'Battlefield Heroes' travels to Normandy on new Inland Invasion map

Battlefield Heroes, Electronic Arts' cartoony, free-to-play World War II shooter, will take on one of the war's most significant battles — the Allied assault at Normandy on D-Day — when its new Inland Invasion map launches tomorrow.

Battlefield Heroes, Electronic Arts' simplified, free-to-play World War II shooter, will take on one of the war's most significant battles — the Allied assault at Normandy on D-Day — when its new Inland Invasion map launches tomorrow. Just as the Allied forces landed at Normandy by air and sea, Inland Invasion brings seafaring vessels into Heroes for the first time, although they don't appear to change the game all that much.

The map's name, which the Heroes community chose, refers to its Normandy-like layout. Heroes' two factions, the Royal Army and the National Army, fight for control of the beach and the farmland beyond, with the entrenched Nationals (clad in gray, with red and black accents) defending territory against the invading Royals (dressed in sandy fatigues).

Inland Invasion offers a tweaked version of the Conquest mode from proper Battlefield titles, with the Royals trying to capture the first flag at the beach and then move inward to take each successive flag point from the Nationals. I only had a chance to play on the Royal side, whose games begin in amphibious troop transport vessels as they approach the shore. Heroes developer Easy Studios is highlighting them as the game's first aquatic vehicles, but there's not a lot you can do with them: while they're fully user-pilotable, they're only designed to land soldiers on the beach. So they have no weapons; it's not like you can engage the Nationals from the water.

As stylized a game as Heroes is, I found that storming the beach was evocative of all the ways I'd seen and experienced D-Day: in photos, films, and video games. Standing in the transport vehicle as it was heading toward land, eyeing the beach's defensive fortifications and hilltop bunkers, I briefly thought of the tremendous battle that the Allied and Axis forces had waged on Omaha Beach so long ago.

Those feelings only intensified as the Royal Army breached the shore and headed inland. Heroes' colorful, cartoony art style lends itself well to rendering the idyllic European countryside just past the beach. Windmills dot the agrarian landscape, and dirt roads lead tanks and jeeps along wooden fences. It feels strange to say that I found a free-to-play, stylized version of World War II even close to as affecting as more realistic games such as EA's last-generation Medal of Honor titles, but Heroes' Inland Invasion map brought to mind the war's effect on the lives of ordinary people. (No civilians appear in Heroes.)

Heroes' Inland Invasion map brought to mind World War II's effect on the lives of ordinary people

Aside from the new setting and vehicles, Heroes plays mostly the way it always has, although some creative new costumes give players more options to customize their avatars. I was just surprised by the power that World War II games — even ones that aren't trying to use it — still have, at least for me.

Battlefield Heroes' Inland Invasion map will be available tomorrow, September 19th.

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