War. War never changes. And Battlefield 1 proves it.
Ain’t no getting around it, the open beta does feel like a reskin. Where Hardline felt like a different game, and not in a good way, Battlefield 1 plays like WWI DLC for BF4. That’s no bad thing, since now, Battlefield 4 is one of the best shooters going, and if BF1 is inspired by it, that works for me.
The open beta, which runs until Thursday 8th September, offers two game modes – Conquest and Rush – each played out on a single map. So far, so Battlefield.
Guns are gloriously old-fashioned in design, but they spit bullets like every M4 or Aug you’ve ever fired before; vehicles, from tanks to planes, may look about as attractive as a 3am drunken crush, but they’re functionally identical to their Battlefield 4 counterparts. Hell, the only real divergence here is that the planes seem a little cleaner to control than before (i.e. I stayed airborne for longer than a minute) and there are horses on offer, which are ludicrously effortless to control and a joy to kill enemies while riding. No kidding, those horses are up there with the ones in Red Dead Redemption and The Witcher 3.
The whole game feels like a tidied up version of BF4, really. The new UI, which strengthens its grandfather’s bond by letting gamers access Battlefield 4 through the menu, mimics that whole Windows 8-style big tile look EA have a hard-on for (see Star Wars Battlefront and EA Access). And, in the beta at least, the dialogue options have been pared down and divided into the sections ‘Requests’, ‘Social’ and ‘XX’ for easy selection – sort of, since it does add crucial seconds to respond to an order with a simple ‘Affirmative’.
Elsewhere, there game’s not so tight.
Commanding your squad to a certain base requires a lot more precision, rather than the intuitive sweep of the area as you spam the RB button; spotting enemies, too, isn’t so slick – and frankly, the spot above their heads is barely noticeable, particularly against the harsh orange of the Sinai desert. Reviving teammates can be hit and miss, and I was spamming dead bodies until eventually they got up.
And pro-tip: Don’t hit start (or whatever the savages are rebranding start/select as these days). Every time I tried in-game, particularly after dying, I thought the game has crashed it was so slow. Quicker to quit the game and go back in than wait for it to respond. I’m putting this down the beta niggles for now.
I particularly liked how simple changes, like using the old British military phonetics (Apple for A, Butter for B, etc.) makes the game feel fresh without breaking the fundamental gameplay – unlike, whisper it, Call of Duty. Why they’re using Royal Navy spelling alphabets in the middle of a white-hot desert, though, is a little unclear.
Ultimately, Battlefield 1 beta feels like it’s part demo, part Dice saying ‘we’re not gonna fuck up this launch like Battlefield 4’. We shall see…
Battlefield 1 goes over the top on 21st October.