Battlefield 1 Alpha

For the last few several weeks, EA/Dice has been hosting a closed Alpha test for their upcoming game Battlefield 1. A few of us here at PowersGaming were lucky enough to be invited to the party. Usually with a closed alpha/beta we are bound by some form of non-disclosure agreement. Fortunately for you guys however, they lifted the NDA about halfway through the Alpha and I’m now allowed to share my thoughts with the public. Neg1 and I have also combined efforts to get some great screenshots for your viewing pleasure.

SET THE SCENE

If you weren’t already aware, the game is set in WW1. For the Alpha we were given a single map to play on, “St. Quentin Scar”. The map itself is beautiful and it showcases many of the expectedly familiar battlefield ornamentation you would see in the setting’s era, fortified trenches, buildings in rubble etc. But something unexpected for me was the diversity of terrain in this map. Dice seems to have expanded from the trench warfare of WW1, in reality the trenches are only a very small portion of the map and the player will spend very little time there. The Battlefield series have always been more about fast paced running between capture points, utilizing vehicles for advantage and a few different squad member classes to add dynamics to the game. Something that would be nearly impossible with ONLY trench warfare. In order to bridge the classic elements of Battlefield gameplay, with the historically gruesome WW1 setting the developers included in the map farmlands with quaint cottages, barns and windmills at one capture point, a small town in rubble at another, a small town/village that can remain beautiful or be completely leveled during the course of your match occupies two points and all the area between them, a tiny church destroyed by artillery on the hill overlooking the town, and of course another point set in the trenches.

While it was only a single map we were allowed to play, Dice has included three different variations on the weather that cycle each round you play. My first game was a bright sunshiny day in the fields and streets in and around St Quentin, rays of light breaking through trees, visibility from one side of the enormous map to the other. With this weather it was easy to recognize incoming infantry advances and spot troublesome tanks as they roamed between points. When the next round started up, while the map itself was the same, the weather was in a state of all out downpour. Grey cloudy skies, rain coming down in every inch of the map. The ground clearly damp, with rain water puddling the ground. In a rainstorm the map for the most part plays the same, visibility is a little limited as you can’t see all the across the map, but otherwise it’s just visually another take one the same playing field. To some debate, my favorite weather for the map came on my third play, fog. And when I say fog, I mean “FOG”. Visibility is very limited, which completely alters the feel of your environment and changes the way you play the map. When a tank rolls up on your squad it’s almost always a surprise because you more than likely could not see it coming at all. Looking across the map you can barely make out the faint silhouettes of enemy infantry and vehicles as they move around, but you can’t exactly tell what they are, nor “q spot” them.

Overall, whichever weather pattern you like the best, the map itself is a beautifully designed environment. Even my wife was impressed with how realistic it looks and feels. Dice has done a top notch job with the graphics in Battlefield1.

THE CLASSES AND WEAPONS
ASSAULT
Assault: Your shock troops will be the hammer of your infantry squads. Armed with a selection of SMG’s or Trench Gun (shotgun), AT grenades and an AT launcher. This is the close quarters hammer of your squad, with a side serving of explosives. The assault class on its own can make short work of a tank. One well-placed AT grenade can disable tank tracks; good thing you get two! The launcher is a little more cumbersome, and must be deployed to be fired, but they get the job done. While a single experienced assault class player is a force to be reckoned with, just two of them in your squad should be able to quickly destroy or disable a tank regardless of experience.
MEDIC
The medic class takes the field with a selection of semi-automatic rifles, deployable med-kits and a syringe. For those of you that love the DMRs of BF4, this is your class. All rifles in the Alpha contained two “Clips” of 5 rounds each giving you a total of 10 rounds before having to reload. A new feature to the battlefield medic gameplay is the ability to “q spot” a teammate to toss them a med-kit, this is very handy when compared to the previous method of switching away from your gun to select the kit then toss it and switch back. Obviously defibrillators weren’t a thing during WW1 so they have been replace with a very vintage looking syringe and vile of a mysterious black liquid that will revive your teammates, and yes, it will also kill your enemies. I wonder what miracle drug this is supposed to be?
SUPPORT
Your support class is still your machine gun toting ammo mule complete with the deployable ammo station as well as trip wire bombs that function much like the claymores of previous Battlefield games. Unfortunately that’s about the extent of this class, surely they’ll add more in the beta.
SCOUT
This is your recon class, or sniper class. There’s an assortment of bolt-action/lever action rifles either with or without scopes. K-Bullets, offer increased damage against armored targets. A flare gun that can be used to reveal the location of enemy troops nearby. Not the most useful class during a match in the fog as the range of visibility is greatly reduced.
All of these classes are equipped with a semi-automatic pistol, frag grenades and hatchet (upgradable to trench shovel). There’s not much to say about these secondary weapons aside from the melee weapons. And the animations are beautiful. When try to hit your enemy there seem to be a couple of different animations of your character slicing or dicing into the bad guy. But you’re completely exposed when you do so, if there are other enemies around while you melee someone, you’ll most likely be killed immediately afterword. But it’s so worth it! There’s also a “charge” feature if you have your primary weapon out, they’re all fixed with bayonets. While sprinting if you press the melee key your player will scream and take off running a little faster with his bayonet held out. You lose in your ability to turn while this is happening so make sure you hit your mark, and of course this kill animation is quite fulfilling also.
THE VEHICLES
Vehicles
There are three type of tanks in the Alpha. Each side has a heavy tank. The German is a 3-seater with the driver having only a machine gun with two seats for gunners controlling side mounted cannons. The “Allied?” tank is another beast all together, effectively a box on tracks. The driver has a forward facing cannon while there are five additional seats, each equipped with machine guns. Both forces on the battlefield are allowed to use a smaller one person tank. This thing is the most versatile of the armor presented in the Alpha. It features a rotating main cannon turret that can swap ammo our for canister rounds. But aside from its artillery this tank can also deploy a mustard gas cloud (each infantry player is equipped with a gas mask) or drop a deployable med station to heal your team mates on foot. Aside from the tanks, there’s an armored car that seats 5, has a rotating machine gun turret and all other passenger seats having machine guns.

While this feature is still a bit buggy, the developers have added animations to getting in the vehicles. When you walk up and press E to enter the camera zooms out a bit to show your player model opening a hatch or door and climbing into the vehicle. This does also present and issue if you’re used to hopping in the vehicles for safety, you can be shot and killed during this animation and there’ pretty much nothing you can do about it. Enter at your own risk…

There were a few planes in the Alpha. But I will say I’ve never been much of a pilot and didn’t spend much time in them other than to spawn. They’re slower than what you’re used to from previous Battlefield games, obviously being bi/tri-winged, but most all of them do have an extra seat or two for gunners. Flying definitely presents another marvelous perspective of the beautiful war torn battlefield. OH, and they don’t necessarily explode upon crashing. I recall witnessing at least one pilot crash into a windmill only for the plane to fall to the ground, the pilot then jumped out and ran on to capture a point.

Another point on vehicles, the developers seem to have done away with the “engineer class” but not completely. If you spawn directly into the driver seat of a tank or plane, your weapon loadout as well as player model are different than they would be if you spawn elsewhere then climb in. The gun you get is “meh” but you have a hammer, i.e. repair tool…

One final vehicle I’ll talk about is the “Behemoth”. At some point in the conquest match the losing team will be granted a giant zeppelin to help turn the tides against the enemy. While its usefulness is met with much debate, it seats several people featuring large caliber ground pounding guns as well as bombs to be dropped. I have seen these things completely tip the scale against the winning team, and I have also seen them go down quickly and make little difference at all. The behemoth itself is longer than the town is wide and when it goes down, its metal frame and flaming wreckage are left behind as a new part of the terrain your infantry men must navigate around.

A BIT MORE ON GAMEPLAY
Gameplay
The environment is quite realistic feeling. What better way to appreciate the beautiful scenery, than to completely destroy it? And you can! Nearly everything on the map can be demolished, and you can tell they put a lot of work into this feature. You can drive your tank down a quiet street, but why, when you could just drive straight through the walls. Suspect there an enemy squad inside that building? Blow a hole in the wall and rain down bullets, or more explosives, whatever. The town of St Quentin can start out at the beginning of each map as a compact close quarter’s combat style urban area, but by the end of the match could be leveled to the ground and playing much like the open fields surrounding it.

They gave us two game modes, Conquest and Domination. Domination was the same map but only in the town portion with on 3 capture points and no vehicles. Both modes I found to be pretty fun.


BF1-sceneOverall… The game is amazingly beautiful and very exciting. I did run into a few bugs here and there, like falling through the floor when I die, some annoying walls that just didn’t want to be jumped over like the rest of them, some minor causeless teleportation on a couple of occasions. But it’s important to remember this an Alpha. It’s obviously not a finished product, but for an Alpha, I was extremely impressed. I didn’t really notice anything I would classify as a net-code issue like what plagued Battlefield4, so it’s got that going for it. Will I pre-order? It’s still too soon to tell for me, let’s see how the beta goes, then maybe I’ll decide. I’m definitely looking forward to this game’s release, as it will most certainly continue on with the chaotic large scale warfare traditions we’ve come to know and expect from the Battlefield series.

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