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BATTALION 1944 Early Access Review

You're probably pretty familiar with shooters if you're on a gaming website reading reviews. Odds are that this familiarity is foundationally built upon five to seven iterations of Call of Duty and Battlefield, maybe the esports juggernaut that is Counter-Strike, and potentially a few indie games that have flamed out after a few hot months. Enter Battalion 1944, the second title developed by the team at Bulkhead Interactive: It's an Early Access shooter that seems to aspire to break the stranglehold the top titles have had on the genre for years.

THE GOOD AND THE BAD

After a few hours of gameplay, I don't feel comfortable claiming that Battalion will dethrone the kings of FPS, although I wish I was. On one hand, there isn't much wrong with this game; the weapons feel balanced and carry the right weight to feel satisfying, the kills come quickly and match the satisfaction from simply firing, and the pacing keeps the action moving to prevent a lag in intensity. Bulkhead Interactive hits the nail on the head when focusing on these elements. The real gem is the hitboxes, which are perfect, as often this is one of the primary problems with non-AAA titles in the shooter genre. The class system is built around a card system that allows you to select a class to respawn as after each death, and although there are signs that there are skins available through purchasable boxes and leveling up, they will most likely be tame in comparison to other genre titles. (Let’s hope that it stays that way.)

On the other hand, there are some problems with Battalion, but it's still in Early Access. There are some things I think deserve a bit more attention, but they aren't major. One of those things is how sparse the game feels. It isn’t that I want a single-player mode or more dressed up character models, but I think it's missing some sort of uniqueness that would help it stand apart. Give me some fancy music, or even the ability to customize classes a bit more and we are in business. These aren’t issues, but I want to feel more connected, and I just don’t. Perhaps this is the goal, though? Maybe Bulkhead Interactive wants me to connect with my teammates while playing their game, not just connect with the game itself.

There are also some mechanical things that need to be addressed. Optimization issues create a consistent visual tearing during matches, seemingly regardless of low to ultra texture settings, and turning any other options on or off. It’s not really a big issue, but it can take away attention for the brief second between life and death. The primary killer plaguing Battalion revolves around the significant issues maintaining server load after the release. Finding a game is ridiculous. It takes forever and there is no end in sight. It makes playing for any period of time difficult. (And you can forget leaving a server to try another one — that's suicide.)

THE VISION

Bulkhead Interactive describes their goal as providing a balance between modern quality and classic gameplay, in an effort “to give another option to the everyman competitive player”. While there is a clear divide of skill in matches of Battalion, it's a great thing because it was the goal of the developer, even if it might alienate some of the audience. On more than one occasion, simply running past an open doorway resulted in an almost instantaneous death, prompting a knee-jerk reaction to play slower, which I was also punished for. After getting the hang of the speed and skill balance, the game became much more enjoyable. The maps are not overly large or complex, but instead seem to be focused on form over function. The developers obviously took a card out of the Counter-Strike playbook on map design, as there are natural choke points for strategic positioning and just a few focal points for objectives.

The title is built upon the Unreal Engine, which allowed for character models that are simple, but attractive, which is the same that can be said for all of the other models and animations in the game as well. There has been a lot of emphasis put on allowing this game to be dictated by the community through modding, and the framework supports it.

7

The Verdict: Great

It's easy to criticize the server issue, but I am going to take a different route and say that I love Battalion despite that. Was it inconvenient? Sure. Did it make it just a bit harder to review? Yes. But I don't care about those things. I love that people wanted to play Battalion so much that they crashed the servers, and in a way that proves that there is a demand for something else. Battalion might just fill that demand.

Alex Mickle
Written by
February 21, 2018
Published in FPS

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Alex Mickle is a gamer that traces his roots to JRPG’s on the PS1, but ultimately found his way to PC gaming by spending every afternoon after school playing Counterstrike at a local LAN gaming café. He is a father and husband that splits his gaming time into bursts whenever he can find time, or when ever he makes time. Alex enjoys variance and versatility in his gaming experiences and can be found asleep on the couch with a twitch steam on the television at the end of almost every night.

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