You gain XP for doing stuff, and each time you level-up you can pick an ability from a skill tree, or upgrade an existing skill. Okay, fine, right? No. Skills on which you have to spend XP include: being allowed to throw a grenade, being allowed to fly helicopters, being allowed to fly jets, being allowed to use medic tools as a medic and climbing a ladder faster.
It’s a baffling system, and it makes less sense the more you think about it. Army training in the Play4Free universe must essentially come down to new recruits shaking hands, having guns pushed onto their fingers and pushed out the door in the direction of violence.
‘You have levelled up, well done soldier!’
‘OH GOD I AM BLEEDING FROM EVERYWHERE!’
‘So, we can do either basic grenade training or you can learn how to fly a jet, or a helicopter, or you can climb ladders slightly faster. It’s your choice; they all take the EXACT same amount of time here. What will it be?’
‘SO MUCH BLOOD’
‘Great! Now, grab the rungs firmly...’
To get to play Battlefield as it should be played – with all the skills and abilities you’d expect by default – means ranking up as quickly as possible with all your soldiers. And the best way to do that? Buying an XP booster pack. These aren’t implemented yet, but they will be, and they will cost money. They were in Battlefield Heroes
- the cartoon version with the same payment model - and there’s a 'booster' tab on the shop interface. At the moment it just doesn’t do anything though, which raises yet more questions about Play4Free’s quality.
Click to enlarge
The actual game - ignoring the payment model and ridiculous class selection system - is, as we said, reheated Battlefield 2. But it’s Battlefield 2 with features taken out and the graphics toned way down. The Commander role and squads feature have been entirely redacted, and there are only a few maps left too, although they are good ones, such as Oman and Karkand. It’s hard to be impressed when they look like someone’s smeared grease over all the textures though. It isn’t bad to play per-se, it’s just like you’re playing something from the start of the millennium.
The Battlefield template is nearly enough to carry it, and a pitched battle can be fun - but they are few and far between. Teamwork isn’t really encouraged and the lack of squads means it often feels more like Team Deathmatch than the series’ normally more focused play. Guns have some heft to them - especially the Medic’s machine guns, but they’re nothing particularly exciting. There are other problems too, such as being spawned right in front of the enemy, or the way in which grenades have a mind of their own when it comes to where they’re going to land. It’s all just a bit tepid, and the gun-unlocks system doesn’t help either.
If you want to use a new gun, you have to buy it. This can be done in two ways: with play money or with real money. You’ll accrue a couple of thousand points of play money to spend on guns per hour, but you can only 'rent' with play money. A sniper rifle costs roughly 1,000 points a day, a pistol costs around 500. Alternatively, you use real money and ‘buy it forever’ as a long-term rental. You can also buy hats and jackets and whatever else, but those are for real money only.
Click to enlarge
The actual money you could spend here to unlock everything in staggering. In a normal game this stuff would just unlock and you could use it for whenever you like, but in Battlefield Play4Free, to get everything forever you would need, approximately, £265.
Here is a list of other things you could get for £265:
Battlefield 1942 Anthology; Battlefield 2 Complete (on PC, Xbox 360, Xbox and PlayStation 2); Battlefield 2142 and all the expansions on PC and Mac; Battlefield: Bad Company on Xbox 360 and PS3; Bad Company 2 with Vietnam expansion on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3; pre-orders for Battlefield 3 on PC, Xbox 360 and PC; Dr Who: Battlefield on DVD; Battlefield Earth on DVD; World’s Greatest Twentieth Century Battlefields book; and finally, Pat Benatar - Love is a Battlefield
We're not saying that anyone should or would do that, of course, especially buying Battlefield Earth on DVD, but it does show the backwards nature of the pricing model. You can get a full copy of Battlefield 2 for £6 and it would come with four expansion packs and you’d never be asked to spend another penny on it. It would look better, run smoother and have a lot more content. For the same price in Play4Free you could buy a rifle. For a bit.
Hell, for £10 you could buy Bad Company 2
, which is a game that we’ve put 103 hours into and will continue to play until Battlefield 3 comes out.
Forcibly ignore Play4Free. It’s not worth your time, never mind your cash, and boy will it ask for it.