Friday, August 16, 2013

Ballistic - Beta Impressions

Oh boy, it’s time for yet another military FPS game! Aren't you excited, kids?! I sure am, as we certainly do not have enough of these in the market today. But wait a second…

This isn't just any military FPS game. It’s a military FPS game that you can play… in your internet browser?!


Okay, so sarcasm aside, a development group named Rumble Entertainment is prompting their newest browser-based title on Facebook called “Ballistic”, and its set to make FPS action quick and accessible for anyone with a modern PC. Sounds interesting enough, but browser-based FPS shooters have already been done before, so how much is this game really bringing to the table?

When I first started up the game, I was instantly greeted by two opposing soldiers that were sticking guns into each other’s faces, ready to blow them off. A menu popped up asking me to input my desired player name and I was ready to go. There were no signs of any character creation or a tutorial.

At the main menu, there were only a few options to choose from: I could either start a match up with only a few game modes and maps, check my current weapon setup or visit the shop. I decided to get into some action now and then check out the other menus later. I selected a map and mode at random and took off.
When I first entered the match, I was instantly impressed by the visual quality of the environment. The first map that I played was inside of a public shopping mall, and it looked absolutely amazing (for a browser based game, of course) with solid textures and a decent amount of color and softness. The animations, however, were not so great in comparison. While moving my character around for the first time, the head bobbing seemed very robotic and un-natural, along with the animations for character model movement.

So with the map I was playing on, the game mode was set to “King of the Hill” Since I was a late joiner to this match, I didn’t know what to expect from incoming enemies. With complete disregard for the objective (since my teammates we’re already heavily focused on holding the point with a massive lead in score), I just ran in blindly to the enemy team’s side, just looking to get a few kills and get a feel for the combat. Upon making contact with an enemy player for the first time, I fired off my rifle, which gave off the most depressing gunfire sound I’ve ever heard. The rifle I was using was an SR-16, which was obviously modeled after an M-16 rifle, but it sounded nothing of the sort. Same thing with my secondary weapon: the Black Hawk which was clearly a Desert Eagle. Both of my firearms sounded nothing like their real world counterparts. Instead, they sounded like cheap, plastic BB guns.

Quite disappointing, especially considering how weak they sound which I figured out later would be very bad for gameplay. There were a few times in combat where I could never hear the sound of the bullet that killed me. With weak sound effects tied to these guns, someone could easily call foul and start accusing people for hacking, and thus would lead to a huge string of accusations and insults and… well you get the idea.

After playing through my first match in Ballistic, I would have to say that the run & gun gameplay felt too slow paced, not to mention that it didn’t seem to present anything out of the ordinary in comparison to its obvious FPS game influences like CoD: Modern Warfare or Battlefield. I was running, shooting enemies down using iron sights, lobbing grenades here and there, and that was about it. I was thinking to myself after my first match that the gameplay in Ballistic was pretty standard, but since it was only my first match, I was hoping that perhaps there was something special about Ballistic’s gameplay that I wasn’t getting, and that it would open up to me soon.

After completing the match, I was given some experience points for my rank and some experience points for my weapons. It would seem that Ballistic has a weapon ranking system that allowed players to improve the stats of their favorite weapons with frequent use. It was a nice, simple feature, but it was also revealed to me that leveling up your weapons will be necessary in order to unlock new tiers of weapons as part of a set that fits different play styles, including strike, tactical, marksman and heavy weapons. The idea of improving your favorite weapons through excessive use is nice, but the idea of having to unlock weapons you want by being forced to level up weapons that you may not like is atrocious, especially considering that players will have to spend either a ton of in-game credits or spend real money to unlock each set of weaponry.

After playing a few more random matches, which were set on team deathmatch, I ranked up a few times and earned access to skill points. Here, it was revealed to me that the game had some personalization options for battle. Players can special different passive skills in one of three different categories: Suppressor, Frontliner and Infiltrator. Suppressor is good for all around gunplay, Frontliners are good for survival and focusing on objectives and infiltrators are good for fast movement so you can get to your camping spots easier. As nice as these features are, it’s also standard military FPS fare.

As it stands, the gameplay in Ballistic is anything but ambitious. It sticks with very safe, very generic gameplay design and doesn’t even try to be unique in any way, shape or form. If you’ve played a military FPS before this, everything in Ballistic will feel familiar and average to you. The visuals, however, are incredibly amazing for a browser based game. All the textures in the environments are highly detailed, but the overall presentation comes off as cheap and lackluster with weak animations and even weaker sound effects. Hopefully, the developers will decide to pull in some more interesting features that will give the game a true identify among all the other FPS titles out there, but as it stands, they should probably rename this game from Ballistic to “Simplistic”.


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