Hands-on: Meet Ballistic, a full first-person shooter that runs right in your browser
By Hayden Dingman
PCWorldApr 12, 2014 9:30 am PDT
Web games sure have evolved since I was a kid. Even five years ago, trapped at a receptionist job, the best I could do was a really high-level Flash game to whittle the hours away. Crush the Castle. Worms clones. This is what I considered a web game.
And then I took a look at Ballistic. Here, why don’t you take a look at Ballistic:
Yes, that’s running in a browser. And running well, I might add. Ballistic is a first-person shooter built by Brazilian developer Aquiris and published by Rumble Entertainment. It’s free-to-play, lightweight, and has completely upended my understanding of a browser-based game.
Which is not fair, I suppose. In the past we’ve seen both Don’t Starve and Bastion running in a browser, so it follows that something like Ballistic is technically possible. Technically.
Okay, I’m still impressed. Ballistic plays a bit like the rock-paper-scissors of Team Fortress 2—there are numerous classes available, each built for an entirely different style of play. As a freeloader you’ll start with a single class, the Vanguard, who’s your middle-of-the-road, default assault rifle class with average armor and mobility. Other classes can be bought individually, or you can subscribe to the game for $10 a month to gain access to all classes at once.
You’ve got a Tank, which runs around with a minigun. There are two sniper classes, each with different perks to choose from. A Grenadier class. A Berserker. There’s even a character that turns invisible when running and that can be armed with a katana once ranked higher.
Classes have very defined roles to fill, and teamwork is key to victory. It’s a bit of a shame the game is free-to-play as you’ll likely encounter more Vanguards than any other class, which nerfs your ability to set a team-wide strategy, but I guess that’s just the nature of capitalism.
Each class also has a very distinct silhouette, helping you pick out a sniper or a tank from a distance, and the world is flush with red and blue team colors. As I said, it’s a lot like Team Fortress 2—very arcadey and silly, though Ballistic neglects its hat responsibilities.
It’s basically the content I’d expect in an Xbox Live Arcade download (something like Hybrid)—polished but simple gunplay, like the type of game you pick up for a round or two after work each day. It’s not revolutionizing the shooter genre, nor is it probably going to take the place of something like Battlefield or Call of Duty or Titanfall (or even Team Fortress 2) in your heart.
But as a highly portable, highly accessible experiment, Ballistic is a marvel. Running this type of game directly from my browser reminds me of the feeling I had when I first ran Grand Theft Auto III on a cell phone—”Wait, this is possible?”
I did hit a few instances of latency, but nothing more than I’d expect from any other online-enabled shooter. If I have any complaints it’s actually the core of the game—it runs in my browser. It’s not like I’m low on RAM these days, and Ballistic is fairly lightweight on my system, but it stills irks me a bit to run a game while other tabs are sucking away resources. Normally when running a game I like to shut down everything else for optimal performance, and with Ballistic you can’t do that.
On the other hand, I also don’t need to do anything special to play except load up my browser. So you win some, you lose some.