Wars Gone By: Battalion 1944 And The Ghost of Call of Duty 212 Feb 2018 0
World War II was the conflict that broke the FPS genre. Every game wanted to be Call of Duty and every reviewer was tired of low-quality Call of Duty clones. Now, Activision's behemoth is heading back to the conflict, for better or worse (mostly the latter). But Bulkhead Interactive, the developers of Battalion 1944, are nostalgic for the good old days of the recent past – the golden era that was Call of Duty 2.
Since Battalion 1944 is a multiplayer shooter, there's no plot to speak off. And if you're a person reading this article on Wargamer, chances are that you already know the background of WW2. If you don't, well, congrats on finding our site! It seems SEO isn't just a smoke and mirror ploy to use repetitive writers. Anyways, Battalion 1944 is set in Western Europe post D-Day, which means we'll be fighting in Normandy (and Netherlands) once again. You'll be playing as either the Allies (read: Americans) or Axis (Germans).
What about the game play? B1944 is definitely a twitch-shooter – this is done purposefully, so as to recapture what made CoD2 multiplayer so great in the nostalgic memories of many an old gamer. This means that all weapons are hitscan (actual bullets seem to remain the sole purview of Battlefield series), quick-scoping is definitely a thing, and almost all the enemy players you'll ever see will be clearing corners by jumping and shooting. NBA players wish they spent so much time airborne.
Hardcore historical shooter a la Day of Infamy or Red Orchestra this is not. Regenerating health is here in full swing. You will always know how much ammo you have – even if you won't be able to reload a Garand mid-clip. You will see all the weapons you know, even if their function has been tweaked to serve the game rather than historical accuracy. Also, I doubt that highly visible, palm-width identification armbands were standard issue in 1944 but hey, let's not get picky.
Now that we know what we're dealing with, we can tackle the main game mode that's supposed to the penultimate B1944 experience: Wartide. The name alone might conjure images of capturing points and shifting front lines... but no. That'd be too much fun. Wartide is the bomb planting/defense mode that you already know so well from from all the Counter-Strike maps that start with “de.”
Allied (read: American Ranger) team spawns and picks up the bomb. Their task is to plant it on one of two artillery ammo caches and guard it until explodes. Alternatively, you can slaughter the opposing team. The Germans have to wipe out the Americans and defuse the bomb if it's already planted – so it's possible for the Allied team to get a post-mortem win. All the matches I have been in were 5 vs. 5 affairs (and often 5 vs. 4). And no respawns! One match of Wartide is played until 20-odd comultative victories, which teams switching sides in the middle.
However, B1944 is not Counter-Strike, so there's no weapon saving between rounds of the match (unless you “bought” yours) - the devs feel this encourages more aggressive play stile, as you don't spend the end of the match camping while clutching your salvaged M4. Instead, you spawn with a semi-auto rifle (G43 or M1 carbine depending on faction), a pistol and one of each smoke and frag grenades. However, you can then choose a class, which will replace your primary weapon and maybe fiddle with how many grenades you have. The trick here is that each team is allocated a certain number of tickets for those classes. To get more, you need to stay alive and collect class tokens from dead friends and enemies. There's also a limited number of additional grenades that you can take (class permitting) and those pools are not refilled.
So far, I have only seen this system cause one guy complain about the team “wasting” rifleman (basically one-shot-kill Kar98 or semi-auto-but-weaker Garand) tickets. Snipers will always have enough tickets to be an absolute, quickscoping pain in the butt. Surprisingly enough, submachineguns aren't the be-all-end-all superweapon that they are in Call of Duty. I have also found trenchguns (both Germans and Americans get the same shotgun) to be surprisingly cool: people don't use them that often, but the ability to do a one-shot kill at close range helps overcome my old-man lack of reflexes (who am I kidding: I was never good at it).
Other game modes include the usual suspects like deathmatch and capture the flag – they typically involve more players and faster respawns. The maps are the same tight ones, though. They're good if you just want to “own noobs” - custom hosted servers explicitly do not award XP (which is... used for matchmaking, I guess).
The only unlocks in the game so far are weapon crates, and the only thing they contain are alternative skins for your guns. Everyone starts the beta with one free box and you can buy more. The skins are... easy enough on the eye and not the garish trash that you would expect from Call of Duty. Then again, this is still beta and gold weapons – the worst kind – might be on the horizon.
The maps are... nothing to write home about. You have a French Town On The Sea Shore. You have An Estate In Normandy Where War Stuff Happen. You have a Place In Netherlands. If you have seen one WWII shooter map, you have seen them all. Open areas provide lanes for snipers, buildings provide tight spaces for SMGs and each corner is to be bunny hopped with mid-air turns. It's just that kind of game, although it features at least one disabled Tiger.
Visually, the game is mostly on par with Day of Infamy or Days of War - which means that it can't hold a candle to CoDWWII. Everything just looks OK, though the shotgun model looks quite ugly when you go into sprint. There's no environmental interactivity - aside from shooting through certain kinds of cover - and that is purposefully done. The sound part is serviceable - it's not bad yet it's not great, and the Garand "ping" is done right.
Battalion 1944 so far is a serviceable twitch-shooter for people who find Day of Infamy too realistic or CoDWWII too demanding on the PC as well being slavishly attached to unlocks. It's a fairly run-of-the-mill old school shooter but it works. If that is your jam, then by all means keep tabs on the game.
This game entered into Steam Early Access on February 1st, 2018. At the time of writing, the game is due to remain there for no longer than a year.