A Slightly In-Depth Heroes and Generals Review

As I mentioned in my last article I’ve been playing Heroes and Generals on an off since its beta days, back when the game was a browser game. Nearly 600 hours in, this is my opinion on the current state of the game. I’ll go over 4 categories. The game concept, the gameplay experience, the Graphics and the Audio.

I’ll finish with a summary and a few things I would change or fix to enhance the experience if I could.

Concept

In this section I’ll talk about the unique loadout system, the ‘war’ system and the character classes within the game.

Loadout system

Heroes and Generals brings a fresh, new loadout concept to the table. Instead of the traditional loadout system where you’re forced to carry a primary weapon, pistol and one or two special items, Heroes and Generals simply uses a point system.


  • Want to equip two primary weapons? Sure. Want to carry just a pistol and a massive amount of explosives? Can do! Want to carry 4 knives and go around shanking people? Yep.

  • Different classes have a different number of points. Infantry has the most at 10, recon gets 7, and the other classes get 6 each.

  • You can change the amount of ammo you get with a weapon too! You can remove all the spare ammo a weapon has (You only get what’s in the loaded magazine) to make the weapon 1 point lighter, or you can double the amount of spare ammo for one more point. There’s also a perk that gives you extra ammo.

  Some of the different loadouts possible in Heroes and Generals.

Some of the different loadouts possible in Heroes and Generals.

War system

The other unique feature in the game is the ‘War’ system. Once you’re a high enough rank (It doesn’t take long) you can participate in war battles. War battles are entirely player controlled. Generals move units around towns/cities on a map of Europe, and players fight in battles where forces meet. The resources in the matches are not balanced (They’re completely player driven), and some interesting fights can occur. I’ve seen plenty of matches where one team might just have some scattered infantry, and the other side has many tanks and planes, only for the underdog to wipe the floor with them.

  • Regular infantry ‘Heroes’ (The FPS side of the game) can control a maximum of 2 assault teams in the RTS side of the game (Once they reach the appropriate rank).

  • Generals have a much higher command limit, which increases as they level up.

  • Assault teams level up and can be upgraded into better teams as they gain XP. (Mostly from winning battles)

  • The first nation to control 15 major cities wins the war.

Classes

The different classes in the game all have different strengths and weaknesses.

  • Infantry is the most basic and common class. They can use most weapons, have a fair vehicle selection and have the largest equipment allowance. They’re dirt cheap and have a huge amount of spawns.

  • Recon are the sniper class of the game, they have access to improved bolt action upgrades, and a unique scout vehicle. They have a low amount of spawns.

  • Paratroopers are... Paratroopers. They can parachute from aircraft to land anywhere on the map, and are great at taking strategic points. They have an average amount of spawns.

  • Tankers can spawn tanks. Tanks are great at breaking up and stalling enemy infantry, fighting other tanks, and defending points. They can’t fit into many capture points, so they may not do so well at capturing. They have a low number of spawns.

  • Pilots can spawn aircraft. They can shoot down enemy aircraft and harass ground units. They have very fast movement speed in the RTS aspect of the game. They have a low amount of spawns.

  • Generals cannot join the FPS side (‘Action Game’) of the game. Instead they focus entirely on the RTS aspect. They can control many more assault teams than the other classes.

Asides from these features, Heroes and Generals is a fairly typical FPS game. You shoot enemies, capture objectives and try to drive the enemies points down. The capture side of things is a little more linear which is nice. Control points are connected in rows and must be captured in a certain order, this makes the battles a little more focused and intense in these areas. Spawn points are tied into what territory you currently control.

For the concept category, I give Heroes and Generals an 8 out of 10.


Gameplay

Here I’ll talk about how the game plays from a pure gameplay experience. I’ll talk about how the concept plays out in reality, the combined arms aspect, gameplay mechanics and balance.

Gameplay in the action side of Heroes and Generals is fairly standard, kill the bad guys and take their points. The combined arms aspect makes the game fun and dynamic in war battles, with battles often being a completely different experience even on the same map. Although often they’re exactly the same thing over and over.

Combined arms

The combined arms aspect of the game makes gameplay interesting and fun much of the time. It can be very enjoyable when you get a good team working together as a group. The ability to switch between available soldiers in a match is great when you get bored or frustrated with one of your characters. Have you been sniped by the same guy a few times and getting annoyed? Switch to your recon character and go snipe him right back.

Gunplay

The game uses a trajectory based system for bullets, rather than the more standard hitscan system present in other games. This gives fights at medium to long range a bit more flavour, however, the gunplay at short range can be a bit poor and finicky at times due to this system. You need to select the right range for your sights to be as precise as possible (Which I think is neat, and adds a bit more realism and immersion).

The sights on some guns are almost unusable however, due to the low zoom/weird field of view used. The K98k pictured is a good example of this. This rifle is almost unusable without a scope.

  The K98k’s sights. Keep in mind this is a best case scenario for contrast, looking at the sky. Aiming at anything on the ground, in bushes, or indoors is far harder to do.

The K98k’s sights. Keep in mind this is a best case scenario for contrast, looking at the sky. Aiming at anything on the ground, in bushes, or indoors is far harder to do.

The spawn system

The spawn system in the current version (1.12.1 as of writing this) is quite frustrating. You are often spawned in a small group of trees, with large fields all around you that you need to cross (Under enemy fire much of the time) to get anywhere. You’ll often spawn and immediately die as you come out of the spawn protection. You’ll regularly be running for a solid 3-4 minutes only to be one-shot by a sniper, or cut down by an enemy tank. If you’ve got a fairly heavy inventory, or are using a more specialized class, you may find yourself waiting a couple of minutes before you can respawn.


Balance

Balance within the game is almost non-existent. Each faction only has 2-3 weapons that are worth using, and the United States generally has the best gear overall. In the current build (Again, 1.12.1), tanks are VASTLY overpowered. It’s not uncommon to see matches where literally half or more of an enemy team is tanks (In the ‘war’ gamemode). This is very frustrating to play against, even if you have your team also has tank spam.

It can be very difficult for infantry to take out any tanks stronger than a light tank, simply because of how much damage they can soak up. Even if you build a soldier specifically specced for anti-tank, you’ll more often than not run out of explosives before you actually get to kill the enemy tank. If you don’t get the kill, or kill assist, you’ve just wasted a whole lot of money because those explosives cost a lot. The payouts for damaging tanks are far too low to cover the cost of the explosives without getting the kill or assist.

However, playing as tanker can also be frustrating, because you can’t hear or see infantry coming up to you and placing explosives on you anywhere except where your sights are aimed. There are no periscopes you can use, you can go third person, but in doing so you expose your character to getting shot by enemy infantry and machine guns, which will immediately lose you the tank. This forces tankers to camp as far away from infantry as possible, which results in a poorer experience for everyone (Getting killed by an HE shell from a tank at the very edge of the map isn’t fun at all).

Tank-on-tank battles are also very frustrating and RNG (random number generator) dependent in the current state. It takes a very long time for two similar tanks to duke it out. A medium tank vs medium tank fight could last several minutes with both players sitting there smashing left click as fast as they can, requiring 20+ hits most of the time. Sometimes the first hit you take will destroy your gun breech, which means that you’ve already lost the battle, and unless you can get away in time (rare with most tanks, that are too slow) you’ll simply be sitting there waiting to die.

The balancing issues are also present in the RTS aspect. The United States has won every single war in the 3 weeks since we started playing the game again. I speculate that this is due to the United States’ better equipment, and the fact that they seem to have more generals now. We reached out to Reto Moto on Twitter to ask about the issue, but they did not immediately respond.

Network performance

The networking/netcode in the game is.. Poor. There aren’t enough players to choose only matches with good ping. I can’t even really say much about it, it just doesn’t work well much of the time. Players stutter around, shots don’t register, you’ll die randomly long after you’ve run to cover.. It’s a poor experience. This has more to do with their servers and low server population however so I can’t blame the game itself for that.

Movement

Now I hate to consistently rag on a game, but the character movement is also a bit of a let down. Unless you carry a pistol or rifle and nothing else, your character can only sprint for 5-10 seconds. There is a badge which increases your sprint time however. The characters feel like they’re in knee-high water all the time, the movement is heavy and sluggish. This is probably done due to realism, which is understandable, but maybe it could be toned down a little.  

In all, I give the Gameplay side of Heroes and Generals 5 out of 10. Sorry, there’s just a few too many issues there.


Graphics

Graphics... Graphics are average at best. I’m not sure what engine the game uses, but it’s quite old and dated looking, which is fine. The game is quite old after all. It can be very difficult to see enemies at mid range, or in bushes, as the game is very dark, and has very low contrast and color depth. The pop-in of the different Level of Detail for trees and bushes and grass means that it may seem like you’re hidden, but you’re really not at long range (Trees and bushes are far more transparent at range).

Spotting enemies can be very difficult even when they’re firing. All you’ll see is a tiny puff of smoke (If you see anything at all), and no muzzle flash. Which is realistic, but makes it quite frustrating to figure out where the guy who’s shooting at you is.

Texture tiling is fairly poor and could use some work. It’s only really noticeable in open areas or from the air but it still shows quite well.

  Texture tiling in Heroes and Generals

Texture tiling in Heroes and Generals

The UI is quite poor. You need 2 separate windows open just to access the loadout and generals screen (The main window, and a console called ‘H&G Sync’) , with a third window popping up for the action gameplay when you’re in a match. It would be great to see all of these windows combined into one, just to make alt-tabbing a little easier.

The UI often glitches out, or becomes unresponsive. I’m not sure if this is due to the UI design, or because of the poor networking in the game.

Heroes and Generals’ graphics receive a fair 5 out of 10 from me.


Sound

Sound effects

Sound, oh man. The sound in this game is very poor. The sound effects are very low quality and repetitive. There are only like five or six different gunfire sound effects used. Four or five tank gun sound effects. Two explosion sound effects.

The volume leveling is very poor. Vehicle engines are very loud, and gunfire is whisper quiet. You’ll either have to change your volume fairly regularly (Depending on what you’re doing) or just forget about hearing quieter sounds all together.

Sound glitches and delays

The worst part however, is that the sound effects don’t even work half the time! You’ll be wandering through a capture point when suddenly you lose health. Huh? What happened? Then you’ll hear a grunt from your character and loose more health. You’ll look around looking for a sniper in the distance only to get killed by.. A guy right behind you whose gun made no sounds. It happens often, and it’s very frustrating. It’s not just gunshots, tank cannons, grenades going off, footsteps, all sorts of things don’t make sound half the time. This makes using sounds to your advantage almost pointless, you just can’t rely on it. This is probably my number one issue with this game at this point.

The sound category for Heroes and Generals receives a 2 out of 10. I mean they work, but.. Not very well. I play without the sound much of the time and listen to music instead because it’s just too unreliable.


Conclusion

Scoring

Adding up the scores, this game receives a 5 out of 10. This is just my personal rating from personal experience so far. There are quite a few problems that need to be addressed for this game to become truly good.


Recommendations for the Developers

Fix the sound! This is the most irritating thing in the game at the moment in my opinion. I don’t mean just fix the minor issues, I mean fix the ‘Sounds not even playing half the time’ issue.

Rework vehicles (Again). While the 1.12 patch is still very new, I’m certain there will be hotfixes and patches to come. I’m hoping that the vehicles get reworked a bit to make them easier to take out. Jeeps being stronger than light tanks were in the older version is quite over the top.

Balance the game! The balance between vehicles is very poor (I’m looking at you M10 and M18). Reduce the turret rotation speed, slightly nerf the top speed and reduce the health of the M10 and M18. They currently perform like light tanks with top tier medium tank health and heavy tank firepower.

Combine the three windows required into one. Add the generals tab to a menu available even in action matches. I partially understand why the loadout/launcher window is separate but combing them would be far more fluid and simple.

Do a little work on the graphics. Maybe try to reduce the texture tiling seams. I don’t know if its possible with the game engine but better anti aliasing would be nice, considering the ranges involved and the low zoom weapons have. Improve the color a bit, and improve the contrast so we can actually see.


Heroes and Generals is free-to-play can be downloaded through Steam or Reto Moto’s Website.