On the Battlefield • Page 2

A look at Play4Free and Bad Company 2 Vietnam.

With senior producer James Salt showing me around, Play4Free appears to be an fairly pretty proposition for a free online game. Draw distances are good, assets are detailed, and there's still room on the download for the developer to pay attention to the atmosphere of the contemporary videogame warzone.

"Colour grading, film grain, and depth of field effects: we've got all that stuff," says Salt. "We think people will be quite surprised at the quality, actually."

Karkand's a launch-day map, and it's based on Battlefield 2's Strike at Karkand. "We've made the play area quite a bit smaller, and we've got a very different kind of layout," says Salt.

"It looks like Battlefield 2 at first, but buildings and tactical spots have been moved around. There's still a lot of room, though. A lot of modern FPS games go for the really tight spaces, so it's been refreshing to open things out again."

Play4Free will ship with a new mode that revolves around capturing a series of flags and then holding them long enough to start earning points. The more flags you have, the quicker you earn, and the first team to reach the target level wins.

It's a game type so newly minted that DICE hasn't even named it yet ("What do you think about Assault?" asks Salt. I'll see how I feel after I've eaten, eh James) and despite the tightened confines of Karkand, there's still plenty of room for Play4Free's 16 vehicles to intrude. The game will support up to 32 players, too, so Karkand's going to get crowded.

Despite the relatively fancy visuals, DICE is aiming to keep the download footprint as close to the 500MB of Battlefield Heroes as possible. It seems that the other free-to-play concern the economy shouldn't be intruding into the warfare too much. The developers are more than aware that most players aren't going to want to pay a single penny, according to Salt.

"As with Battlefield Heroes, the stuff we're selling are weapons and clothing customisation items for the most part," he says.

Vietcong weaponry will be rusty and knocked about.

"There are two currencies - one you get by playing and one you can buy and the majority of items are available for both currencies. It's only the really exclusive stuff that you're going to have to buy.

"With clothes, it's only if you want to look really, really badass. With weapons, it's much more about balancing: this gun is really fast, but it's got no grip, this one just looks really cool. It's always a personal choice and it's never going to unbalance the match."

Levelling up sees you earning training points to put into a tech tree that allows you to flesh out the two elements of your soldier: his equipment and his physical abilities. The former will see you gaining access to new weapons and gadgets and eventually tricking them out, while the latter lets you buff attributes that will enable you to do things like take more damage or run faster.

Best of all, as a download title with a lengthy roadmap in place, Battlefield Play4Free will be levelling up alongside you as the developers listen to feedback and implement new tweaks or content accordingly.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that you'll be able to see the game for yourself in a matter of weeks. You can register interest for the beta as of today in readiness for a launch on 30th November. The wait may continue for Battlefield 3, then, but there's more than enough to be getting on with in the meantime.

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