2016 is flying by. It is now July and only three months out from the release of Battlefield 1. Fans have been anxiously awaiting the next entry in the Battlefield series from Dice, arriving nearly three years after the release of Battlefield 4. The developer is hard at work trying to ensure what happened to Battlefield 4 does not happen to Battlefield 1. To do this, Dice is conducting a number of Alphas and Betas to test the game and servers. We at Hardcore Gamer have spent an extensive amount of time playing through the Alpha and can say that Battlefield 1 is on track to meet the high standards set by its predecessors, albeit with a few hiccups.
For more information on the different classes, the map (St. Quentin’s Scar), and the new customization system, be sure to check out our E3 2016 preview.
Despite a dramatic jump back in time, Battlefield 1 still feels like a Battlefield game. Combat here is just as fast as previous entries with Dice stretching historical accuracy for the sake of fun. The weapons available here were used during World War I though many, like the sub-machine guns, was not introduced till towards the end of the war. The majority of the fighting utilized bolt-action rifles, which are all used by the Scout class. It’s an interesting trade-off, but one that ends up working in Battlefield 1’s favor. The game will never be as hardcore as Verdun or Red Orchestra (which is actually set during World War II), but it remains entertaining.
This is also the first Battlefield game where every class feels unique. Assault gets sub-machine guns and shotguns, which make them fantastic at close-range; Medics get semi-automatic rifles that are excellent at medium range; Support gets light-machine guns that pack a punch from a distance and when in prone; and Scouts get bolt-action-rifles capable of slaying enemies from a distance. Each class has a strength and a weakness. Assault may dominate in close encounters, but will do minimal damage at a distance. The Medic may be able to deal excellent damage and heal allies, but will typically always lose a close-quarters or long-range battle. This new system is a welcome change from Battlefield 4, a game where the Assault class dominated with its assault rifles and medic capabilities, and where every class had access to carbines.
There’s also a big embrace of Battlefield: Bad Company 2’s mechanics in Battlefield 1. Real destruction is back, replacing the scripted Levolution moments from Battlefield 4 and Hardline. Buildings and structures can be completely leveled, and the earth cratered. Destruction was always fun in Bad Company 2, instantly creating new ways to play with an explosive device, and the same is true for Battlefield 1. Now, not everything is destructible. Certain structures and scene dressing can’t be destroyed, but that’s fine considering just how much is destructible. This is the most destruction Battlefield fans have gotten since 2010, and it’s some impressive work.
Battlefield 1 is in an alpha state, but there are some pretty big and minor concerns. The game currently has issues finding and connecting to games. Once inside, it isn’t uncommon to see a few server issues here and there. This wouldn’t be a problem for most game’s alpha tests, but this is the ‘sequel’ to Battlefield 4, a game with one of the most broken launches in video game history. Dice has three months to fix it, and considering that Star Wars Battlefront launched without any server issues, Dice should be in the clear.
There are also a few UI issues to nitpick. There’s huge input delay when pausing the game and scrolling through the different options. It’s inconvenient when trying to play around in the options, or leave a game (the ability to quit a match once it completes hasn’t been implemented yet). This will likely be fixed in the final build, as will a few graphical issues.
The real gameplay problems begin to pop up in the alpha’s Conquest mode. A long time staple of the franchise, Conquest has always been the go-to mode for Battlefield. Unfortunately, it can be a drag at times in Battlefield 1. The issue here is the spawning system, which is completely erratic. Sometimes, it will spawn you right where you want, and other times it spawns you so far away from the selected objective that Conquest turns into a sprint to the objective. Some of the spawns don’t even make sense logically. A spawn at B ended up spawning the character closer to objective D. It makes no sense, and quickly leads to frustration as you spend copious amounts of time running to the objective you wanted to spawn in, and then quickly dying the moment you get there. This was likely done to give attackers a fair shot at capturing the point but ultimately makes little sense. Testing in Battlefield 4 reveals that this feature is not present, and attackers were still able to capture the objective despite defenders spawning nearby. It’s, ultimately, a feature that’s more frustrating then it is helpful.
Dice’s embrace of fun over historical accuracy does have limits, especially when applied to the vehicles. While the tanks of Battlefield 1 look very much like they were pulled out of World War I, they end up handling like their modern day counter-parts. Big and clunky, these tanks should be a bit more cumbersome and awkward to move. An excellent tank player can easily go on a multi-kill rampage, and even a novice player can rack up a respectable amount of kills. Vehicles do feel overpowered in the alpha, but there is a reason. In this version, there are only a few surefire ways to deal damage to tanks. The Assault class’ rocket gun and anti-tank grenade are great tools, but they aren’t enough. The anti-tank grenades are good but require Assault to risk annihilation to get close enough. The rocket gun is like an RPG, but due to its heftiness, can only be used with a bipod when prone or propped up against the window. There are also anti-light tank grenades for all classes, and anti-vehicle bullets for Scouts, but neither deals much damage.
So yes, tanks do feel a bit overpowered in this version of Battlefield 1. However, there is a bright side. As an alpha, much of the game’s content is locked, including numerous anti-vehicle gadgets. Powerful tools like dynamite (Battlefield 1’s version of C4) are likely to tip tanks back towards the middle. This is something we likely won’t be able to assess until the open beta where more maps, game modes, weapons, and gadgets will likely be unlocked.
Battlefield 1 is three months off and the alpha shows great promise. The class balancing is the best the series has had since Battlefield: Bad Company 2. Each has a unique playstyle that makes each viable in combat. It’s still a Battlefield game and that intense feeling of watching the map crumble as 64-players battle is something you can’t get anywhere else. As an alpha, though, Battlefield 1 still has some problems. Server issues are rampant, but the experience continues to improve each day the alpha has been out. A few gameplay issues mar Battlefield 1, but the experience has, overall, been enjoyable.
We won’t have to wait long to see how the final product turns out. Battlefield 1 is out October 21 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Those who purchase the $80 Early Enlister Edition will get the game on October 18, three days earlier. An open beta is scheduled for some time later this year.