With Dice recently announcing the closing date for Battlefield 1’s Open Beta (September 8th), here is a quick overview of what I got from the beta, after 20+ hours clocked in as of the 6th of September.
The beta gave players access to a single map, Sinai Desert, and two game modes; the signature battlefield mode ‘Conquest’, and ‘Rush’ both offering the players a different gameplay experience. Right from the get-go we can see that Dice have been fearless in regards to changing the now cherished Battlefield formula, with some of the franchise’s fundamental mechanics being altered somewhat dramatically; leaving the overall gameplay feel of Battlefield 1 jarring at first, yet ultimately refreshing after learning to understand the game’s surprising level of intricacies.
As a veteran Battlefield player from way back to the first ‘Bad Company’ title, I was immediately thrown off by certain weapon changes present in the newest instalment. The way in which Dice develops its weaponry in the Battlefield franchise is arguably one of its selling points. Realistic bullet damage, bullet drop, ranging bullet velocities and realistic recoil making shooting a weapon in Battlefield a joy to behold in itself. Weapons in Battlefield 1 have carried this trait to the next level. Being set in the First World War, the weapons handle and work totally differently compared to your modern M16 or AK47. This translates perfectly within the gameplay, with weapons being challenging to use in a lot of scenarios, with slower reloads and lower velocity bullets leads to gunfights becoming brutal skirmishes that test the players skill from start to finish.
Vehicles also play into this theme, being slower and clunkier, yet still managing to feel completely immersive and tactile. Planes and tanks feel like titans during an engagement, creating a daunting dynamic of man against machine in nearly every match I played.
Classes return from previous Battlefield games, but here in Battlefield 1, they have been streamlined to perform certain functions in a more niche manner. The ‘Assaulter’ for example, is a class outfitted with equipment such as Anti-Tank grenades, making them a real threat against vehicles; but limiting their supportive capabilities as a result of this. Other classes include the Medic, the Support and the Scout/Sniper class. Each bringing their own strengths, weaknesses and mechanics to each match.
Despite the major success of the beta, it isn’t short of issues. The ‘Frostbite’ game engine used to make Battlefield games is often a glitchy experience to say the least; and Battlefield 1 is no exception. Clipping issues, hit registration issues, spawning glitches etc; unfortunately impacted and ultimately dragged down my experience with the beta. Luckily this is a testing build of the game and Dice are likely to iron out a large majority of these issues before its late October launch. The Battlefield community has also spoken out about certain design choices that many see as negatively impacting the overall experience. These include the introduction of a timer in Conquest and the changes to scoring in Conquest, with Battlefield 1 being much more focused on playing objectively rather than a supportive role or offensively; ultimately alienating many veteran players who see the formula as perfected as it can possibly be without these changes.
To summarise, Battlefield 1 does exactly what you want a Battlefield game to do and then some. Offering some of the most immersive and graphically impressive multiplayer moments I have experienced in an online shooter in a very long time; but it falls short in terms of functionality, being one of the most poorly optimised Betas I have ever played.
Expect a review on Gameluster for the full release of Battlefield 1 next month.