Bulkhead Interactive’s Battalion 1944 was released to Steam Early Access yesterday (1 February) and it’s got fans of classic World War Two-themed shooters salivating at the prospect of some old-school First Person Shooter action. Is this just yet another title in a long line of Call of Duty clones, doomed to certain failure? Or is it something more unique?
Nice from far
On the surface of it, the game doesn’t exactly look like something all that groundbreaking. The graphics are decidedly dated in appearance and the maps are quite plain and lack some of the detail one might expect of a current gen release. The premise seems like the illegitimate love child of Call of Duty 2 multiplayer and COD 4: Modern Warfare ProMod. It’s not exactly original. Why would anyone care about this game?
Who cares, you ask?
Apparently, rather a lot of people do. My Twitter inbox was flooded with messages yesterday after I tweeted about the game ahead of its release. There seems to be a voracious appetite for just such a game. Internationally, streamers and CS:GO gods like Mike “shroud” Grzesiek and Alex “LeX” Deily embraced the game while it was in Alpha and Beta releases. They’ve added considerably to the hype around it hitting Steam Early Access.
Battalion 1944 purports to be exactly the title ex-COD4 ProMod players have been waiting for. It wants to be the game COD 2 fans were hoping the more recent COD: WWII would be after a more than decade-long wait. Every year, there’s been hope among the PC COD community for a return to the halcyon days of ProMod. Every year with each new release, it’s seemed like in the quest for ever higher sales volumes, Activision has just gotten further and further away from that ideal.
In the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive scene we’ve certainly reaped the rewards of an influx of skilled tactical shooter players in the last few years. These players were jumping ship from the game series that had alienated them one time too many and were looking for an FPS to call home. Seemingly almost every top CS:GO team has a former COD player in its ranks. Players that immediately come to mind are Energy eSports’ Jan “Takbok” Theron, Leetpro e-Sports’ Brad “BaNaNaZz” Altona and Exdee Gaming’s Jandre ‘makmuR’ van Vuuren. These are names that most South African CS:GO fans would be familiar with. The question is, will Battalion 1944 recapture the erstwhile hardcore ProMod players?
My hands-on experience
Judging by just how full the servers were on release, this might very well be the game that gets those sorts of players excited again. Battalion 1944 is deliberately less cinematic and flashy with its graphics than recent shooters like Battlefield 1 or Call of Duty: WWII. Bulkhead Interactive have made the game simple and uncluttered, prioritising gameplay over graphics. This is absolutely a good thing. It is all about the purity of the FPS action and returning to the core of what makes a title like this fun in the first place.
It really is exactly what it says on the tin. There are no perks or power-ups to artificially affect the outcome of a round. It is an undiluted FPS, focusing on aim, movement skill, and teamwork. The weapons all feel weighty and satisfying in use. The movement system has a precision and directness to it that has been lacking in similar titles in recent years. It clearly aids those players with greater movement abilities – as it should. It is rather a pity that I’m spectacularly bad at it. Hopefully, practice can remedy that. 🙂
It broke. A little.
There were, of course, a few issues on release, which is to be expected. I experienced several lockups with the UI, erratic low fps on certain maps and a few random crashes. A friend told me his screen rapidly flickered and was tinted pink at all times in the game menu, which is rather bizarre. If you want to play the game, bear in mind it is early access. Bugs are an occupational hazard. For an early access game though, it is actually quite stable.
The good news for South African players is that there are some locally hosted community servers to choose from thanks to some of our kind-hearted countrymen. You guys are the real MVPs! There has been no announcement about the introduction of ranked South African servers, but should the player base grow that is always a possibility. I for one am glad that the developers have allowed for the private hosting of community servers. This is a feature that has been sorely lacking from most recent FPS releases.
In the name of science, I spent about an hour on European servers at between 160 – 200 ping and found the experience remarkably playable. While it wouldn’t be ideal, it does at least bode well that the netcode is robust enough for SA players to still be able to enjoy the game at high ping should the ranked play not come to our shores anytime soon.
Will it be an esport?
The card system that has been implemented in the competitive Wartide game mode, introduces something akin to the economy from CS:GO. It adds a rather unique extra layer of strategy and nuance to the game. This is something that is needed to add to the spectacle for potential viewers and take it away from just being a high-speed fragfest. Good move Bulkhead Interactive! Publisher Square Enix has also apparently made funds available for potential future tournaments, so there is every possibility we might be seeing a professional scene develop around the title.
Try it! Battalion 1944 only costs R105 on Steam. A 10% discount is running til 8 February!