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In 2016, Bulkhead Interactive started up a Kickstarter page to fund their ideal shooter: Battalion 1944. The game “recaptures the core of classic multiplayer shooters and revives ‘old school’ FPS for the next generation.”
The current market is dominated by Call of Duty as the largest shooter. In fact; according to Forbes, the latest release (Call of Duty: WWII) not only dominated the market in December but was the best-selling game of 2017.
With Call of Duty and Battlefield going back to a World War setting, concerns for Battalion 1944 are inevitable. The big question is whether people will notice Battalion 1944 amongst other well-established shooters, and how well it will perform compared to them.
With the game now released in Early Access on Steam, how does the game hold up to that description so far?
In short, Battalion 1944 goes back to a classic FPS setting. Not just a World War II classic, but classic gameplay. Where current day shooters offer an enormous amount of customisation of weapons, classes and more, Battalion 1944 takes you back to the days where it was just you, your weapon, your sidearm, and a few extras (a smoke, a grenade, and a knife).
Having influences from Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, Call of Duty 2 and Call of Duty 4’s infamous Promod (created by players for competitive gaming), the game is shaping up to be a fun, yet competitive shooter for both veterans and newcomers alike.
However, it seems that a lot of gamers are purchasing the game not knowing what to expect and going in blind, hoping it to be flawless. No bugs, issues, nor crashes, just perfect out-of-the-box, this isn’t the case. There’s a reason why it’s in Early Access and not a full release. In its current state, there’s no denying it requires work, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game and that players should hook-off purely because “it crashes” or “it takes a long time to join a server.” At present, there's already a lot to the game. Some really good points, as well as some disappointing points (but as noted, it’s an Early Access title). Let’s run through these points and have a look at what we think could help improve the gameplay.
Firstly, let's start with the good points. Let's throw that right out there, the game is a cheap purchase that it’s definitely worth it if you love old school FPS games. If you keep in mind that it's in Early Access, and thus know it won't be running 100% perfectly and has hiccups and bugs, it's definitely worth a shot if old school shooters are your thing. In addition, the game is very easy to get into due to the familiarity of older shooters; if you loved playing games such as Call of Duty 2, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, Call of Duty 4, and Medal of Honor, it should be easy to get into. For ease, the team of Bulkhead Interactive have included a training area where you can test guns as well as practice your movement and jumps on “COD Jumper” styled training areas.
In addition, the game also brings back the old school FPS feeling that a lot of us have been craving for. The movement, the ease of getting into a game, the quick setup, it's all there. No longer do you have a ridiculous amount of choices to make before you can start playing with a gun you enjoy, you go in, choose a class and you're ready to go. The only choice you can make is what skin you would like to see on your weapon. These skins are earned via playing the game and earning War Chests.
War Chests are proper versions of loot boxes. The average game uses these boxes to "give away" weapons, skins, attachments, etc. which can improve your gameplay significantly with the right stuff given to you. By being able to purchase these, players have more of a chance to buy their way to better gameplay. Not for Battalion 1944, the War Chests are available by earning them through gameplay as well as purchasing them. However, they will not include weapons, attachments or any of that type of stuff. They won't improve gameplay in any way. Theses War Chests will include skins that you can use throughout the game. The earnings of purchased War Chests will go towards further development of the game as well as supporting the competitions within the game.
Speaking of competitions, the game has already had a few competitions which were streamed live on Twitch and there's plenty more to come. It has potential to become a solid eSports title, with more competitions in the near future. With the recent released Competitive mode, the game is one step further towards competitive gameplay with a decent setup and a skill ladder.
With the game having a heavy influence from older games that had a console built in, Battalion 1944 also included a console incorporating a lot of settings that you can use to turn the game into your perfect set up shooter. As with older games, the console isn’t mandatory, however, as you can still use the standard settings screen to set the game up as well. Some examples of the many settings are for instance the choices for mouse sensitivity - general mouse sensitivity (when running) and ADS (Aiming Down Sights) sensitivity. This allows you to have precise aim while not having your movement potentially bottlenecked by only having a generic sensitivity. Another setting that’s very useful is that you can change the offset of your weapons, either globally (all weapons) or separately per weapon. A small detail for those with OCD: you can type the numbers you would like to use! You do not have to rely solely on the sliders.
With all those points mentioned, we cannot forget the most crucial factor of all, the developers are properly supporting their game, listening to those who support it, reading through Steam reviews, posts on Reddit, and more whilst trying to implement, tweak and change things along the way so that players can enjoy the game even more. If you play the game yourself and use Twitter, it would be a good idea to follow a few Twitter accounts that are involved with this game. Even if you’re not yet playing, it can be useful to follow the below Twitter feeds to be up to date with how the development of the game is going.
Now, with the realisation of Early Access still in the back of our minds, there are still quite a few things that are currently not running as smoothly or working out quite yet.
Diving in at the very start, the main menu is pretty basic. It works fine, it’s easy to use, but the looks could use an overhaul. In addition to the menu, the launcher currently feels useless, the only use it seems to have is the selection of the server. It would be a lot easier if players could set this as a remembered option in the settings, as currently, you must reselect the region each time you boot up the game. The in-game menu, on the other hand, hopefully, gets improved on its usage in general. It’s currently a little buggy, where I often end up trying to use it when I just died, which throws me back into the game for respawning but with the menu still visual but unusable.
Weapons wise, the game could use some improvement on some ends. For example, the sniper rifles are overpowered in the game. Besides them feeling way too powerful, it is also way too easy to no-scope away and get kills this way. While for a lot of players this could be fun, it takes away the idea in getting good with a sniper rifle, as, whilst you are practising to become a good player with it, others will just jump, hop, and bounce around doing no-scopes. Another example would be the BAR vs. the STG44. They are each other’s counter, yet the STG44 feels a lot more powerful than the BAR does.
Lastly, I’ll focus on grenades. They are working fine but at one the difficulty lies within the region of being killed or not being killed. It’s often hard to decide whether you are safe from the blast or not. Countless times we have ended up getting killed through cover rather than being in close proximity to the grenade. In addition, the icon you see pops up for both friendly and enemy grenades – which makes it a very confusing moment when you are trying to play and you don’t know whether it is one of your teammates or from the other team. The option of throwing back grenades is also absent at this moment.
Whilst the weapons surely would benefit from some improvements, the game currently leaves a lot of matches that are being played unbalanced. For starters, in general, game modes like Team Deathmatch (TDM), Capture The Flag (CTF), and Domination (DOM) the spawning areas that change across the map are messy. Half-the-time we end up spawning in front of the enemy, being spawn-killed, which takes away the enjoyment of the game. On Competitive mode, however, the spawns aren’t the issue, there are a few pointers that currently seem to be holding down the proper flow of the game. For instance, the maps are too open at the bomb site. This gives people a chance to come from literally all sides, meaning there’s barely any chance to have solid cover. Looking back at older games, there were always at least 2 or 3 sides players could use to infiltrate the bomb area, with 1 side covered so you could at least have more of a focus on the open spots.
In addition to the very open bomb sites, there are too many spots where you have too big of an overlooking area on things, giving you a tremendous advantage over the player that has planted. A good example of this can be found on the map “Rail”. Bombsite B has openings on all 4 sides, with barely any cover for your back and for the enemy team there’s a big advantage point with the cinema being right at the bomb site with a top part as well as a bottom part, giving the advantage of easier hiding and running away, and disrupting other team’s plant/defuse (depending on what side you’re playing). Despite the maps being fun to play, especially on TDM, CTF, and DOM, the flow isn’t quite there for competitive gaming.
Another issue we have noticed is in regards to the cards system. The card system is made so, at the start of the game, both teams each get an equal amount of cards for each class on both sides (resetting at halftime). When a player gets shot, he drops the card; this card can be picked up by either team, which grants the team that picked it up one more chance to use that class. Per example, if you have four cards for the Sniper class and two players take the Sniper class, the team will have two cards left to use on that side (until they pick up a card from a dead player). If the players who took the Sniper class die, they drop the card, making it available for someone to pick it up, whether it’s their own team or the enemy team. Whoever picks up the card, retrieves an extra chance to use this class in the current half.
With that said, you can still kill players and get their cards AFTER a round has ended. Whereas in Call of Duty 4 Promod you could not kill each other anymore as soon as the round ended, you can still kill your enemy in this game and get the cards. Useful, but it feels unfair as the round has ended. While it seems that in Counter-Strike this is also a thing, it doesn’t feel right for Battalion 1944.
An extra point of focus we found – but not sure whether it’s a good or a bad thing – is that there is no friendly fire present in Competitive at this very moment. If this is present when playing a match as opposed to the Competitive game mode in the game itself, then we understand the choice of disabling it in Competitive as you can’t rely on a few strangers as well as you should be able to rely on your own team.
Moving on, we also saw the return of the much-loved dedicated server system - which is pure bliss. Though it does come with somewhat of a disappointing counter. Due to the easy quick join buttons on the menu, the idea of renting/running a server is deemed a bit useless as people will rather click an easy join button than try to find a server. An understandable feature, the quick join option, though, would be a good addition if the developers could somehow include the servers in the list as well – as there’s a lot of empty servers listed at this present time.
Lastly, we have possibly one of the bigger issues – it’s the community’s toxic behaviour. Whilst the game is doing well and already has a fair amount of players, it feels like a lot of people seem to feel the need to exert a toxic behaviour in their play. This not only puts-off players who enjoy the game, but it also makes it harder for new players to get used to the game as they’ll receive continuous abuse via text or voice chat from those who think that the world revolves around them.
There is a system currently implemented within the game’s menu where you can vote to kick players, mute them, as well as report them for various reasons. How exactly the report system works is something we have not been able to figure out yet. Whether this feature is activated or not, we do not know.
After having gone through all these points and thoughts, let’s ask the same question as we did at the beginning of this article:
With the game just released in Early Access on Steam, how does the game hold up to that description so far?
With the game still having a long road ahead before it’s release, there’s already quite lot to enjoy. As Bulkhead Interactive is working through and through to improve the game on many layers, it surely looks like Battalion 1944 will be one to look out for in the future if you haven’t already. The old school feeling the developers wanted to create is most definitely there, as the game’s fast pace action nails the setup - albeit tweaking is necessary. However, as the game is still in Early Access, there’s no doubt that they will iron out as many issues and hurdles as possible to create the ultimate back-to-basics, competitive shooter.
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