Battlefield 1: Oh Look, Dice Removed the NDA from the Closed Alpha, So Here Are Some Impressions

After watching the game at E3, it was fairly easy to tell that Battlefield 1 – despite its WW1 trappings – was in fact a Battlefield game. After spending a few hours with the Closed Alpha which recently had its NDA conveniently lifted, I can safely confirm that yes, Battlefield 1 is in fact a Battlefield game first, and a WW1 game somewhere down the line.

Honestly, though, this is for the best. EA DICE has spent the last fourteen years refining their Battlefield formula, so suddenly deviating would be ill advised and would probably upset its rabid fan base. It’s fortunate, then, that Battlefield 1 – if the closed alpha is any indication – is probably one of the best entries of the series since Bad Company 2.

That’s a tall claim, I know, especially since the closed alpha is lacking in so much content. There’s only one map, St. Quentin Scar, and only a handful of weapons and unlocks. It’s easy to imagine a world in which the game, much like Battlefield 4, is a steaming pile upon release. As it stands now, though, the closed alpha doesn’t show any signs of impending doom, but neither did Battlefield 4 prior to its release, so who knows.

My very first impressions after launching the game for the first time – and not having to go through Battlelog in order to do it – is boy howdy is Frostbite looking good. We all know that despite its faults, Star Wars Battlefront is one good looking game. Battlefield 1 looks just as good if not better. Second to that, I actually miss Battlelog. It’s hard to get the kind of functionality it offers from inside a game. In a perfect world, we’d have both, but I suppose it’s better to have the in game stuff than simply Battlelog.

After being wowed by the graphics, I was wowed by the fact that EA DICE changed the conquest game mode. It’s no longer ticket-based but score based. Instead of having a set amount of tickets that gradually bleed based on deaths and the amount of points you have, you have a score that ticks up. It plays much the same, except that deaths no longer have a negative effect on your team’s score – that and the fact that if you’re dying, you’re not killing, and in all likelihood you’re losing.

It’s probably a toss-up which system is better. Deaths affecting the tickets in the former Conquest mode really only came into prominence at the tail end of a match when your entire team starts to command everyone not to respawn. Other than that, they’re probably in essence the same. Right now, victory comes at 200 points, but I’m sure that’s a simple server option that’ll be tweakable once the game comes out. Domination is also in the closed alpha, but those servers are mostly barren, or and everyone knows that Conquest is the way to go.

The other thing about Battlefield 1 that struck me – surprisingly – is the weather. Yup. Weather. In three separate matches, St. Quentin Scar went from bright and sunny, to foggy, to heavy rainfall. It’s a great way to extend the life of a single map (especially since it’s currently the only one in the closed alpha). St Quentin Scar definitely has a different feel depending on what the sky is doing, and with the fog especially, it can be rather tricky to see anything to kill. Other than that, the weather doesn’t seem to have any major effect on gameplay.

Destruction, too, is noticeably better than that of the previous couple games. Many of the buildings can be leveled, but not everything is destructible, and there isn’t an easy way to tell the difference without simply trying to destroy everything you run across. I suppose having certain buildings and landmarks be indestructible would make sure that a map always has somewhere to take cover.

All in all, it’s refreshing not to have as many tall buildings and urban sprawls. Those were plentiful in Battlefield 3 & 4, and boy did snipers love them. One of my biggest issues with the level design of Battlefield 4 was all of the tall buildings that could not be destroyed, and had roofs that could not be accessed on foot. Snipers always found their way up there – usually thanks to the transport chopper – and though they were certainly not playing for the objective, they were also quite the nuisance.

If St. Quentin Scar is any indication, much of the battle will take place on the ground instead of the many rooftops, and if there is any verticality to other Battlefield 1 maps, it seems likely that it’d be hard for players to reach those positions thanks to the lack of helicopters. They’d have to jump out of a moving plane, which is possible, but they move much faster than choppers did.

The game might be lacking helicopters, but there are plenty of other vehicles to pilot and drive. Dominate the skies with three separate planes: attack, bomber, or fighter. I was never a great pilot in the previous Battlefield games. I mean I could fly quite well, but when I had to actually shoot at something while doing so, I fumbled – hard. Dogfighting in Battlefield 1 is much more accessible, and you can easily see why. In the modern Battlefields, planes were powered by jets, and moved really fast. In Battlefield 1they move at a snail’s pace by comparison.

Let’s not forget the zeppelins. They’re huge, and lined with guns, and up until recently, I thought they flew on rails, but I guess that’s not the case. In one of my most recent zeppelin gunning excursions, whoever was piloting flew it out of bounds and got us all killed in the process. That was fun. Although I suppose it might’ve been a bug and not pilot error, if there are in fact pilots at all. Regardless of who’s behind the wheel, that zeppelin is eventually going down, and when it does, it rains debris over the battlefield, and destroys anything caught in the wake.

While vehicles that fly in the sky play a large part in any Battlefield game, it’s the tanks and other land-based vehicles that traditionally have an even bigger part to play. Despite how funky many of the tanks look in Battlefield 1 many of them don’t feel all too different from the ones in the more modern Battlefield games, just without some of the nifty modern technologies like reactive armor, flares, and infrared vision. They can, however, disperse poison gas.

I suppose you could consider that one of the major additions to Battlefield 1, but its damage and impact could definitely use some adjustment. Right now, poison gas damages players at 10 damage a tick, but this can be negated by equipping your gas mask. Still, though, that amount of damage is negligible and I’d like to see it cranked up a few notches. The gas shouldn’t instantly kill you the second you breathe a whiff, but it could easily do 20, or 25, damage a tick and still be reasonably balanced.

There’s plenty of new stuff in Battlefield 1, but at the same time, it’s significantly more primitive than previous games of the series, but that should be obvious. It does take place a century ago. So it’s refreshing to play a game where you’re not constantly being locked onto by enemies across the map. There are still plenty of methods in which to destroy vehicles (and kill other players), but you won’t have to worry about a support running up to you and planting C4. Anti-tank grenades, yes – C4, not so much.

As for the classes, they remain roughly the same, but with a few tweaks. Assault is now similar to the engineer and come equip with those anti-tank grenades and a rocket launcher you have to go prone in order to use. They can still tear up vehicles, but they’re a little easier to counter because the assault player has to either limit their mobility or come in close for a grenade toss. In most cases, you can kill them before they can kill you.

Medics remain about the same as in previous games, only now they’re actually called medics instead of support or assault. In lieu of assault rifles, they instead receive semi-automatic rifles as their primary weapon, although even those have an automatic configuration you can equip. They still have medkits that can heal, and a syringe that can revive downed allies. I think I would’ve preferred it if they’d gotten rid of reviving all together and maybe given medics an alternative way to help, but I guess DICE weren’t willing to take that risk. Reviving has traditionally been integral to mounting a successful attack.

Supports still have light machine guns and ammo kits, as well as a tripwire mine for blowing up unsuspecting victims. Without C4, I’m not exactly sure how supports are going to function, but I’m sure they’ll find a way.

Scout is the new name for recon, although their role is practically the same. Instead of a motion sensor, they can spot enemy players with a flare. New to the kit, though, is specialized ammo. You can equip it to deal more damage, but it’s limited. I’ve never been much of a sniper in any Battlefield game, and I doubt I ever will, but sometimes it’s nice to equip the kit, grab a sniper rifle alternative, and go to town.

There are supposed to be vehicle classes, too, but those aren’t in the closed alpha. You spawn as a vehicle with a default loadout, and can’t tweak them in any way, but in theory that’ll add a whole new level of customization to the game. Other than that, the amount of alternative weapons and gadgets you have in the closed beta is understandably limited, and it’s unclear whether there will be weapons to equip other than the ones intended for your class. I would bet there will be, but I don’t know for sure. Also lacking from the closed alpha are sea craft, but St. Quentin Scar isn’t a map conducive to that.

Overall, I came out of the Battlefield 1 closed alpha quite optimistic for the game. Once DICE LA picked up where the main DICE team left off and actually finished Battlefield 4, I thought it was a great game, but it did fall short in a few areas. Battlefield 1 is definitely a battlefield game, and any WW1 aficionados coming to the title expecting to steep themselves in history will likely walk away with a sour taste in their mouth, but anyone familiar with the series will find a familiar game that makes just enough tweaks to the formula to keep it fresh.

Of course I’m basing all of this on a very limited closed alpha. I’m presuming that Battlefield 1 will launch with roughly the same amount of content Battlefield 4 did, and not Battlefront. I’m also assuming it won’t be a buggy, unstable mess. Despite all this assuming, what I played was fun, and I’m gung ho to dive into the bigger package.


About Josh Price

Josh Price is a writer who probably spends too many hours of the day playing video games. At some point he decided to put the two together to (hopefully) great effect. He also wrote some fiction. You should check that out if you're into such things, which you should be. Reading is FUNdamental.

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