If its current beta is anything to go by, Battlefield 1 is shaping up to be a great addition to EA’s shooter franchise. Aside from looking gorgeous, the game also conveys its First World War setting with an impressive amount of detail. The bygone weaponry looks particularly authentic, and riding a horse into battle is only ever going to give off a historical war vibe.
I especially enjoyed the array of trains, planes and automobiles available in the beta. Well designed, their realistic portrayal showed just how much effort developers EA DICE have put into making Battlefield 1‘s setting feel genuine, however much it mashes together technology of the era. And it’s more than just a pretty face: the online multiplayer modes that the beta showcased displayed some entertaining substance behind its stylish surroundings.
The flagship of the Battlefield multiplayer experience, Conquest was for the most part as much chaotic fun in the new game as it’s always been. The amount of all-too-familiar snipers kills that I endured during this mode, however, was not. A wild, 64-man conflict, dogfights, tank battles and straight up solider-on-solider shoot-outs were all ways to play, giving gameplay the variety the large map demanded. I tried the tanks a few times, and while I enjoyed running over everything in my path, I felt their overpowered nature made it too easy to take an objective or kill an enemy.
During Rush, the other mode available, the issue of the tanks was even more prevalent – having played both, I definitely preferred Conquest. Most of the time I stuck to being an infantryman, and I found this to be the most rewarding way of playing the game. One moment that I found particularly gratifying while on the ground was when I randomly came across a flamethrower. Donning my old-school gas mask, I obliterated all the enemies in my vicinity, the ring of fire I surrounded myself with being one that Johnny Cash would have been proud of.
But while I’ve enjoyed my time with the Battlefield 1 beta, I can’t see myself buying it. All the while, I felt a barrier, something stopping me from getting enough out of the experience to commit my money to it in October. And that barrier was another game:Overwatch.
This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Every since I got my hands on Blizzard’s online shooter, which came out back in May, I’ve found it hard to love another online FPS anywhere near as much. Old favourites have been pushed to the side, with Call of Duty: Black Ops one example. After the springtime confirmation that the 2010 game would be available to play through the Xbox One backwards compatibility feature, I swore I would pick it up again. It was my go-to game at university, and I wanted to relive my Hardcore Team Deathmatch binges, a part of me almost certainly eager to return to my youth. However, once I picked up Overwatch, a week after the Black Ops announcement, my urge to revisit Treyarch’s title was extinguished. The upcoming Modern Warfare Remastered is another blast from the past I considering buying, only for Overwatch to hold my attention so tightly over recent months that this thought has been put to bed.
That this one game, so different from other shooters, could have this effect on me might seem bizarre to anyone but me. I can see that. I have my reasons, however. One is simply how vibrant the world of Overwatch is. Varied in style and colour, each map is so obviously, unmistakably different from the next. After playing in such a vivacious setting, it’s hard to go back to the dull, realistic environments of other FPS multiplayer modes – they’re just so bland in comparison.
There’s also the lack of personalities that these other, I dare say “grittier” games have when compared to Overwatch. Boasting a roster full of individual and unique characters, it’s the heroes and villains you play as which represent the soul and life of Blizzard’s team-based shooter. In Call of Duty, Battlefield and many others, you are mostly destined to play as a nameless grunt, their body acting as nothing more than a vessel with which to get you kills. In Overwatch, the characters are much less disposable, and it’s because of them that I now find it hard to go back to playing FPS games where my character has less personality than a damp cloth.
I’ve definitely developed an emotional attachment to my Overwatch favourites, and this is partly down to the work that Blizzard has done outside of the game. The studio’s produced animated shorts centred on select characters, and with their Pixar-like quality these clips give us an insight into the individuals’ lives before they were forced to fight for us, all in the name of video games. I’ve felt empathy, sadness and joy when watching these shorts – the most recent one, about Bastion (embedded above), totally changed my perspective on the turret-touting war machine.
The lore for Overwatch goes fairly deep, too, with even the maps themselves getting some in-depth treatment. Becoming sucked into the world Blizzard has created is hard to resist, and it’s mainly because of the media that surrounds the game that I feel so connected to Overwatch, regardless of whether I’m in or out of it, playing or simply perusing the associated facts and fiction. As a result of such extensive efforts, I sincerely feel invested in the characters I’m playing as, and the world they dwell in, with matches feeling more intense as a result of my immersion. I want to win because I actually carewhat happens to the Overwatch inhabitants, a feeling that no other online FPS multiplayer has ever given me.
If it had not been for Overwatch, I would more than likely have bought Battlefield 1 in a month’s time – but now I feel there’s no need to do so. As much as I’d like to play the campaign, it’s the extensive use I’d get out of the multiplayer modes that would warrant me spending RRP money, an expenditure I can no longer justify. For better or worse, Blizzard has ensured that for the near future my online FPS gaming will be dedicated to their game alone, and while I’m sure I’ll tire of Overwatch one day, I can’t see it happening anytime soon.
Original article first appeared on VICE Gaming on 08/09/2016