I joined the Battlefield 1 open beta this past week for the same reason I tried Rocket League out last summer — by seeing a ton of cool clips on Reddit and wanting to see the game for myself. I wasn’t expecting the same level of pure fun that came with Rocket League, but a free test drive for a triple-A shooter sounded good to me. The only Battlefield game I’ve played before this is Battlefield 4 back when the PS4 launched, which I found kind of fun but it didn’t really grab me. Battlefield 1 left me feeling the same way.
The setting is definitely unique
Popular shooters over the last ~10 years have moved forward in time from WWII to modern times and beyond. This year’s Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare involves space stations and exosuits. Call of Duty! In space! Battlefield 1 goes in the opposite direction and drops players into WW1. While you do have your typical assault, medic, and scout classes, the loadouts have been modified to fit with the times: assault rifles have physically large magazines hanging off the side, rifles are bolt action, you can charge enemies with a bayonet, and grenades are much larger and clunkier.
After about an hour of play, I can say that the game definitely feels different than many modern shooters. But, it wouldn’t be a proper Battlefield game without…
Vehicles, vehicles everywhere
If my limited experience with Battlefield 4 taught me anything, it’s that Dice likes to give people the keys to all manner of vehicle. Battlefield 1 is no different. There are tanks, of course, but they are slower, clunkier, and more of an ugly box than a streamlined death machine. Once in a tank, you can swap between the various gunner seats with a press of a button which is pretty helpful when you’re the lone gunner and you are taking damage from multiple sides. You can also fly planes, but they are more of the Wright brothers / Snoopy and the Red Baron biplane variety than your typical fighter jet. Watching two planes in a dogfight with one either exploding in midair or crashing into a cliff face is pretty excellent.
Oh, that image of a horse up there? Yeah, you can ride a horse through the field of battle while you shoot or swing a goddamn sword at your enemies. Horses are really strong, too. I don’t think I actually saw one go down in the couple of matches I played.
Maps are really big
The beta gave us one map, Sinai Desert, with two modes. Conquest is a 32 vs. 32 chaotic battle over six control points. With up to 64 people in a single game, it makes sense that the map is absolutely massive. One strange decision was the layout of the control points. Five of the points are laid out in an arc across the top of the map while the final point was all the way in the bottom middle of the map, almost like a baseball diamond with one point at home plate and five points along the outfield wall. This led to the singled-out point being held by the first team to take it for the majority of the game and most of the fighting taking place on 25-50% of the map.
Rush took place on the same map with one team on offense and the other on defense. If the offensive team takes the two control points in a small section of the map over from the defense, the map expands and the fight moves to a new section. Sticking with the unique setting of WW1, the defense can call in artillery strikes via telegraph. I like this moving arena idea a lot as it turns the giant map into a series of smaller, more focused fights.
Battlefield 1 sounds good, looks better, and lends itself to great highlights
It comes as no surprise that Battlefield 1, a triple-A shooter released three years into a console’s life looks spectacular. Animations are very fluid and the particle effects of sandstorms and destructible environments are excellent. The game also doesn’t lack in the audio department with deep explosions, the screaming of other soldiers, and bullets whizzing past you.
Battlefield 1 shares an important quality with Overwatch that I believe helped make that game the raging success that it is — it sets up great highlights and moments like the GIF above. Where else can you shoot a biplane down into an enemy tank, gut an enemy soldier with a bayonet after charging through gunfire, or slice a squad of soldiers apart from horseback? Only in Battlefield.
Battlefield 1 launches on October 21 and after playing the beta for about an hour, I can say that I won’t be buying it. I’ve fallen out of love with military shooters like Call of Duty or Rainbow Six and Battlefield 1 didn’t hook me back in. I’m not quite sure what it was, but the game seemed more like something I’d enjoy for a few hours and quickly get bored of. I’d consider buying Battlefield 1 if I had a group of friends who were going to play it, but playing enormous maps with 30 random players and praying that a portion of them have headsets isn’t my cup of tea. I think I’ll stick to Overwatch and Destiny for my multiplayer fix.
Did you play the Battlefield 1 beta? What did you think? Will you be buying the full game? Let me know in the comments below.