EA continued the their pre-release shooter content with an Open Beta for October’s Battlefield 1, starting this past weekend and going through this Thursday. I put in a good chunk over the weekend, both solo queue and with a buddy and thought I’d put down a couple things. It’s a beta and there are certainly a couple little quirks about it – mainly in regards to loading post-match screens and loading into games – but there’s more good than bad here.
To me, the most important thing that this beta had to do was do what the Titanfall 2 Tech Demo didn’t – feel like a logical progression in the franchise. Where Titanfall 2 felt like it was lacking in that identity, Battlefield 1 very much feels like a Battlefield game. If you’re coming into this game from a more arena-style FPS standing, you will struggle a bit with the learning curve. This isn’t a fast paced game – the sheer scale of the maps prevents that from happening. Games take a good chunk of time, and it’s entirely possible to play entire games without seeing huge portions of the map. Weapons may kill quickly – the time to kill is certainly faster than some shooters, but you do have a little downtime before a respawn. If, on the other hand, you’re a Battlefield series vet, you’ll feel right at home – especially if you’ve played the early games in the series. I said after E3 that this one evoked the same feeling that Battlefield 1942, the first game in the franchise, did for me. Now that I’ve had a little time to play the game I think that comparison still stands. It feels like a natural progression for the series – the same parts of the original game that made it so much different from the rest of the FPS scene still are there, while the advances in the genre over the last 13 years that DICE has picked up feel at home in the game.
What is less important about this beta to me are the nitty gritty details about things like the weapons or gadgets and vehicles. Sure, it helps a little to know about how the rifles behave with bullet drop and damage-per-shot; and it certainly is important to know how to counter the vehicles whether you’re in one or on foot. But ultimately, those are the things that matter more in the final release. For now, I was much more interested in finding a couple weapons/classes that I liked playing and just getting in as many games as possible. I would say that my biggest issue with the minor details like that has been that spotting enemies feels a lot more hit-and-miss than previous games. As a mediocre sniper, I really take advantage of spotting enemies for my teammates to finish off, and even when I use the spotting scope in this one, sometimes they don’t get marked – and if they do, they don’t stay marked for long. Maybe it’s just a quirk of the beta, but compared with Hardline and Battlefield 4 – the two most recent entries in the series – it hasn’t felt nearly as consistent. Where I think Battlefield always shines is the atmosphere it creates. There aren’t many shooters that actually feel like a huge battle – Titanfall did to an extent, and Halo can with big teams – but Battlefield has always felt just like its title says. And because a huge part of that atmosphere is due to the scale and scope of the matches, this is one game where I really think you need at least a friend or two to play with. Playing solo the other night was not fun – my spots were going unfinished, even in a squad, and it felt hard to get into a rhythm. Playing with my buddy from college though was the total opposite – we were consistently finishing off each others targets, holding down Conquest points (frequently just us two together) and routinely placing in the top quarter/third of the leaderboard. Running two snipers and communicating made holding down the B Flag not only possible as a duo, but just a ton of fun. You have a pretty surprising view of a lot of the battle from B – you can easily see and snipe to A, C, and D flags as well as the intervening portions of the map, in particular the village. After a bunch of games on this one Sinai Desert map, I feel like holding B and C might be the key to a Conquest victory as they give you a really good amount of map access and overwatch. Good snipers – AKA not me – can easily post up near B and snipe all the way across to the rocks near F and G Flags. While they can’t hit the actual Conquest points, they can provide some cover from enemy snipers in those rocks – in fact, the only point that they can’t see at all from B is E Flag which in my experience so far has had the least combat, but the most vehicle combat.
Battlefield 1 is coming into a crazy packed launch season this fall with a lot of hype. EA has really been pushing it since its spring announcement, perhaps knowing that it’s going to really be competing with two Call of Duty games this year. Based off of essentially a week of play, I do think that there’s definitely something here. It’s reminding me a lot of the new DOOM game from earlier this year, which I just finished the other night. Both games are clear examples of taking what worked exceptionally well in their early entries and finding ways to work in modern touches. They’re great examples of progression within a franchise without abandoning the identity of the series, which is no easy feat. If the full game is as strong as EA keeps saying, Battlefield 1 could do very, very well this fall.