The Great War, but a Great Game? Battlefield 1 Beta in Review

War is hell. Much like the comments section of any Battlefield & Call of Duty comparison video. But what did I think of it when I got hands on with the open Beta this last fortnight?

It’s up to you to decide how you feel about the choice of setting or DICE’s decision to continue with the Premium DLC model, but one thing is for certain: The game is absolutely stunning.

From the moment you spawn in it becomes immediately clear that DICE has maximised the habitually visceral Frostbite engine to produce one of the most realistic and immersive environments in a multiplayer shooter to date. In the Beta we were thrown into the vast, barren landscape of the Sinai Desert. A sprawling map made of mostly sand, a few large rocks and a small town surrounding the C objective. Despite this setting providing little more than brown earth and blue sky to adorn our eyes, the scenery is absolutely gorgeous. The Battlefield franchise is at this point synonymous with immense sound quality and I’m pleased to say that Battlefield 1 is no exception. If you own a decent gaming headset, the sound in this game will have you drooling.

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There is something immensely satisfying with the gameplay of the Battlefield 1 Beta. It’s got this addictive quality that keeps you coming back for more, even though it’s only one map at the moment.

If the player numbers are anything to go by it seems that a lot of people agree. The PStats network recently reported that the BF1 Beta had 900k concurrent total players across PC, PS4 and Xbox One. However, with all that said, there are definitely some things that could be improved upon.

Let’s get this one out of the way – the legacy bugs. Yes, this Beta build is probably a couple of months old and some of the bugs may have already been fixed, but the glitchiness of the frostbite engine in the BF1 Beta remains. Corpses floating, having to vault up an object 6 times before you make it over, floating guns and debris, vehicles exploding when you hit a small rock at 5mph, it’s a Frostbite game for sure and the problems remain. I think DICE really need to nail down that glitchiness and focus on those bugs that just seem to never go away, they’re in every BF game and it ruins the overall polish of the game and infuriates players. Especially new players who maybe haven’t experienced these before and don’t know how to overcome them.

We were only given one map in the Beta – Sinai Desert, and I think it’s fair to say that its divided opinion massively. It’s certainly not everyone’s favourite but others really enjoyed it. It’s evidently more focused on vehicles which results in lots of running around if you don’t have one. This means tanks and scouts running riot. Some people are fine with that, others find it a bit frustrating – I would say I’m on the fence on this one. There does need to a bit more cover between some of the flags, particularly between A and B. Of course there is the E flag, which is well away from the action and most people just never go there. If you don’t have a vehicle you stand a good chance of either getting sniped on the way there or on the way back. Of course running into a tank is also going to stop you in your tracks. Now there is a caveat to this, the E flag can actually be capped from the air with a plane, but the radius in which it can be capped by a plane is pretty small so it doesn’t offer much in the way of manoeuvrability – you just kind have to loop around and around. If the flag isn’t moved closer to the action which I think would be a lot better for the map, then I think it would be great if they made the capture radius a lot bigger to clenable you t capture it from the air and higher up if that’s at all possible. It would be awesome to see 2 planes dogfighting over the E flag to take control of it and if it was mostly an air contested flag, I think most people would be fine with that. I would also want to bring the tank hunter class pick up from E to somewhere more central to the action to ensure that it is picked up more often.

The spawns are a bit of an issue as well. The spawns for the flags can sometimes be way out in the open so you spawn in without cover and you don’t really have a chance. Especially if you’re spawning in on the B flag for example. You’re on B you’re killed defending it, you respawn on it before the enemy finishes capturing it but it spawns you in the middle of the desert. You’ve then got to run across open desert to get back to the flag just to get shot by the guys who are now using the cover provided by the flag cap zone itself. I think a bit more care needs to be taken when it comes to choosing spawn locations, or just provide more cover around the map in general.

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Another qualm that I have with this map is the weather event, the Sandstorm. I’m not against the weather effects as a whole, I think they’re cool and sometimes it’s interesting to force people to change up their gameplay, I just think it lasts way too long. I was in a game where I think the sandstorm lasted for about 5 minutes or so and considering that the game is only 20 minutes, this is too long in my opinion. I’m sure most people would agree that whilst it’s visually impressive, it’s not actually fun to play when the sandstorm comes in and that has to be the most important thing. It massively reduces visibility for snipers which is fine, but also for airplanes which means they just become useless. I think that it needs to last a shorter amount of time so that it does its job but it doesn’t linger long enough to start annoying people.

The next thing seems to be a bit of a point of contention with most people having an opinion about it one way or the other. The new conquest scoring system. Having played it some more and thought about it a bit I would like to see the old scoring system return and I’ve got good reasons for it. However, that’s not to say I don’t see why DICE changed it in the first place. They wanted it to be more accessible with more of a focus on playing the objective (please PTFO guys) throughout the whole game instead of players just going Rambo and getting 50+ kills. Having said that I think the old system solves a lot of the issues with the current build of the game. Firstly, I feel like it would immediately make the medic class more viable. If kills started counting towards the ticket bleed again, you’ve already got a good reason for the medic class to start reviving people. At the moment apart from actually wanting to help your team and to get yourself some extra points, there are very few reasons for anyone to want to play as a medic. Sometimes if you’re at a flag it’s actually better to kill yourself and respawn nearer to another flag that you need to take. This is all a bit of a problem. Additionally, by using the old system, pilots fighting in the air are still having an impact on the game, even if they aren’t capping flags because they’re killing players. Of course there is a downside to the old system, snipers hiding out the sides of the map have less of an incentive to move in and play the objectives but let’s be honest, you’re always going to get that in Battlefield game, especially considering how powerful, satisfying and easy to use the sniper rifles are in BF1.

I also feel that Conquest is Battlefields heritage. The scoring system is what made Battlefield so good, having to own the majority of flags to gain the ticket bleed and having games where you came back from a massive deficit by holding onto the flag points in the dying moments of the game. It just isn’t there in the same way with the current system. If you get behind on tickets as it is, it’s a lot harder to get back into the game now. I’m sure a lot of people will prefer the new system, but for me personally, I think a lot is lost with it. I also wouldn’t want it as a different mode like some people have suggested. Conquest is conquest, and at the moment we’re sort of playing Large Scale Domination.

Next up – Rush mode. Matchmaking for Rush was incredibly limited, as a result so are my opinions on it. However, I think Rush mode would be a lot better on Sinai Desert if there were a lot fewer vehicles in it. 3 tanks in a 12v12 mode is just madness. Reduce the number of tanks, perhaps just having horses and transport vehicles. And also, is 24 players enough? A lot of people would prefer to have 32 players back and I agree.

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Hitboxes on horses are also absolutely mad. As an infantry player, it sometimes feels like you get hit when you’re nowhere near a horse and sometimes you can just walk through people and trample them. You can even kill people with the sword that are behind you on your screen so this definitely needs looking at. The cavalry class is immense at the moment. If you get off your horse and run around with the rifle you get extra armour, ammo packs, health packs, a rifle that will 2 shot body shot and 1 hit kill headshots. It’s definitely overpowered but it won’t be like that at launch. Nor will the FT-17 light tank which has been confirmed as being nerfed upon release. The tanks aren’t overpowered in general though in my opinion as there are a plethora of ways to damage them and interrupt their repair cycle. K bullets, AT grenades, mines, rocket guns, cannon emplacements, planes, horses, other tanks, normal grenades, light grenades, the tank hunter class etc. People just don’t seem to know how to fight tanks yet. All of the tools are in the game, it’s just a case of people playing the game more and learning how to use them properly.

Lastly the bayonet charge, whilst one of the major selling points in all pre-alpha press releases it can actually be a bit cheesy. People are getting the hang of it now, and it can be annoying. The main problem is that it is bound to the right analogue stick the same as melee. There are too many occasions where you just want to want to melee someone and you end up charging around the room looking like an idiot. Melee combat is extremely satisfying yes and it’s extremely brutal. Having said that I don’t think you should be able to do a melee takedown from the front – even if your opponent is on low HP. It should be sides and back only – you get this weird situation where if a player runs into a room that you’re in, the easiest way to kill them is to shoot them a few times with your pistol to get them low HP and then instantly hit melee to lock on for a guaranteed kill.

Moving on, what am I enjoying? Firstly, the horses are awesome. They’re a breath of fresh air and you can have a lot of fun running around on one slashing people down with your sword. The horse animations are amazing, it’s not easy in the slightest to get realistic animal animation, let alone animation on a horse that a player can control in a multiplayer game. It also can’t be underestimated how satisfying I find the gunplay. I love the feeling and balance of guns in this build of the game. I like playing SMG in the built up village area and the medic guns have a real satisfaction to them, especially the Selbstlader M1916. It reminds me of the SKS from Battlefield 3 when it was good. Then of course we’ve got the scout gameplay, I think everyone knows exactly how satisfying that is, from the sound when you get with a headshot or just the sound of the guns when you fire and the reload animations. It has a meaty quality that other games seem to lack. The only issue I see with the gun balance is the Support class. There are some fun weapons for the Support class that can be useful especially the Lewis Gun or the Madsen, but I haven’t seen many people playing Support or throwing ammo around. Support needs an effective anti-tank gadget as well – they will have Mortars in the final release of the game, but maybe that isn’t enough and something that needs looking at by DICE. 

The airplane combat is also fantastic with real dogfights now. I actually enjoy flying in a Battlefield game which if you know me is quite a statement! No lock on, no flares or ECM Jammer. All the bullshit is gone. It’s just you, your plane, your gunner if you have one and your manoeuvres and skill that are going to allow you to come out on top. It’s extremely fun and old school.

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Destruction is in a good place at the moment too. Gone are the large scale levelution events of BF4 and in its place is smaller scale destruction that I think works much better. Levelution was visually impressive when we first saw it but after a while it just became annoying. The skyscraper collapse on Siege of Shanghai looked insane but the after effects changed the gameplay in a way that personally I didn’t enjoy. I would say that Battlefield 1 is just shy of the destruction of Bad Company 2, it offers up massive scale destruction but it also tones it back in some areas to make sure that some parts of buildings stay present to offer cover and don’t detriment map design which is a fantastic approach.

Battlefield 1 is so much more analogue – no lock ons makes for such a refreshing change in addition to the fact that people are using bolt action rifles and semi auto rifles compared to hold trigger full auto rifles like in previous Battlefield titles means that overall Battlefield 1 is a more skilful game.

Of course, sniping is easier overall compared to BF4 but, the balance and feeling of the game is great. Battlefield 1 is shaping up really well but the most important question is, was it fun playing it? Almost too much fun.

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