This morning, I've been tinkering around on Wicked Wake, Battlefield: Heroes' take on Wake Island, via a private server. Wicked Wake is going to be added to Battlefield: Heroes tomorrow - in the meantime, we've got a screenshots and a few first impressions below.
First off: I'd forgotten how cheerful Battlefield: Heroes is, and how catchy the theme tune can be. For the play-session we'd been gifted a few personalised heroes. I fell instantly in love with my Royal Pirate Gunner. He has a beard and a hat.
Then it's into the game. I spawned next to three planes, and shot straight into the sky. And then immediately remembered that I can't fly planes for toffee, and that I'm almost certainly dead.
I was dead.
Next step - go for a drive around the new map, and poke about its corners. It feels like an ever-so slightly more compact version of the original Wake Island, with points about 30 seconds walk from each-other. At this point, I was a passenger in a jeep with two new friends, dancing around in the back seat while taking pot-shots at the constantly circling fighters overhead.
I have to say that I love Battlefield: Heroes' art and posturing; it has some of the same qualities we admire Pixar for; it's clearly made for kids, but has enough style and wit to keep the adults entertained. In Wake Island, they've found the perfect setting, and the perfect map. The sunshine, the beaches, the blue sky make for a happy place. But more importantly, they make for a better game.
Even if I loved the art, the actual mechanics of the original Battlefield: Heroes didn't bite me. The movement feels sluggish, the weapons spammy, any tactics boiling down to a war of attrition between two points. Two years on, they haven't changed drastically, but they do feel significantly tighter. More importantly, Wake Island is a better environment for them to flourish. Battlefield: Heroes' original maps just weren't that good - too much dead space in the case of Seaside Skirmish, too many blind corners in Victory Village. Wake Island doesn't have either of those problems and because it's liberally dotted with airfields, you don't get stuck in linear wars of attrition. You can simply hop on a plane and shortcut the ongoing battle.
I do hope, though, that the launch of Wicked Wake helps Battlefield: Heroes. While it's clearly not failing, it doesn't seem to be succeeding in the way other free games have done. Why? I don't think the development not creating enough new content to keep their community coming back. Wake Island should be the start of a new push.
Wicked Wake should be online from tomorrow. If you've got a Battlefield: Heroes account, why not take a second look?