Battlefield 1 Beta Impressions

Sometimes a franchise needs to look backward in order to move forward. Dice wowed gamers at E3 with its new vision of the Battlefield franchise. Turning the clock back to World War I (or the Great War as it was called at the time), Dice is looking to capture the brutal, bloody, and visceral warfare of the early 20th century.

Battlefield 1 launches on October 21, so Dice has seen fit to give gamers a small taste of its revamped multiplayer shooter with the beta that began last Thursday. The beta was limited in scope, allowing players to play two game modes on a single map. However, despite these limitations, the beta showcases a reinvigorated Battlefield experience.

Old Dog

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What’s remarkable about Battlefield 1, even in this small slice, is how well it melds the classic Battlefield experience with something altogether fresh. Veteran Battlefield players will feel right at home in the massive, dynamic battles that take place here.

Character classes and game modes from previous Battlefield games both make an appearance here. The four classes (Assault, Medic, Support, and Scout) are still present. The game does a good job of encouraging players to play their role by rewarding them with upgrade points (called war bonds) every time they rank up with a certain class. This system — taken from Battlefield Hardline –streamlines the upgrade process and hopefully will make sure Battlefield 1 doesn’t become a constant upgrade hunt like Battlefield 4.

Two classic game modes, conquest and rush, also make their return here. Conquest, where two teams fight over control points, is definitely better suited to the Sinai Desert map featured in the beta. The massive sand dunes provide great cover for flanking maneuvers and the small houses make for some intense close-quarters fights. Dice’s knack for smart, well-designed maps continues here.

New Tricks

All of this might seem overly familiar, and it is to a certain extent. However, when Battlefield 1 starts to look more like a World War I shooter it really begins to shine.

Like with last year’s Battlefront, Dice really manages to capture an ambiance and mood that few shooters do. There are moments that genuinely capture the brutality and intensity of World War I. Dice has clearly taken their skills at accurately capturing the Star Wars experience and adapted them to this game.

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Biplanes fly overhead, raining down hellfire on the enemy. Tanks rumble by, spraying sand everywhere, as riders on horseback charge forward. The Great War was a strange combination of the most advanced technology of the time and old-world tactics. Dice has recreated that strange brew perfectly. Of course, Dice’s reputation for pushing visuals is also on full display, making Battlefield 1 an even more visceral, yet beautiful, experience.

Dice’s attention to the detail and authenticity of wartime tools is on full display. Every vehicle handles with weight. Every weapon fires with just a little too much recoil. This isn’t to say that the great gunplay of previous games is gone. It’s definitely still present, however it has been modified just enough to fit with the new (but old) weapons that players will be handling.

Behold, Behemoths

Another major addition to Battlefield 1 is the inclusion of massive, game-changing vehicles called Behemoths. Teams can gain control of the behemoth by capturing and holding certain objectives.

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These vehicles are particular to each map (the Sinai Desert map lets players take control of a massive, armored war train), and can really change the tide of a match. As of now, the war train isn’t too overpowered, however this could change depending on what other behemoths Dice plans on adding.

Trials of War

Unfortunately, no beta arrives without its issues, and the Battlefield 1 beta is no exception. There were obvious server issues. However, due to the nature of those issues (a DDos attack), Dice can’t be held totally responsible.

The beta did have strange slowdown when respawning. Skipping the “revive” option upon death wouldn’t actually speed up the time between death and reentering the battlefield. This is possibly a design choice, but it nonetheless slows down the action of an otherwise intense experience.

There were also some bizarre (and sometimes hilarious) graphical glitches that never broke the game but certainly broke the immersion. Sometimes soldiers’ packs would stretch out behind them for miles or an entire team would spawn without weapons. These glitches never resulted in anything as horrifying as the monstrosities in Battlefield 3, but they did tend to ruin the mood and intensity of a battle.

For Glory!

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With Battlefield 1, Dice has the potential to deliver a really unique gaming experience. The mood and setting already set this game apart from other shooters on the market. Combine that with the large-scale battles and great shooting mechanics of the Battlefield franchise and Dice could have something fresh enough to breath life back into this franchise.

Dice seems to have learned from its past efforts, as well as history itself. If the rest of the game is anywhere near as intense or full of “wow-moments” as the beta, then Battlefield 1 could shape up to be a truly special game.

Check out some gameplay footage here:

Cody Mello-Klein
Cody Mello-Klein is a writer, gamer, part-time baller, and full-time shot caller from Boston. He's a sucker for a good story and is still waiting for another Cormac McCarthy novel. He has worked as a narrative designer and has an interest in the ways games can tell unique, emotional, and provocative stories. Follow him on Twitter @Proelectioneer for occasionally witty remarks.

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