|Dev: EA Digital Illusions / Easy Studios|
|Pub: Electronic Arts|
|Release: April 4, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
There's only one gameplay mode, a sort of capture the flag/king of the hill hybrid that encourages teams to hold certain areas for as long as possible. When you get killed and respawn, you run toward the nearest flag that needs defending or capturing. Then you twitch and shoot the enemy guys until one of them gets you and you respawn again. You die quickly enough that unless you see the enemy before he starts firing, you don't have much of a chance, especially if you haven't leveled up much or bought better weaponry. There's no regenerating health, no unusual weapons or abilities -- no nothing, really. It's just you, a gun, and some other players, running around and getting shot in a few admittedly well-designed levels. Periodically, someone shakes things up by hopping into a vehicle (which include tanks and helicopters) or finding a really good sniping spot.
In other words, it's the same thing you'll find in every other first-person shooter, right down to the WASD controls, except that there's no campaign and you can't choose between different modes of play. Not every game will do for the genre what Halo or Modern Warfare did -- or even what Battlefield 2 did six years ago -- but most at least try to make some adjustments to the established formula. Even Blacklight: Tango Down, another recent, cheap, multiplayer-focused FPS that depicts modern war, gave you a special visor that let you see where everyone was hiding.
As you put in hours, not only does the gameplay repetition start to take its toll, but you realize that EA wouldn't have invested in Play4Free if it didn't plan to make money off of it. How do you profit from a free game? They're called "micropayments" -- in order to get the best upgrades for your character and keep them, you can't use the currency you get in the game. (Well, unless you plan on grinding for hours: the currency lets you "rent" upgrades, which you can keep doing if you keep earning enough points.)
If you want to identify enemies from farther away, shoot with more precision and power, or control certain vehicles—which as you might imagine are valuable skills—you have to spend real money on upgrades. A basic upgrade set will run you $10 or so for every character you create, and new characters cost $2 to start. Considering that Battlefield 2 can be found for less than $10, the true financial advantage of Play4Free is that it lets you try the game before buying, not that it actually saves you money if you play it for any length of time or with any degree of seriousness.
Battlefield Play4Free is a decent download for people who are new to the FPS genre. At no cost, and with very low system requirements, it allows them to see if they enjoy multiplayer shooting. It's also not a bad way to kill an hour or two if you're bored. Beyond the first few hours, however, the gameplay becomes monotonous and you realize that the only way to succeed is to purchase upgrades. We weren't fans of Blacklight: Tango Down—we gave it a 2.8/5—but if you're looking for a cheap modern shooter that's worth your time, that's probably a better way to go.
CCC Freelance Writer