ammo resupply box.  Medic class has the Machine Gun and health kit.  Engineers stay tried and true with SMG and repair tool.  Recon of course has the sniper rifle and motion sensor.  Also like in Bad Company 2, players can choose to have a shotgun as their primary for any class.  It's a safe bet that after the beta a lot more weapon alternatives will be introduced.

Skill trees from Battlefield Heroes.

Currently in the beta each class has 2 skill trees.  1 for equipment and another for combat.  Each skill tree has 3 tiers.  When the player levels up they are rewarded with one point to distribute on either tree.  Equipment based skills include the ability to throw grenades, fly a jet or use the secondary fire on a tank.  Combat expertise has the more unique abilities which all give the player a strategic edge over competition.  Skills include climbing ladders faster; sniper, grenade and  mortar strike detection.  Most skills are the same for each class but some are specific.  For example there is no spawning on team mates by default in this game.  The assault class can gain the skill to call in reinforcements; teammates that die within the vicinity of the player will respawn near him.

Customized appearances has been brought over from Battlefield Heroes

It's pretty bare bones right now.  Players can choose between 2 skin tones, 2 hair colors, 3 haircuts and whether or not our soldier has stubble.  One of the biggest bugs I've seen is the frame rate hitch that occurs every time I respawn.  This is because it is loading everyone's customization.  With how limited the customizing is now I'd hate to see how bad the hitch becomes when the game releases.

Gameplay  Differences

There is no switching kits on the fly in this battlefield game.  Instead you create a soldier for each class.  Before joining a game you choose your soldier.  So if you go in recon only to find 3/4 of your team is also recon, you'd have to leave game, choose a different soldier then join again.  This may change after the beta but who knows.

There is no squad mechanic.  This came as a quite a shock to me.  As I stated above the assault class can purchase the skill of having nearby teammates respawn on him but that's the extent of it for this beta.  There are 2 teams of 16 players and that's as in depth as it gets.

No destruction system.  It's a good thing DICE has chosen to make this game resemble Battlefield 2 visually.  Without the destruction mechanic from Bad Company and 1943 the game feels like classic BF on the PC.  Those of us who have been playing BF before it moved to consoles the nostalgia factor is very strong.

You had best play according to your combat class.  With beta how it is now there is very little weapon and gadget selection for each class.  If you are playing assault you had better be attacking.  If you are Recon you had best stay back, spot targets and score headshots.  I've been a part of several matches where one team was mostly snipers.  They spent the whole round stuck in one corner of the map just typing into the chat that the Recon class wasn't powerful enough.  Truth is you can't win against tanks and automatic weapons with a bolt action rifle.  Play smart!

This leads to the next big change, sniper rifles and grenades leave easy to notice smoke trails.  If you've used the sniper in Halo it's that same concept.  As soon as a sniper pulls the trigger EVERYONE knows where it came from.

Possible Balance Concerns

There is little to no recoil on the Medic M3 light machine gun.  The majority of my play time has been with the medic.  To compensate the weapon takes more than a few rounds to down a foe.  But with the high rate of fire it is devastating at close to medium range.  I imagine when the game goes live this weapon will be top tier and only accessible by those who devote a lot of time or fork over some serious battlebucks.  The games where I've had a 4 to 1 K/D ratio have been with this weapon.

M9 Beretta pistol is a beast.  More often than not when I'm sniped it is by this weapon.  It's a freaking pistol with the accuracy of a laser pointer.  It does 17 damage to the body requiring a max of 6 shots to down a soldier at full health.  Like the M3 there is very little recoil.  The recoil I do experience may just be the natural movement of my hand as I click.  BTW it takes less than a second to click a mouse 6 times.

Things I'd like to see added/changed

Add a friends list.  I highly doubt the game will ship without it and I'm sure it's because we're in a beta that it is missing.  Still it is disheartening to have 3 friends who want to play together and must resort to quitting and restarting in order to randomly join a friends game.

Add server browsing.  Last time I played BF: Heroes it was the same way.  For ease of its users there is a big PLAY NOW button.  Click that and you'll be connected to a server.  So without a friends list I have to join a match, quit and join again until I'm randomly put into his game.  If we didn't live so close together I bet it'd be impossible.

Add negative influencers to spawn points.  It seems no FPS can ever be released without players complaining about the spawn system. The way it works here is you get 2 choices; spawn near the battle or spawn ALL THE WAY back in your base.  Unless a tank has respawned in the base players generally choose to be close to the action.  There doesn't appear to be any check system for whether or not the enemy is right next to your spawn point.  I've respawned within arm's length of an enemy APC.  I even respawned already getting shot.  You see, the player model appears before the respawn timer finishes.  You'll come across an enemy who looks to be AFK then suddenly starts moving.  Playing for hours/days on the same map learning the spawns is easy.  Teams that dominate generally leave the enemy with one capture point and surround it with vehicles.

Ease up on the chat censorship.  Being a free game that can be launched from an internet browser means 2 things.  There is no ESRB rating attached to the game.  Also anyone with high speed internet can be play the game after about 30 to 60 minutes of download time.  We all know how mouthy folks are on the internet so DICE has instituted a chat filter.  If you ask me it could be toned down some.  Example I typed, "That M9 pistol is ***."  *** is a bad word.  (edit: apparently it's a bad word here at GI lol)  Someone else typed in, "This game is great, but I wish it had squads."  The words "wish it" were censored; you can figure out why.

Summary

The best way to describe Battlefield PLay4Free is with the phrase, "stripped down".  The gameplay is the very essence of the franchise.  By stripping it down DICE has managed to create an experience that should be accessible to those who have never touched the franchise.  At the same time they've managed further diverse the rolls of the different classes.  Playing to your soldiers strengths is more crucial to winning the battle.  I am a huge fan of the franchise so it should come as no surprise I'm pleased with how the beta is playing out.  I recommend every FPS fan to give it a shot, especially those who haven't tried a Battlefield game before.  You'll get a mouthful of what makes the franchise successful without having to spend any money.

There is also this little bug with spawning invisible.  Happened to me once.  It was a lot of fun.  :)


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