The Battlefield 1 beta is now live and kicking, which means we can all get down to some WWI themed shooting action on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
The beta showcases the Sinai Desert map and two modes, and includes horseback combat and an armored train which players can fight for control of. It’s all very shiny, new, and interesting – here are a few of our thoughts on the game so far…
It Feels Fresh…
Right from the get-go, Battlefield 1 took everybody by surprise with its World War 1 setting. Every other developer seems so focused on modern/futuristic shooters, that going back to what is arguably history’s most important war was a bold choice.
Of course, it pays off in spades. Battlefield 1 (or at least the beta) feels so fresh in so many ways. Whether it’s the satisfyingly heavy and archaic looking weapons and machinery, or simply riding around on a horse causing carnage – this is war like we’ve rarely seen before in a videogame.
…But It’s Still Unmistakably Battlefield
And perhaps this is where a few problems start to seep in. I honestly believe that Battlefield 1 is a very different feeling game, but it still bares all the unmistakable hallmarks of a Battlefield title.
Whether or not that’s a good or bad thing is entirely down to your opinion on the franchise, but I’ve always been a fan of the large scale cinematic battles for the most part.
All the same, there’s an argument to be made that the more primitive weapons and vehicles could make it feel like a slightly more stripped down version of it’s predecessors – but for the most part, all the weapons you’d expect are present and correct, just with a retro twist.
Some aspects – such as the horse, for example – do feel curious. In a game that still includes tanks (and an armoured train!) why would I want to jump on a horse? I get that at times, a horse might be the only option, but every ‘vehicle’ should have pros and cons, and I just can’t currently see what a horse has that other vehicles don’t.
Still, for the most part, the standard Battlefield feeling works to the beta’s benefit. Gameplay has been smooth and fast paced (in my experience so far) with online matches ticking over nicely. Not exactly how World War I went down, but we need to give DICE some artistic license.
It’s A Truly Visceral Experience
It’s no secret that Battlefield 1 is a very, very sexy game. The beta obviously only offers one map, and desert locations are always fairly generic, so there isn’t much to showcase the visual fidelity on display, but I’ve had plenty of moments so far that have made me stop to admire the action.
The weather effects are particularly impressive, and have a real impact on how the map looks and feels – it’s just a shame then, that for the most part the Sinai Desert map is just a little bit shit.
I’ve no doubt (or at least I hope) that there are greater maps to come, but the beta’s one and only map is just a little too open, especially for its size. As such, the Conquest map doesn’t really encourage anything beyond tanks and snipers, which kind of limits the variety.
Ideally, I want to go in to a match not knowing what to expect, but the majority of Conquest matches have proven bitterly predictable. Of course, this could change as more players get involved.
Rush also suffers from the overuse of tanks – too many times, I’ve suffered a spawn kill from someone else’s tank, and I’ve seen several other players suffer from the same issue.
Still, when you do get stuck into a good old fashioned firefight… well, I don’t think I’ve ever seen better in a videogame – it’s just that there aren’t currently enough of ’em.
Vehicles Are Fucking Awesome
Okay, so getting spawn killed by a tank is by far the most irritating thing about the beta so far, but I can’t deny that the vehicles are immense fun to ride around in.
The argument could be made that vehicles have way too much impact on the outcome of a match at the moment, and I hope that’s something DICE will look to address in terms of balance over the coming months.
The trouble is, you can only see vehicles are a problem when you’re not in one, as the incredible feeling of power and freedom you get once you hop into a tank, or take control of the armoured train is just so damn satisfying.
Clearly, DICE needs to scale back the vehicles a touch to make it a more enjoyable boots on the ground experience, while making sure being in a vehicle still feels as satisfying and fun as it should. Not an easy task, perhaps.
It’s The Players That Make The Game
Perhaps more than any FPS I’ve played in recent memory, your enjoyment of the beta will come down to the quality of both your teammates and your foes.
As we’ve established, the map is very much a blank canvas (for better or worse) that invites players to fight (and die) on it as they see fit. Matches are essentially strung together by epic, player-made moments, so cinematic in scale that you can’t quite believe it was you that just pulled it off.
For example, my driving a jeep into an armoured train (which did nothing to the train, by the way) may have been a monumental fuck up on my part, but it was a hilarious, spoof disaster movie moment that I’ll remember for a while – it’s all the more rewarding because I was in complete control of that moment.
Essentially, if Battlefield 1 can sort out the issues with balance, and include more diverse maps that encourage players to experiment and try as much crazy shit as possible, then it could be a genuinely interesting – and immensely entertaining – release, where anything can happen.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.