A few days ago I was asked by one of the N4G staff to be part of a pre-beta event for the game Heroes and Generals. After congratulating them on their wise choice of candidate picks, I read over the agreement that was given to me and found something called a non-disclosure agreement. This means that I could not brag about how I was better than you for getting into this pre-beta extravaganza, but it also meant that I had a secret that I could taunt people with for a few days. A win either way.
Being a pre-beta, I presumed there would be a rather slick ride down the toilet drain when it came to bugs. In fact, in my debriefing I was told this was a good possibility, And I was not let down. The worst part about it was the server lag. I spent more time trying to get onto the game than I did playing it. When I was on the game, there were some minor issues with graphics and what not, but nothing more than I would expect from what I was going into.
The first thing that delighted me was the game era we were able to play. It was World War II, and unlike many games of that nature you could actually play on the side of the Axis. Being a lover of genocide I was quite tempted to take the side of the Axis; nothing wakes you up like a cup of good coffee and the screams of the innocently tormented, but I also know how it turned out for the Axis in the end and I'm no loser. So I chose the Allied side. Then I was able to choose from several different battles that were going on from a list on the right, as well as compare the battles to areas on a map to my left. Color coded lines connected cities of the same color, easily giving me a satalite eye view of just where the war was going on, and what areas of strategic importance were threatened by enemy movement. All this wonderful information before I even draw out my rifle and spread a few final thoughts on the blood soaked dirt. I rubbed my hands together with a maniacal grin, chose my target area and clicked "enter battle," and with that I was off to make history in the mighty war that was already deep in progress.
A new window opened up and on it was the depiction of a beautifully rendered WW2 rifleman's rifle. Their care to detail impressed me, for I know this gun well. I waited for the game to start. And waited. And waited some more. I stepped off to do a little unnecessary brain surgery, (I got my medical license at the Mengeles Medical College in Berlin), and then came back to find it just about loaded. Then I was whisked off into battle.
The screen flashed as a map with real time vehicle movement sprang up on the left and options to who and what area I wanted to play trickled down to the right. I chose to be a grunt in the initial combat since nothing is greater than starting out as the little guy and rising to imperial status from there. While I had not been given a guide to tell me, I easily found the movement keys to follow the general "WASD" configuration, and after a few moments of trial and error found the mouse controlled visual direction, scope and your ability to fire. With these very needed tools in hand, I was ready to take on the enemy with great vengeance. Though I did kind of chuckle because while the scenery around me was very impressively drawn up to look like 1940's Europe, the lead hand holding my gun looked a little silly. Kind of like a blob of enemy flesh got stuck to my rifle barrel and had a thumb clinging to it. I actually found this so amusing that I was shot in the head while I was laughing. Which transformed my laughter into a deep, throaty growl. How DARE you murder me in my moment of bliss?! So be it, I thought, the hunted now becomes the hunter.
On my respawn, which gave me the option to again choose who I wanted to be and where I wanted to spawn at, I chose the same as I did before and ran out of the building I was revived into. Pixel glitches danced around me as I pressed the shift button and dashed across the field to find my previous assassin. And through the haze of buggy color I saw him! I lifted my finger off the shift button and prepared to aim at him...and kept running. I ran through forest and village and stream without getting winded, passing by motorized tanks that roared by with the sound equivalent to the techno music played in the background of an early 80's horror flick. And I wouldn't stop running. Perhaps this would have been more entertaining if the game was in a third person perspective, but it was not, and the first person view of a bouncing gun got boring after the first half an hour. So I reloaded the game.
Again I must reiterate that I was very impressed with the visual landscape. There is a point in our history which you can tell from old movie footage that shows us what life was like after King Arthur's death, (the land and I are one!), and before the birth of technology that compensated for the demise of natural beauty. And the developers nailed it like the Jersey Shores guys did with Snookie. I felt like I had gone back in time and was right there in the war. I could almost smell the cow flatulence as I entered the game once more and strode confidently down the street, gun in hand, ready to do some serious damage.
I pulled up my in game map and while the detail and movement of enemy artillery, such as tanks and planes, were shown to me, I wasn't happy that it took up so much of the screen. Especially when I was again murdered while trying to figure out where to go. It also didn't help that there was no in game compass for me to relate my position to the map in. But I don't mind roughing it a bit, and I was obviously far too spoiled playing Halo with all their goodies and gadgets. The lack of even the most basic of items, such as a compass, just gave me more of a feeling of being in the actual war. On my newest respawn, I chose to be near where the enemy tank was. I was a hero after all, kind of like the Joker in the Batman series, and this tank was toast.
BOOM! Ok, the tank wasn't toast. As I respawned once more, hoping I could get the smell of my own incinerated flesh out of my uniform, I decided a more tactical position, compared to running head on towards a tank with just a single shot rifle, was in order. I entered a building near the tank and climbed some stairs to the roof of the building. I watched my heavily armored foe as it drove in a defensive circle around its capture point and readied myself to take the beast down once and for all.
Oh, since I have yet to mention it, to win the game you need to grab up the capture points. You do this by finding the radio within the given area. It then turns from their radio to your radio. To get it back, the enemy must push through you and capture the radio back. I do suggest not standing up and dancing after capturing a radio as the enemy obviously knows your position once it is captured and you are thus vulnerable. Stay at your computer and hunt down the next capture point.
So I leveled my rifle at the tank, zoomed in with the scope...and here I will hold off the story to say I do like the scope option as well. Many FPS games either blur out everything going on outside of your scope, or give no blur at all. All blur makes you vulnerable to enemy attack from all directions and no blur makes the sight harder to identify which effects your shot. But Heroes and Generals gives you a perfect little ring around your sight to help you focus on what you are aiming at while not restricting your ability to crisply see any other threats coming into your field of vision.
Anyway, my gun leveled at the tank I pulled off a few rounds into its hull. Obviously they took the realism thing a bit father than I had realized and the rounds didn't really have much of an effect. Moments later the edges of my screen were ringed with blood and I realized someone was shooting at me. Crap! I ran from my position and down into the building I had been perched on top of. Using my scope I saw two enemies running from tree to tree in the forest across from me. I took a couple shots at them but it didn't drop them. Then I heard the Bon Jovi song "Blaze of Glory" in my head and envisioned myself as Kiefer Sutherland leaping out of the building, guns blazing, taking down several of the bad guys as he thrashed from the hot lead entering him. Caught up in the moment I ran out of the building, screaming so loudly I scared my wife and made her drop the coffee she was bringing me, and let my rifle roar with the a dreadful song of death meant for the brain of the vile Axis.
Many trees were upset with me as my shots refused to find anything living. On the other hand, my two foes had me pinned and were taking advantage of my poorly timed boldness. I tried to run from their fire and realized this was not going to be an option. Then something popped up on the screen. It said to press some button for some reason. Yet another death hanging over me without one kill notch on my belt, I rapidly pressed the button I no longer remember. And to my amazement I climbed up and was sitting on a bicycle. I blinked. Oh my god...you could RIDE A BIKE!!! I mashed down on the "W" button faster than a fruit fly having a seizure and left my enemy in the dust.
"Ha ha ha ha ha! See ya, ya rat bassstard!" I shouted with glee. I could almost hear their defeated frustration as my bike of awesome saving-me-ness took me far away from them. I had just looked down to find the middle finger button when I heard some strange, 80's horror movie music sound coming near me. By the time it clicked I was mush under the treads of the tank I had been trying to take out all along. Damn you and your man squishing ability Hitler! I WOULD have my revenge!
I didn't get my revenge. The game ended and my side won, but I had been slaughtered several times without getting any kills myself. To add to the torment, if you die too many times, you are locked out of battle for a very short time. So I wasn't able to get back in after the tank made origami out of my skull. But at least my side won, even if it was with no help from me personally.
Before trudging into battle again I decided to explore a few options the main screen gave me. I was given a good starting gift of gold, and found you could trade in the gold for money, and you could use the money in many different ways. I clicked on the "character" option and was able to buy a character to play in the game. I chose a tank killing bazooka soldier. He came with a side arm to end the lives of the pesky foot soldiers as well, so I figured this was a perfectly well rounded character to go into battle with. I also purchased myself an assault team from the "assault team" option, though I chose not to read up on the game manual and learn how to use them. I had a personal vendetta to deal with first. Another quick note before I move on, you can get ribbons and combat ribbons at the end of the battle. But you can only do this when you have a character. So purchasing a character as soon as you can is a definite must.
Leaping back into combat with my new and far more powerful character, I strode into battle belting out the words of Churchill with the "fighting in the fields, fighting in the hills, fighting in the streams, fighting over day old Chicken McNuggets because you ran out of rum and were getting the munchies", and made my way to the battlefield, determined to get my first kill.
I made the initial mistake of not spawning myself close to where the combat was. While the areas are not marked on your spawn map, it isn't hard to figure out where things are. For example, "north bridge" would be the bridge on the map that was in the northern section. My eagerness put me at the southernmost part of the map, far from the north bridge where the combat was located at. As I ran to be a part of things, enjoying the scenery all the way, I kept in mind the spots where I saw bicycles. Sure, there were jeeps and what not I could also get into and probably run people down with, but when something saves your life once, you tend to be partial to it. Eventually I got to where the action was.
Again I chose a rooftop position. I could see the enemy tank and quickly realized it had not noticed me. In fact nothing noticed me. I smiled. I opened up my sights and aimed at the tank below me with my bazooka. It was moving, so like a sniper would, I held off my shot until I knew I would cause the most amount of damage possible. I lifted it upwards a little too, as the game takes gravity into account and if you don't aim up from your target, you might not get the hit you were expecting to get.
The tank finally hit the perfect position and I lifted my finger up and it fell like a mighty hammer of the gods towards the fire button on my mouse and...
"I love you daddy!" I lurched forward as a minor weight pushed against my back. My bazooka fired into the air, completely missing the tank. I spun around in my chair, which can spin in circles which is how I spun around, and glared into the wide, blue eyes of my 7 year old son. If I'd been wearing combat boots, he would've been punted into the next door neighbor's back yard.
"I need to go to bed now. I hope you're having fun with your game!" he said as he wrapped his arms around me and gave me a hug.
"It was my hope to have the same, buddy." I said, mocking delight so he would go to bed without knowing just how much I loathed him right then. He skipped off to his bedroom as I spun back, only to see I had been killed once more.
There were still many issues with the server I had to contend with, but I finally got my murder on. It was as if the skies had opened and a chorus of angels sang to me, though occasionally a flock of doves would fly over and crap on me. But I didn't care. I was easily addicted to the game regardless of the problems it was having that, again, was what I expected as this was only in the pre-beta stage.
I eagerly await not only the true beta but the game release itself. If you like first person shooter games such as Call of Duty, you will find Heroes and Generals a delightful companion to play on your PC. Bugs aside, H&G is a vast, sprawling world that really draws you in and makes you feel like you are part of the timeline; an active piece of history that is hard to step away from.