(Author’s Note: All game play shown in this article is my own, captured on Xbox One, and shared via xboxdvr.com)
Let’s be honest with each other for a moment.
We’ve all played the Battlefield 1 Beta. Judging by internet reaction, captured metrics across all three release platforms, and YouTube saturation, everyone with thumbs that function normally gave Battlefield 1 a shot during the Beta test this past weekend.
Odds are, you liked it. In fact, I’m certain most of you absolutely loved it. The general reaction from people I’ve talked to and opinion pieces I’ve read seem to be positive. Because of this, I’m fairly convinced that this bug-filled, server-failing, menu-botching, unbalanced mess of a beta isn’t actually a beta at all, but a playable ad for the final game.
Of course, if you have paid attention to beta testing sessions for games in the past few years, this is probably not a surprise to you. Most beta tests are more about stress testing servers than actually diagnosing problems with the game itself. I think BF1’s Beta takes this to the next logical step: “Let’s release a slightly playable demo of a game that is at high levels of hype, with a goal to further drive levels of hype, all while getting hundreds of thousands online at the same time to make it look like a stress test.”
Well, EA/DICE, You’ve done just that. This Beta is a bug-filled mess of a thing, but people are playing it. Server support was spotty at first, but people kept coming back. You even got DDOS’ed, making the entire thing go down for hours, but players could not be deterred from playing, and came right back when you got things sorted out. Clearly in the mind of players, none of the problems with this beta matter. Players are foaming at the mouth thinking about their next round in the Sinai.
When this is all over, I’m convinced your pre-order numbers will climb dramatically. EA Access and Origin Access subscriptions will no doubt skyrocket thanks to players who want to play the game before launch. You’re going to make obscene amounts of money on that grossly over-priced season pass of yours. Battlefield 4 and Battlefield Hardline will sell like crazy thanks to impatient players hoping for a Battlefield fix before BF1’s launch.
“But Jim,” you’re no doubt silently mouthing while you read this, “How do you know any of this?”
Well…. it’s a damn fun game. That’s how I know. That’s exactly why I say these things.
BF1’s beta is no doubt a few versions behind whatever build they are currently play-testing internally. Menu bugs (which plague the beta) will be fixed. Weapon balancing is a constant process for a game like this. Game modes will be tweaked. Weapons will be balanced. This is the 11th game in the series (not counting free to play or expansion releases) and DICE has probably been doing all the balancing and bug fixing on a near constant basis since 1942 released in 2002. They may have a poor history with servers at launch, but I’ve never felt that a Battlefield game was unbalanced at launch.
With all that said, I don’t have any issues playing a broken beta like BF1’s because I know most of what is broken is probably already fixed internally. Instead, What I mostly want to know is if the DNA of the series is still there. Is it still a Battlefield game? Is it still chaotic? Is it still cinematic? Are there still those “only in Battlefield” moments? Can i still load up a vehicle with explosives and suicide a tank?
Thankfully, the answer to all my questions is “yes” (including that last part), and I think I’m not off base saying that it retains all those qualities while somehow making itself more approachable to new players. Battlefield has gotten very complicated in recent releases, and while BF1 clearly has a lot of the depth the series is known for, the Beta showcased that you don’t need endless unlocks and pro-level experience to still provide a fun, chaotic experience. Basic weapons, vehicles, and gadgets are still quite fun. The well-known “Battlefield learning curve” may finally be less of a thing now.
It also shows that you don’t need a modern setting for a game to drive interest. Or a futuristic setting. Battlefield took a risk with the World War I setting, and mostly I’ve discovered that it didn’t really matter. As long as the game is fun and can hold your attention, I think players will enjoy this. In fact, The unified UI they are rolling out will allow you and your buddies to jump between BF1 and the other recent games, provided you all own them. You can bounce between settings at will. Variety is a great thing, and choice is good too.
The beta is filled with fun moments and approachable action, and I’m thrilled with it for those reasons. I’ve been playing this series since the first game’s release and have logged hundreds of hours in each installment since. I love the complexity the games end up having, because I end up becoming invested in the deep progression and customization the series offers. It’s hard to master. I like that. I also like that lots of people want to play it, which can be a difficult thing for a complicated game. This entry has somehow made it easier to get into if you’re not a veteran like me. That’s awesome. I want everyone to enjoy a game like this, because ultimately it was built to be enjoyed. By everyone.
The marketing team at EA/DICE released a buggy, stuttering, broken Beta, and despite all of that it seems to be enjoyed. By everyone.