By Jason Parker (Ragachak)
You’ve Seen One
And you have probably seen them all. Virtually everyone who has played a video game – even those who play board games – has played a World War II game. From Axis and Allies to Wolfenstein 3-D (we don’t talk about that awful Xbox 360 title), not to mention Call of Duty and Battlefield, there have been World War II shooters across the spectrum. This, however, is the first free-to-play WWII simulation that I have come across. Heroes and Generals is a pretty bold attempt at a F2P World War II title, and though the game has actually been out for a few years, it is back in beta to get a much needed and desired overhaul.
The crunch of boots smashing leaves, and the ping of rifles opening fire in the quiet forest. Dirt clods flying into the air from grenades being tossed desperately in an attempt to push the German or American lines further; that’s what you can expect. In Heroes and Generals, the main mode is a series of wars that span over a day and at the end, whichever side had the most victories and the greatest amount of war funds can seize the day for themselves. Once you have picked a side, that’s it! You cannot switch sides until that war is over, so pick carefully. If one side is more saturated than the other, it will warn you before the selection. Only so many soldiers can get into a battle so be sure to side with the underdog if you want shorter queue times.
You Either Die The Hero. . .
In Heroes and Generals, you play as either a soldier of the German Axis or the American Allies, in a quest to push freedom or dominance on the plains of Europe. As of this writing, there only appears to be one war to be fought, and it is fought over and over again. One of the greatest bits of confusion is how to find other maps. There are apparently other maps to do battle on in this war, but how to access them seems to be unknown. The guides on their forums state that they are random and somehow related to rank. So it is entirely likely that you have to spend days, perhaps weeks, depending on your skill level farming the exact same map over and over again, which can try even the greatest amount of patience.
In the action mode itself, the goal is to hold choke points as long as possible, and three seems to be the magic number. There are a trio of choke points, and players are dropped at their deploy point and sent out to hold them. Holding more than one for lengthy periods of time requires strategy and tactics, or simply a great deal of turtling (fortifying up) and bullets. Depending on the position and team you are on, you may also have the option of deploying a vehicle. Vehicle movement is pretty awkward, at the very least on a bicycle it is. I would highly recommend doing the training mode “First Blood,” as it gets a new player acquainted with all of the possible controls and weapon types, up to and including Anti-Air technology.
There are two ways to join combat missions (team on team choke points to push the war in your favor), and that is Random (picks a map that your skill level demands), or you can pick a specific map off of a list of available maps that have players on them. While I saw many maps, and people that were on them, I would constantly receive an error that the map could not load, or I could not join, despite the number of players on it. That was another deep, cutting drawback: I wanted to try new things, but I was doomed forever to the same hill, Sisyphus with a gun.
Or Live Long Enough To See Yourself Become The Villain
There is also the “General” mode where you can set up Assault Teams, provided you can afford it. I also feel this is where the Campaign mode is going to be. I was not able to access anything in this particular mode, though I suspect it will come later on in the beta. Assault Teams are not free, and do not level up easily either. There is a lot of silver being spent here, and in fact everything in general that requires silver costs a high amount. That is why there are War Bonds, and gold! One of the things I think is interesting, despite it not being a free feature, are War Bond investments. You spend real money to invest in your side of the game, and receive a return on it in game. I genuinely feel like this is a great concept, but people with money are going to advance harder and faster than those who just want to play casually.
Also, do bear in mind this is a free-to-play game, but very much this feels like a pay-to-win option. Sure, you can grind for days, hopefully winning match after match to acquire currency and buy new guns, attachments, and ammunition. But what about for the other faction? I started as a German because they had a lower queue time, so I made a character, Weber Basch, a German Infantryman. That’s fine. I played and I didn’t do horrible, but I did not do great. We wound up winning the war the next day, and the time came to pick another faction. I stuck it out as German for another war, but the third, I picked American, hoping I could name up a new soldier to fight the Nazis. Sadly, I was “Ragachak’s First Infantryman” or something similarly ludicrous.
What this means for you as the player is everything is expensive. You can spend 20k or so silver to rename, or you can purchase gold, which will naturally require real money. It costs money to set up an assault team, to make other soldiers (should you want some variety), to buy new gear, grenades, name your guns, or modify them. I understand that they have to make a living, but I was certainly hoping it would not attempt to be a money-sink during a beta. Not to mention I spent about a week of my time on the exact same map, because I was not leveling fast enough. I could have purchased a boost of some kind to help, but I was and am completely unwilling to do so.
A Flash In The Pan
There was a time when I was going to be a history major. However, I took the alternate path and went the route of English/Literature. I would love to see an FPS do something that isn’t World War II, no matter how much interesting literature and tactical brilliance came out of it; it is past the point of being stale, it’s a dead horse, flogged vigorously with the barrel of a Panzer tank. Heroes & Generals is not a genuinely bad title, but I was really hoping to see some of the campaign that was touted. A F2P shooter with a story sounds delightful but alas . . . It does deliver on some levels, feeling like a genuine, gritty shooter, but on others it really falters.
The graphics are not inherently bad. However, everything that I saw blended together a great deal, making it difficult to see if there were players about on either team, and if it weren’t for the username over your side’s players, you might never see them. The same hill and dilapidated building over and over became monotonous to say the least.
I will grant that you can adjust the controls to suit your own purposes, but the base controls are horrendous. Shift to run, control to squat, wasd to move, mouse to adjust camera. It became a chore to run, squat and try to shoot safely behind cover. I’m certain that many PC gamers do not approve of controller support, but I am more at home on an FPS with one, and would have greatly liked the option. The standard controls are very clunky and awkward, especially vehicle controls. I spent quite a bit of time trying to master navigating around obstacles with a bicycle. It is very important to understand strafing on a bike.
I appreciate it not having a minimap a’la Call of Duty to show where the enemies are/recently fired enemies are at, but it was incredibly difficult to even see players of the opposite side anywhere other than an open field. Again, I understand that this is a war game, and they are supposed to blend in at least a little bit. A red arrow pops up and shows where the players of the other side are, but it can be very misleading; they could be on the other side of a hill, or behind several trees, or in a creek. The features of this game should be very interesting, but if they are all going to require such a grand investment of time, it might take away from the rewards and the satisfaction of putting together an ass-kicking squad.
I love the sound effects, I cannot say that enough. The whine of a bullet whistling through the air, explosions from grenades, the roar of an airplane overhead, or the rapid clinking of bullets into the side of a tank or a building. The music was a little bland, and the sound effects of success and failure became tiring very swiftly, and some of the sound effects I will admit, I had no idea what they were for. I would hear a whirring or clicking, and have no idea if it were a land mine, or an Interrogation Droid from Star Wars IV: A New Hope.