Why Battlefield 1 Triumphs Over Other FPS Multiplayer Games

Before all micro-transaction hell broke loose across the genre, there was a little shooter set during The Great War that stood firm on the podium.


Released before we were blessed with David Fincher’s Mindhunter series on Netflix and before we witnessed EA’s catastrophic downfall with Star Wars: Battlefront II, the holiday season of 2016 graced us with something rather special.

On October 21, 2016, Battlefield 1 deployed itself onto shop shelves, digital storefronts and through people’s letterboxes with full force. After an exceptional response following the announcement trailer, Battlefield 1 was set on becoming a big success for DICE and EA. The main competition being Call of Duty’s Infinite Warfare which failed to rally as much spark of excitement (but still performed relatively well in the first week of sales), driving a significant amount of hype and actual measurable sales – reaching approximately 3.46 million copies sold on consoles within the first week.

We’re now 14 months into Battlefield 1’s lifetime. We’re halfway through the dispatch of the season pass’s third (of four) packs. 80,000 people are still playing the game on a regular basis. There’s no sign of letting up. Battlefield 1 is nothing short of a success, which is probably why I still find myself drawn to it despite having new games with under 10 hours of play waiting patiently for me on the side.

I got LA Noire and Dead Island Definitive Edition recently, dabbling here and there for some hours before the craving for intense FPS action began to emerge. Don’t get me wrong, I adore LA Noire and have plenty of skull-smashing fun with Dead Island, but for me, holding the frontline with a bolt-action rifle at my side and grenade primed just feels all too familiar. But familiar in a good way. In a way that your favourite sweatshirt fits snuggly, not too tight or too loose. Battlefield 1 challenges me in a fair way that doesn’t leave me cussing at strangers but respecting and being impressed with the person who killed me with a headshot 300 metres across the map. I laugh when I get impaled by a lance-wielding horseman, I don’t cry and rage quit, a behaviour that seems all too common in other FPS multiplayer games.

That’s not all; Battlefield is notorious for its incredible destructible environments (Levelution, people), player-controlled vehicles, higher amount of players in matches and epic sprawling maps packed with immersive detail and intense atmospheres. Something you don’t find in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, nor the latest WW2 instalment. It’s an age-old battle between the two franchises. I remember when I bought an Xbox Magazine several years ago how it was packed with ‘Team Battlefield” and “Team CoD” freebie badges and stickers. It all seems a bit immature these days, but back then, during a time when I played every Call of Duty instalment, I had already made up my mind. I am Team Battlefield.

My older brother plays Battlefield 1, he doesn’t get much time to play anything, but when he does he goes straight to Battlefield 1. Why? Because it’s intense, set during an interesting period (although slightly fantasised in the game) and it’s fun. Although, he does have one problem with the game, and that’s the interesting season pass model. Separating new map releases across a couple of months, the model arguably ensures that players hang around for a longer time, so there aren’t significant spikes in player count. In contrast to traditional season passes, which would release all maps and content in one swoop, Battlefield 1’s season pass has been releasing one or two maps, including new weapons and such, almost a month before the remainder of content is released.

I still can’t tell if I like it or not. I think I do. Being able to demo new features before the final release almost feels like early access; it also incites the feeling of getting more bang for your buck, giving paid content a longer lifetime than a regular flash in the pan. Premium players are encouraged to play new maps thoroughly, which means I never felt like I missed anything that was released. The fact that I’ve put 200 plus hours into the game already justifies the price I paid for the season pass. Of course, everything has changed since then…

We’re now 14 months into Battlefield 1’s lifetime. We’re halfway through the dispatch of the season pass’s third (of four) packs. 80,000 people are still playing the game on a regular basis. There’s no sign of letting up.

EA and DICE have at the time of writing scrapped season passes for free seasonal content, as first demonstrated in Star Wars: Battlefront II. We all know how that went. It’s almost concrete to assume that EA intended to make lost money from micro-transactions, however, that plan got completely ripped to shreds by fans, press and just about everyone across the globe, apparently. It didn’t go well, and as mentioned in my last post, the game has been left fundamentally broken.

Battlefield 1 is the last true example of an FPS done right. Ok, the season pass is kinda expensive, yes it does dilute the player base somewhat, but overall the game worked. Will the next entry into the Battlefield series feature a return to old season pass roots? Unlikely. If it attempts the free seasonal content model it needs to get it right – no pay-to-win controversy, please. It really destroyed a game I had the highest hopes for, and I don’t want to see Battlefield fall victim to the EA money-making machine. They can make money from micro-transactions, a plethora of game do it, that’s no problem. They just have to do it right.

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Rogue Content: Star Wars Battlefront II’s Missing Features

Planet-specific skins and Starfighter arcade are among the MIA


Delving into Heroes versus Villains mode for the hundredth time, waiting patiently for players to join the showdown – a worrying sign of lacking activity – upon loading the character selection screen, the mode feels improved. Yet, I can’t help but feel like something is still lacking.

Stepping back, why does Heroes versus Villains feel better? Well, this is the result of the introduction of two shiny new heroes; Finn for the light, and Captain Phasma for the dark, providing 16 total heroes split between the two sides. Alongside a brand-new Galactic Assault map, Crait, and a Starfighter Assault map, D’Qar, these new slices of content arrive for free to all players as part of ‘The Last Jedi Season’, the first batch of content in place of a season pass. Releasing adjacent to the debut of the latest blockbuster Star Wars Episode XIII, the content intends to uphold EA and DICE’s promise to maintain a unified player base by bringing fresh experiences and making them available to all.

Following micro transaction controversy early on, efforts to rekindle excitement in Battlefront’s sequel have, to some extent, failed. The damage is already engraved deep beneath the core, with the in-game Crystal currency pretty much redundant, and a page that clearly meant to operate as a place for buying more with hard-earned cash empty and blank. It’s almost poetic, really. Areas of the game that have been cut as a result from sincere hatred towards pay-to-win structures, a failure on EA and DICE’s part, leave a sour taste. In a way, the game almost feels broken without it.

As a die-hard fan of Star Wars and the Battlefront series, I can’t help but compel myself to soldier on. I defended the 2015 reboot with the hope of seeing similar visually stunning Star Wars titles land onto my Xbox Dashboard, but it’s hard to feel amped for a game that’s been torn apart by the press and players, rightly so in most cases. It’s led to significant adjustments by EA and DICE as they backtrack and attempt to recover from a media sh*tstorm. Unfortunately, I believe they’ve already lost.

Where’s old man Luke? Draped in a fraying grey cloak, grey beard and grey Jedi ways (kinda), wielding his green lightsaber and shooting witty and grumpy comments at his foes. I’m not even kidding, where is he?

Battlefront II is in serious need of skins. Skins, arcade content and more seasons. At the time of writing, there are no announcements for the second season, leaving fans half excited to see what’s coming (Grievous, Grievous, Grievous… Come on!) and half concerned that the damage inflicted early-on has impacted development for upcoming content packs. It’s embarrassing that the community is being forced to create mods for skins and characters before the developers do. In the last week alone I’ve seen skins for Kylo Ren, Rey, Darth Vader, Boba Fett and new heroes such as Anakin and Count Dooku – all of which make me more excited than any official announcement from DICE. That’s just not right. It can’t seriously take that long to implement Han’s Hoth outfit and Leia’s Endor attire, two skins that already exist in the first game.

Has the backlash damaged the game’s reputation as well as planned seasons? Is there any point in adding new maps and heroes if the player base is already in rapid decline (evident in my experience by the lack of players when match finding)? The situation might be more complex – involving blunt conversations between EA, DICE and Disney of which we, the public, will never hear. The Battlefront II community eagerly awaits for a spark of hope.

In the meantime, I’m going to continue to force push Captain Phasma off Wookie platforms on Kashyyyk…


 

I was wrong about Star Wars Battlefront II

The reason is better than you think…

So, here’s a quick fact for you: I’ve played EA’s Star Wars Battlefront (2015) for over 280 hours. 280 HOURS. Nope, I can’t believe that either, and I refuse to let it cloud my judgement with whether the game was actually any good or not. It wasn’t. But, I did love it.

I’m allowed to say that because now that I’ve checked my Xbox profile and statistics, I have evidence. After my lifetime spent playing the bare-bones, lack-luster, but stunning-looking Star Wars Battlefront I can admit that it wasn’t a fine moment in gaming history. Quite the opposite. In fact, it goes to show how heartless a game can really be. As I write this, I have the haunting sounds of bad Han Solo and Luke Skywalker impressions circling my thoughts. Ugh.

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Classes make a well-received return

No, it definitely wasn’t the action-packed callback to the original we had all been hoping for, but here we are in the summer of 17, already hyped up for the sequel. It looks good though, right? It’s not just me? All eras, space combat, Darth Maul, Rey, Classes, customisation, Darth Maul, point system, Rey, land vehicles for both armies, Darth Maul, Rey, REY. You can’t say that criticism has been received and not acted on.

This is the game the fans (that includes me!) had been dreaming of from the first teaser in 2013. I was wrong about the sequel in my last post because I didn’t think they’d include the latest era, or the original trilogy, actually. The announcements at E3 blew me away, and I just cannot wait any longer to play as Rey, Kylo Ren, Maul, Jango and Grievous (they better bloody be in it…). No excuses now EA, you’ve opened the Star Wars floodgates onto Battlefront, so now it’s time to deliver.

Abandoning the season pass has already tipped the public in favour of the sequel, and it’s a nice gesture. It feels like an apology for the first one’s embarrassment, and so it should be, but don’t let that distract you from what EA plans on doing next to make an extra buck off loyal Star Wars fans… loot crates. Dum, dum, dum.

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Uh-oh

So far, in a galaxy far, far away, Battlefront II’s promotional material has been emphasising (like a sore thumb) the significance of Star Cards, cringe. I’d have to place a bet on EA going all-in on this money-making-model which has worked so well in previous games (Overwatch, Call of Duty, Battlefield, Injustice).

It’s not great, but I’m honestly ok with it. They’ve already said that the crates can be earned through in-game progress too, including the more advanced tiers of loot crates. Looks like I’ll be battling it out again for another couple hundred hours for those special legendary powers (yay).

Ignore what people have been saying about Battlefront II going pay-to-win, such as TotalBiscuit (I still respect the guy), because it’s nothing new. Battlefront and Battlefield already have pay-to-win packs, but I’d definitely agree that it’s not a great culture for games.

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We’re getting a single-player campaign! The force is strong with this one

It’s like cinemas. You buy a ticket to watch a film, the cinema has paid the rights to show that film, so now the two cancel each other out. In order to make a profit, the cinema sells you expensive extras, such as popcorn, slushies and exceptionally fair-priced pick-and-mix sweets. Now that all future downloadable content packs for Battlefront II are free, EA have to sell extras (loot crates) to fill the gap.

Ok, I’m not very good at analogies, but I tried to explain it. I worked in a cinema, alright…

I guess we’ll see when Star Wars Battlefront II releases on 17 November if it makes up for the hole in our hearts, and the 40GB of disappointment on my Xbox One.

 

Alexander Jones

P.S. I have recently written a piece about DLC and season pass culture, packed with sources and case studies, that I’m hoping to share with you real soon!

Game Hype: Star Wars Battlefront 2

Like it or not, Star Wars Battlefront 2 is coming.

On April 15th, at the Star Wars Celebration, we will get our first look.

Plenty of gamers shared disgruntled moans and cries of disbelief when they discovered how bare EA’s reboot was when it originally released in 2015. Being the wild card that I am I will openly admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the game. Dedicating over 100 hours of gameplay time and £40 for a season pass, I found myself hooked. But, even in my position as a blind sheep I can still see the countless flaws of EA’s Battlefront.

So, rather than asking the question of how Battlefront 2 can improve, I ask WILL it improve?

Have the big, bad cyborg bosses, sitting in their sky-high towers absorbing power from the sun and money from other blind sheep, allowed developers to implement their original creative ideas? The first thing that springs to mind for any Star Wars Battlefront hopeful is ‘SINGLE-PLAYER CAMPAIGN’, or ‘SPACE BATTLES’. Neither of which were present in the 2015 game. No wonder fans were upset, these were massive gameplay elements of the first games.

I addressed these issues in a blog post ages ago, and I still stand by my point; that this is EA’s Battlefront. This is NOT a sequel. This series doesn’t want to remaster an already popular game, but reimagine it, using the original material as a base to build from. So we have large-scale battles, beautiful and large maps, intense firefights. We are missing huge characteristics of the first series; such as classes, single-player and competitive online game modes like Galactic Conquest, space battles, different eras, etc. but doesn’t this emphasise the point? We will all relish the memories of our first Battlefront victory, but time’s changed, let’s enjoy what we have (a gorgeous looking Star Wars game) and hope that classic features make a return in Battlefront 2.

Yes, Battlefront 2. What can we expect to see, come April 15th? Well, I have a few ideas that I anticipate and really want to see make it into the sequel. 

Firstly, I don’t think that we’ll see Kylo Ren or Rey having a clash. Episode 8 will be coming out around the same time as Battlefront 2, before the holidays, and I can’t see how a Battlefront could work on two films without the final chapter. Arguably, they could add Episode 9 as DLC, but it would have to release two years after the game’s release. It just wouldn’t make sense. Also, there’s the issue of how much content would they be able to use from Episode 8 to avoid spoiling the film? The new era of Star Wars is just too complicated to touch at the moment.

Which is why I think the Clone Wars is perfect for the sequel. The lore is there, the films are done, ignore the questionable scripts and focus on those battles. It’s going to happen at some point, and I think that time is now. Imagine the battle of Genosis recreated in DICE’s stunning Frostbite engine. Even in the case of the battle of Naboo and the unbearable Gungans – it’ll look amazing. Battlefront 2015 played it safe. They went with the original trilogy and pulled on people’s heartstrings with lifelike images of Hoth and Endor. Battlefront 2 opens up more risk and creative freedom. They know what the fans want, and they have the resources to pull it off.

A single-player campaign has been confirmed by sources across the web, but space battles are still in question. I assume that EA have heard the complaints even if they weren’t listening for it. So, I expect to see these painfully regurgitated outcries sought to. It would be fairly dumb not to, wouldn’t you think?

Again, I expect another £40 on top of the £40 cost of the base game for the season pass, it’s just EA’s way. Battlefield 1 had the same model, and it’s sad to see it become commonplace, especially at such a high price. Compared to other season passes that retail at £20 (Witcher 3 for example), it’s not difficult to question its actual worth. Unfortunately for me this is a Star Wars game, and I’m more than likely to spend the £40 for a handful of extra hero characters (Jango and Grievous better not be DLC!).

Let’s see the Battlefront we deserve on the 15th. For goodness sake, give the people space battles!*

Alexander Jones

*Disclaimer: I don’t care much for the space battles, I’d rather be on the ground. But, hey-ho, FOR THE PEOPLE! 

 

My Game of the Month – December: Star Wars: Battlefront (EA)

 

I’m a bit late writing this post due to pesty essays and dissertation stress (not actual writing). Again this game wasn’t released in December, but I played a crazy amount of it and therefore that’s why Battlefront makes my Game of The Month!

As a pretty dedicated Star Wars fan the announcement that Star Wars Battlefront was making a return via ‘next-gen’ consoles made me pretty damn ecstatic. The original Star Wars Battlefront games were basically my gaming childhood (as well the occasional Pokemon game). Yeah being a Jedi or Sith is cool, but don’t lie, the ability to play as a ground soldier in this massive universe was so much cooler. Luke who? More like Gary the stormtrooper or Simon the legendary sniper battle droid. Didn’t hear about those characters in the films now did you? Exactly. Not only was one of my favourite game franchises coming back but it was also being developed by the perfect team that is Dice. Dice!? The same guys that make those awesome Battlefield games that I love? I couldn’t ask for a better scenario. Well things began to get pretty bumpy down the road with news that the game would lack a tonne of content, but in truth, it didn’t hinder my experience all that much. The complaints rooted from announcements that the game wouldn’t feature elements of gameplay from the originals such as space battles, galactic conquest, campaign of any kind, the clone wars, vehicle spawns and numerous planets. Not much then. I sympathise with these complaints, I too loved these aspects of the originals. However, I understand that this is Battlefront EA. Not Pandemic. I knew from the beginning that this game was likely to be quite different from the first ones, but maybe not to the same extent that it was. I was a little disappointed that the clone wars wasn’t included, but amongst my overwhelming joy that Battlefront was returning at all felt like a Jedi mind-trick convincing me that this was the best thing ever. 2015 couldn’t have been any greater, Fallout and Star Wars were back and that’s pretty outstanding.

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Let’s dive right into this thing then. Already playing the open beta before the release I had a fair idea of what to expect from the new game. It didn’t disappoint. This game looks gorgeous, it has to be my best looking game on the Xbox One, Metal Gear probably gets a close second on this. I read the promotional material about the design teams going to the same locations that the films were based on and this definitely reflected into the final product. Hoth LOOKS like Hoth. Tatooine LOOKS like Tatooine. These planets feel real, Hoth makes you cold, Tatooine feels baren yet inhabited with life and Endor, well Endor is the best. Literally, Endor is the most impressive world to be in, it’s lush and alive and most of all, feels pretty damn believable. Ewoks run around their silly wooden platforms (which make for amazing multi-leveled combat), Lizards crawl up trees, and weird space snakes slither in and out of burrows. The attention to detail is impressive, most impressive. Seeing as most first-person competitive shooters offer pretty dull and static maps, Battlefront is fresh. The only problem I have with the immersion is with the sometimes wonky voice acting of the heroes and villains. This has been brought up several times by other reviewers, I have less of a problem with it than most, but it can break the immersion somewhat. Luckily Temuera Morrison (Jango Fett and Boba Fett) continues to be awesome and voices Boba Fett in the game, so that’s one original voice. The worst is probably Vader and Han’s voices. Besides that, the aesthetics of this game are pretty breathtaking.

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Next we have gameplay. Put simply it’s a ‘dumbed’ down version of Battlefield, or so you’ll be told by the internet. I’d partly agree. The gameplay has definitely had a more arcade-like overhaul and I think this may be a move towards a more casual gamer. This is Star Wars (now owned by Disney) and I think that with the anticipation of Episode 7 EA decided to target this game at everybody. It’s a game that is easily accessible, just pick up a controller and join in so to speak (if only there was a split-screen online experience. Shame). The guns arguably feel pretty samey, they are after all all laser guns that go pew pew. There’s only so many ways a blaster can shoot, and I feel that these guns are closely representative of those from the films which is great aesthetically. It just doesn’t translate that well from a gameplay perspective. That said, these guns thankfully all feel punchy, especially the targeting rifles, they provide some powerful firepower. The standard blasters you receive from the get-go (the E11 and A280) are pretty well rounded on their own however, which creates this feeling that there’s no real need to purchase any of the other blasters on offer. That said, it’s nice to change the fire-rate every now and again. As well as your primary blaster you have access to ‘star cards’, which are equivalent to Battlefield tools with usage limited to a cooling down system. I like this form of playing, it is inevitably arcade-like but it’s different enough from the average shooter that I’m ok with it. These ‘star cards’ offer you abilities such as the Jetpack, thermal detonator and other helpful tools like the ion torpedo. As well as these ‘star cards’ you have traits which reward you with special abilities from kill-streaks, and power-ups found on the battlefield which provide more effective abilities, such as the smart-rocket launcher (great against AT-STs) and bubble-shield to protect yourself and teammates from oncoming blaster fire. Among these power-ups you will also find the occasional vehicle pick-up or hero pick-up. These pick-ups will place you in varying vehicles (including the AT-ATs but with a limited timer) and the hero pick-ups let you pick from three heroes or villains depending on which side you are on. Of course the hero pick-up is the most thrilling of the lot and you will almost definitely see several teammates racing towards the pick-up to play as their favourite character. It’s undeniably fun playing as one of these comically over-powered figures on the battlefield wiping out as many enemies as you can before finally being overwhelmed by the entire team. And you will become a high-priority target pretty quickly. It’s unique and a great aspect of the game, if you’re able to reach the pick-ups before some Jetpack idiot snatches it right before your eyes (TIP: always be that Jetpack idiot).

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Yes this game is definitely an online-orientated game. The single-player and co-operative aspects are dismal. If you’re looking at this game without an online subscription don’t even bother, there is literally 3 hours of gameplay there if you push the boundaries. I myself have played these sections repeatedly to obtain 100% completion but once I’ve completed master difficulty I’m out of there. Chewie hit it! But seriously, don’t buy this game if you don’t plan on playing online.

Sure, there are loads of things missing from this game that were present in the Pandemic games of the same title, but this is a new generation of Star Wars. This is EA Star Wars. With all the advantages and disadvantages that come with it. I will happily accept the fact that this game may be a little over-priced for the content that is available, but without this, there’d be nothing. And I know which situation I’d rather be in. Give me a beautiful looking, over-priced but fun Star Wars game over nothing at all.

Alexander Jones

Bonus video I uploaded to Youtube: