Shooter game Battalion 1944 is an interesting project that aims to bring back the classic WWII shooter experience only found in classic Call of Duty and Medal of Honor games. It launched on Steam Early Access last week.
The game's Kickstarter campaign that launched 2 years ago was met with excitement. And it should be considering gameplay in most modern shooter games is far slower than that of the classic titles.
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Most notably is the game's average weapon balance and map design. Despite attempts to balance weapons some of them still feel a lot more powerful than they did in Call of Duty 1 and Call of Duty 2.
For example, weapons such as the Thompson, BAR and MP40 are all so accurate and powerful that picking these weapons is essentially a no-brainer versus typical carbine rifles that earned a special place in the hearts of many Call of Duty players.
By giving these weapons better accuracy and power the experience in Battalion 1944 is different: more fast-paced than what it needs to be and more focus on spray and pray tactics. Take two or three shots from any of these and you will die without the opportunity to even seek cover.
I'm all for fast-paced shooter games, especially when I look at the horrible multiplayer shooter games that are currently on the market. I still play Unreal Tournament 2004 daily and those who also do know there are very few games out there that feature a faster experience than that game.
However, there are moments when Battalion 1944 is taking it one notch too far for what it aims to be. I even booted up Call of Duty 1 and Call of Duty 2 to play a few matches to compare and to confirm my suspicion.
In terms of map design the game currently offers several different flavors of what is essentially the same experience: Coastal, Liberation, Manorhouse, Derailed and Battery all play and feel similar with the only exception being the "forest" map Outpost. Out of these maps Manorhouse seems to be the preferred for competitive play.
The game's development studio has several other maps in the works but thus far only Manorhouse seems to have that special spark. Compared to Call of Duty 1 maps Harbor, Pavlov, Rocket, Depot, Brecourt and Carentan Battalion 1944's current offering seems surprisingly average.
If we're comparing games then I might as well mention that most of these maps feel a lot smaller than those featured in Call of Duty 1. I don't fully understand the design philosophy behind this because it powers the typical and repetitive Counter-Strike gameplay where players rush a path leading to bombsite A or B with virtually no branching paths in between.
I'm not saying that maps should be identical to Call of Duty maps as there should be room for a ton of creative freedom when developing these. However, thus far the magic simply isn't there.
In short, these weapon balance and map design issues are my major pain points with the game and just because of these I still prefer Call of Duty 1 over Battalion 1944's offering with modern graphics.
Issues aside, the game plays as I expected it to play before its Early Access launch earlier this month. Movement and weapon handling is a near identical copy of the classic Call of Duty games and it works really well.
Frame rate now goes well above a constant 60 frames per second with all settings on ultra running the game on a single Nvidia GTX 970 graphics card. Which is great compared to lower the frame rates and stuttering issues that were apparent in the first few days.
In terms of game modes you have the typical Team Deathmatch, Free For All, Domination and Capture The Flag modes that are exactly as you expect them to be. In addition, the game offers a tweaked version of Search & Destroy.
Battalion 1944's flavor on top of Search & Destroy, which it calls Wartide, is interesting but perhaps also a somewhat unnecessary change.
In Wartide players choose weapon loadouts by selecting from a depletable number of cards. Every kill in this mode causes new collectible cards to spawn on dead bodies. Collecting these cards power the tactical abilities of your team as the match continues as not collecting cards will eventually result in not being able to choose prefered weapons.
This system creates for economy-based gameplay that is similar to Counter-Strike games in which you purchase weapons each round. This in turn is said to power many different competitive tactics. However, I haven't seen many players pay attention to them.
When the game launched on Steam Early Access it was met with mixed responses. This was mostly the result of several major issues that prevented the game from functioning at all.
Information on how to host dedicated servers was also missing during its initial Early Access days and eventually ended up being available via an obscure Wikipedia page that was only accessible via a static IP address posted somewhere on the game's Steam community.
Development studio Bulkhead Interactive could have easily prevented these mixed responses by hosting a public beta test for the game to address issues and by making sure information on dedicated server hosting was easily available instead of funneling players to rent servers from "official" third party hosters.
This is especially disheartening because the game now has to combat a rather negative stigma of being yet another buggy Early Access game that isn't worth funding.
Now that most of these issues are resolved the game is actually worth backing despite its apparent weapon balance and map design issues. Hopefully these issues will be addressed as time goes on because they are necessary to get the game's competitive scene to really take off.
That being said the game is still in its Early Access phase, which is something many seem to forget. Those who pick up this title will still experience crashes and glitches, but development of new, modern no-frills fast-paced shooter games is something more people should financially support.