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Rumble Entertainment is revealing a groundbreaking first-person multiplayer shooter today that it has been working on for a very long time. Ballistic is a game with good 3D graphics, but you can play it in a web browser with a lightweight download that means almost no waiting time. You just jump into the game and start shooting.
Greg Richardson, the chief executive of San Mateo, Calif.-based Rumble, hopes the game will deliver on a long-held promise: premium games played in a web browser. Ballistic will run on relatively low-end computers as it was designed to do so by Brazilian developer Aquiris, which made the game for Rumble. It is built on the Unity game engine, and it will run on Facebook, Kongregate, and RumbleGames.com.
We saw the game in a hands-on preview. It is a fast-paced sci-fi shooter with seven different classes of characters. You can level up your character and level up your weapons and skills.
“We created a lot of classes to let gamers play the way they wanted and to keep it balanced,” said Jim Tso, the external producer on Ballistic at Rumble, in an interview with GamesBeat. “We are staying within the confines of a browser game, but we want to exceed your expectations on that front. And we want to reach as many people as possible.”
One of the best things about the game is that you will be able to play it instantly. It initially downloads as just 75MB, or virtually nothing for a broadband pipe. That gets you started within a minute. The map loads into your web cache. Over time, the game downloads 450MB of code into the browser cache.
The significance of this kind of free-to-play game is that you don’t have to worry about which machine you’ve downloaded the game to. You can play it on any connected computer where you can log in and enter your password. It doesn’t matter what browser you use. Normally, you have to download gigabytes of data, which can take hours.
You can play on one of two factions: the MFA and its shock troops or the commando-like Smokes. You can choose between seven different characters, each with his own set of weapons. The Shadow is a stealth character who wields a katana. The Tank is an armored character with a deadly gatling gun. The Vanguard has a rifle and a shotgun. The Wraith can turn invisible and fight as a sniper. There’s a Grenadier, Berserker, and a Marksman. The style of the art isn’t too serious. There are lots of blue and red colors, in contrast to the ultrarealistic black, brown, or gray colors that you usually see in a shooter. The characters are a little like those in Team Fortress 2, but they aren’t as cartoon-like.
That’s more characters than you’ll typically find in a shooter. Usually, such games have medics, snipers, assault fighters, and engineers. But the name of the game in Ballistic is variety. Each character has his strengths and weaknesses. The maps are big or small. You can change your loadouts to suit different maps.
The combat is set in the near future. The characters use contemporary weapons with high-tech enhancements. One of the more popular maps in testing was the Museum. You can also fight in a shopping mall or a business park. At the beginning, you play only with other beginners. Each character tends to offset another, like the game rock-paper-scissors.
Ballistic has a lot of familiar features to first-person shooter fans. If you are wounded and are about to die, you can make a “last stand” with a pistol, shooting the player who shot you.
Tso said, “The game really comes alive at level 30. You have full access to all your skills at that point. You can do more damage with a gun.”
You can pay real money to accelerate your progress. But you can’t buy your way to victory in the game. If you don’t want to spend any money, you can take the time to level up.
You get one class of character at the start. If you want more classes, you can purchase them. Or you can subscribe to the game and have access to all classes. You can also earn more experience points and get more credits. Before the subscription fees kick in, you can try it out for a period. You can subscribe for $10 a month or just play for a day for $2.
The coolest map I saw was set inside a giant greenhouse building. It was like a giant Biosphere 2 facility. It looked great, with a lot of fauna. But it also had a lot of space where you could run around.
The quality of the game is on par with titles you can get on Xbox Live. It’s not yet clear what kind of computer you’ll need to play it. You will need Wi-Fi or wired Internet. The team in Brazil has about 20 developers working on the game, and they have been at it for a year and a half. They have built an accessible game that also looks like it could be fun.
Ballistic launched in a limited beta test last year. The game works on a tablet, but Rumble is focused on launching it on a browser for now. It is still tweaking how the touch controls will work. Over time, the company will add features like clan warfare and more character classes. The company plans to launch the game in markets like the U.S., Brazil, and other countries.
“What’s exciting to me is how international this game is,” Tso said. “And it’s a great deal compared to a console game.”