Heroes & Generals Pre Beta

It seems like yesterday, but it was way back in October of last year that we reported on the Danish indie-studio, Reto-Moto and it’s ambitious new project, the F2P browser-based Heroes & Generals (B&S article).

Heroes & Generals (H&G) was going to be a free to play online FPS with a twist. That twist embodied a strategic Multiplayer Campaign overlay of the European theater of war during World War II. It was going to be back to the age old struggle of  Axis against the Allies! H&G was going to mix the heart pounding excitement and heroics of pure FPS gaming and the cerebral satisfaction of being general-like in managing the logistics and strategy of the battlefield.

I’ve been playing the alpha version of the game for some time now and it was with some anxiety that I read the following email from Reto-Moto last week:

ORDER TO REPORT FOR DUTY

The Developers at Reto-Moto,
To       Jock.
You have been selected for the service in the    Army   .
You will, therefore, report to the Heroes & Generals servers   IMMEDIATELY! .

 

The pre-beta version of H&G was ready! I grabbed my kit bag, lucky condom and my wool socks and headed to the staging area…no time to lose!

The Breakdown

The mix of the tactical and strategic has a long tradition in military gaming and has been the holy grail for many of us who still fondly remember the days when war gaming involved pushing cardboard cutouts on map boards covered with hexagonal squares. Since those times, video managed to kill the radio star and FPS video games killed the strategy board game. Thanks to Reto-Moto, the satisfaction of playing those board games can now be relived and even sampled for the first time. And you don’t have to give up your addiction to FPS, because their game has an exciting FPS mode built right into it.

The shooter mode doesn’t just have foot-soldier versus foot-soldier action. Players can take on the role of tanker or even fighter pilot.

Going contrary to the ubiquitous class system, favored by most games these days, H&G uses a characters’ equipment to determine what type of soldier they will play as. H&G literature states, for example: “…putting on a pilot suit will make the character a pilot, but at the same time limit their weapon selection to smaller firearms that can fit in a cockpit.”

Action Game

Reto-Moto calls the FPS component the “Action Game” and it is played on a variety of maps ranging from large trench-covered battlefields to tight, close-quarter combat within small towns. Each map features multiple game modes.

You can play the tactical Action Game by yourself or in so-called “Assault Teams”. These teams can be customized and upgraded with special equipment that benefits the entire group and gives the leading ‘General’ a greater chance of success on The Strategic Layer.

The game is browser-based and powered by the custom build Retox engine. The graphics engine is designed specifically towards online gameplay minimizing downloads and
supporting frequent updates. Retox offers great graphics and is capable of running in most web browsers: IE, Chrome and Firefox are supported. It uses DX11 for high end PC’s and DX9 for lower spec PC’s.

Minimum System requirements for the FPS (Action Game):

● 2GHz CPU w. SSE3 instruction set- dual-core recommended
● 1.5 GB RAM – 2 or more recommended
● ATI HD 2600 or above (with >256mb RAM)
● Nvidia 8600GT or above (with >256mb RAM)
● Windows XP, Vista or 7

Strategic Layer

The Action Game is controlled by a strategic top layer (“the War Game”) that binds individual FPS games into a larger war/campaign. On this strategic level, players are able to command other players or entire Assault Teams in combat.  On top of that, these strategic players have to manage resources and reinforcements in order to secure key locations on the battle map.

The “War” is essentially stored on their central “War” server which keeps track of all the resources and the location of armies. Players can interact with the server and affect the outcome of the war.

F2P

As with most free-to-play models, players can choose to spend in-game experience points on special upgrades for their personal characters (Personal F2P) or their Assault Teams giving benefits to other players as well (Social F2P).

In-game money is earned by being active in the game, completing Action Game missions and controlling Assault Teams — or it can be purchased with real money.

Welcome to multi-platform gaming

Gamers who spend most of their time playing the strategic side of the game will rise to Commander level and will have the power to use the resources on the War server. Orders to that server can be sent from any device.

Though Heroes & Generals is a browser-based game and while the FPS (Action Game) is currently only playable on PC, the strategy-part of the game is accessible on both PC and on iOS/Android platforms through a free app.  In the first version of the app, players will be able to get a live overview of the Campaign showing enemy and friendly Assault Teams movements, and the built-in chat client allows them to stay in touch with their buddies from just about anywhere. In the next version of Heroes & Generals: Mobile Command players will be able to move and manage Assault Teams in the app as well.

My take

The game is currently still in the alpha stage, though admittedly, the current version of the game is being termed as a pre-Beta, an interesting marketing term…but I’m calling shennanigans: to me, pre-Beta still means its in the alpha stage, so…booya Reto-Moto!

H&G has come quite a long way with their quality since I started playing this game a few months ago and it bodes well for the future.

Given that it is still pre-Beta, I won’t try to be too critical of the product given that the game is still developing. Here’s my quick take:

  • The pre-beta installed flawlessly for on my system (Quad, Firefox, nVidia graphics card). The download was ~480 Mb and expanded to approximately 1.75Gb. We were booted from the game server a few times during the few hours I played today, so it wasn’t all smooth sailing — but again, this is an alpha (going on beta).
  • The menu screens were easy to navigate and I found myself playing the FPS game really quickly and smoothly.
  • Spawning into the Action Game (FPS) is intuitive, thanks to the interactive map system which shows you clearly where all the action is concentrating.
  • In the FPS game, the maps are huge and well populated with assets (buildings, roads, trenches, trees, bushes).
  • Textures tend towards the cartoony side, but again, this is a browser game. Overall, the art style of the game is the big star…simply put, the game is extremely pretty to look at.
  • In-game characters are rendered for the most part, adequately.
  • Though most player animations (aiming, standing, proning) are great, a few obviously need some work (moving in prone is too linear, for example). As well, the game’s collision model/mapping is not perfect (players sometime seem to sink into terrain): it’s still early days and the game is being worked on.
  • Firing your weapon as a foot-soldier is satisfying (though I had some reg issues — undoubtedly due to the high ping players on the servers).
  • Vehicle renderings are a mixed bag. The jeeps are well-scaled and wonderfully rendered and are awesomely fun to drive; however, some armored vehicles seem a bit off as their scale is not quite right (then again I’m playing a lot of World of Tanks — and those models are so superb they can be a difficult act to follow).

Current Status

  • The FPS game is currently artificially capped at 10v10, but that restriction will be lifted as the game matures.
  • The shooting mechanics are a bit clunky right now but are being constantly improved. Reto-Moto is currently asking players to come in, test the game and provide feedback. Bug fixing has been the priority up to now and since many of their high-priority bugs have been squashed, the dev crew is now turning to tweaking and balancing.
  • While the current game does not have much in the way of destructible components, the plan is to introduce some in the future: fences, vegetation…light structures, etc.
  • Game is currently in Pre-Beta. It is scheduled to go into Closed Beta soon, then followed by an Open Beta stage: Road Map

Some in-game action

Here’s some in-game FPS action I recorded during Reto-Moto’s press day showing of the pre-Beta. It features some exquisite in-game art, making H&G one of the prettiest browser games I’ve ever seen. In the vid:

  • I defend a bridge against some lone-wolf infantry attacks (the gaming press that was playing write a good-game, but they’re not the best with the tactics)
  • uhh…ya more-than-likely I TK someone while trying to capture an objective
  • I get run over by one of my own armored units and then return the favor
  • I get into a jeep duel with a member of the Nazi party
  • I ride a cool two-wheeler and finally…
  • I get into a fender-bender with a tank.

Conclusion

In the pre-Beta state, Heroes & Generals is a beautiful-looking browser-based strategy-FPS game that admittedly, still needs a little scrubbing and polishing. It should be a worthy competitor to other games in this genre (WW2 online comes to mind). Strategy + FPS? Well, we’ve seen this formula before, of course. In fact, even in the Call of Duty franchise, there used to be two community mods back in the CoD2 days that incorporated roughly the same ideas seen with H&G.

When it comes down to it, it seems that the desire to re-fight World War Two in both the tactical and strategic sense is overwhelming for many (yes, include me here) and this genre will continue to attract fans.

The game is not a pure FPS game and it shouldn’t be judged in that way. This game rises above being just an FPS game as it also combines a huge strategy component that rivals the experience of a good ol’fashion board game and when you put that combination together, this game really comes into its own.

Should you download this game? Absolutely. Especially so if:

  • you love playing hardcore online games in a structured setting
  • you’re a military history buff wishing to try your hand at leading an army
  • you are a casual FPS gamer that relishes the tactical side of shooters

Get H&R as soon as it goes Open Beta.

Links

Heroes and Generals Official homepage

Heroes and Generals Campaign description

H&G Youtube page

Game Tutorial