Last week, EA opened up BF P4F to all their loyal BF players, before a wider release that happened on Monday. A free Battlefield game, based on BF2 with some adjustments and a new experience? Sounds great, sign me up!
So I signed up and played for a bit, and pretty early on in my first play through, an old adage came to mind: “You get what you pay for.” Much has been made about the “evilness” of the micro-transaction system in the Play4Free games. Thankfully, EA has provided plenty of ways to avoid spending real money on things that really matter in the game, like better weapons and “training” for gadgets. However, the system can still be annoying. You have to buy all your upgrades, but you can use your BF bucks earned in game to unlock new weapons for the day or for 3 days. To keep the guns permanently, you’ll need to spend real cash. BF bucks are earned pretty easily, and the cost of the guns is low, so unlocking weapons for a day isn’t going to cost you hours of play time. All cosmetic stuff seems to cost real cash money, so those of you who want to play dress up will have to shell out.
The biggest issue I had with the game is all options and weapon purchases have to be made before you join a server. Want to tweak your mouse sensitivity? Quit the server you’re on, edit sensitivity and then re-join another server. Want to buy a new weapon? Exit the game and unlock the new gun. It would have nice for them to incorporate a Counter Strike in-game “buying” system — and they may still do that since the game is still in its infancy. It’s also worth noting that there is no server browser. You can either do a “Play now”, join friends, or play on servers you’ve bookmarked — which seems odd…why would you bookmark random servers you joined through Play Now? Another minor annoyance is the game has to launch from your web browser each time, so even after a web-based installer runs, the shortcut it leaves in your start menu just takes you to the BF P4F website, which you have to click the play button…very much like Quake Live or BF Heroes.
When you’re actually playing the game, it’s hard not to say that the game is essentially a stripped down version of BF2. Most of your favorite BF2 maps are there, but don’t look near as good as BF2 — a game that was released in 2005. Video options take a page out of the Crysis 2 book, with only settings of low, medium and high…and in this case, “high” looks pretty mediocre compared to most shooters release over the past several years. To be fair, this game isn’t built for eye-candy, it’s meant to be an accessible, multiplayer shooter for the masses — if such a market exists. Does that mean that it’s a bad game? No, it’s actually pretty fun to play and provides a quick/free alternative to having to dig out BF2 discs, install and then patch a 6 year old game. That said, I find it hard to imagine myself sinking more than a few hours into this game which doesn’t seem to register as anything more than a temporary diversion for me.
So for BF2 and BC2 die-hards, it’s hard to recommend this game as an alternative to those, as I’d say you’re better off to just keep on playing the existing games until BF3 comes out. For people new to the BF experience, it’s a quick and easy way to check out that type of gameplay with relatively low system requirements and great for a quick match when you just want to jump in / jump out. Is this the future of games on the PC? I doubt it, and I seriously hope not. My guess is that it’s trying to fill a gap between “hardcore” PC games, who play the “proper” BF games, and the casual PC gamers that play Flash-based games. This falls somewhere in between which feels a bit like no-mans land.
You can sign up and download the game for free at battlefield.play4free.com
I did try to do a little video of the gameplay, but had trouble with both Fraps and WeGame with the beta version of the game. With the WeGame client running, the game would crash every time when loading a map. I could actually record with Fraps, but the result was just a stuttering mess even though the game played smooth — something I hadn’t experienced in other games. Instead you’ll have to just deal with a few screenshots: