Call of Duty 2 released so long ago, the series has left WW2, gone ‘Black Ops’, come back to WW, and now is leaving it again with a reboot of Modern Warfare. However, it still remains possibly the best single-player FPS set within that particular conflict. And for many, it’s still the greatest Call of Duty multiplayer experience. With that in mind, where does the recently released Battalion 1944 stand?
You may have heard of this tiny, insignificant conflict called ‘World War Two’. As we all know from the movies, it took place in Normandy, which is the part of France that isn’t Paris. That’s where Americans landed on one heavily defeated beach and eventually defeated Nazism through citizen soldiers and general willingness to ride into battle in death traps. The game wears this obscure conflict as a skin draped over its twitch-shooting framework. Since Battalion 1944 is a pure multiplayer title, there’s no plot or single player mode. You drop into a match, usually facing off in 6v6 battles. There is a variety of classical game modes, such as Capture the Flag, Domination, Team Deathmatch and so on. If you have ever played a single multiplayer shooter, you’re probably familiar with all of them.
However, since Battalion tries to recreate the sweet memories of owning noobs in Call of Duty 2, it’s not infected by Skinner-box mechanics of class and gun unlocks from the later titles in the series. No, your loadout depends on your weapon of choice – and by loadout, I mean the amount of grenades you carry. For example, the ‘Inferior SMG class’ (that’s Grease Guns and MP-28s) has the biggest collection of them to throw around.
Generally, players will gravitate towards the ‘assault rifle’ class, as everyone wants to have that StG44. The Americans get to lug around the BAR instead. Since it’s a twitch shooter, you’ll be dead long before you notice the lower ammo capacity or have any issues with it. Sniper rifles – and their quick-scoping bearers – are also a common appearance, and you will learn to hate them.
There is some weirdness to some weapon classes, like the Americans and the Germans sharing the same shotgun, or M1 Carbine being judged to be roughly equivalent to Gewehr 43. Oh, and since the Americans in Normandy didn’t use a bolt action rifle, the M1 Garand (semi-automatic, 8 round clip) is pitted against Kar98k (bolt-action, 5 rounds). Fun fact: to maintain that CoD2 experience, you can’t reload the Garand before you run out of ammo. It’s PING or nothing, baby.
A bit more variety was introduced recently when the devs remembered that the Eastern Front was also something that probably happened in World War II. This meant adding Soviet skins and models into the game, as well as a few new maps. Unfortunately, the Germans weren’t provided with winter camo in this game, so they’ll run around snowy ruins in verdant green.
But like I mentioned before, Battalion 1944 is a twitch-shooter’s twitch shooter. If you have time to process the fact that you can see the enemy, you’re probably already dead. You will see a surprising amount of headshots via long range StG44 or even SMG shots. You will learn to clear corners by jumping and turning. You’ll probably find a way to comfortably bind the ‘prone’ key, as doing so in the midst of an active fire fight is a good tactic. Oh, and you should remember that cars belong to the class of cover that’s penetrable by bullets. I got a few kills that way!
Another curious thing about combat is that grenades are more of an area denial weapon than something that scores kills. I think I’ve only been killed by them once, and I’m a player who always tops the death ratings in any match not involving bots.
Now, you won’t be just running around in a boundless void. For the maps, you will see the recreations of all the Normandy hot spots you know. There’s the Seaside Bunker, the Country Chateau, The Seaside Town, Some Bunker In A Forest (Possibly On A Numbered Hill) as well as such outliers as Actually, This Is Set In Urban Terrain and the Soviet Maps. There’s a decent amount of verticality, and while there will be fire lines for all the budding snipers out there, the usual skill level of a Battalion 1944 player means that a scoped Springfield is actually quite the close combat weapon. Even in such cramped maps as Derailed (the aforementioned urban map), there will be several lanes of advance, allowing you to capture said flag without ever seeing the enemy. You just have to know the map!
As far as my experience goes, the spawn points are very random. In effect, sometimes you will spawn next to the enemy base in Capture the Flag, ready to pounce on the banner as soon as whichever teammate of yours that’s carrying it gets dropped. More often, you’ll get spawn-camped, even if the enemy does it unintentionally.
You should also pay some attention to the minimap. It displays the map of the place, your teammates and their facing, their health level (via the intensity of the color of their marker) and whether they’re firing, as well as the last known location of enemy fire. So if you’re careful (and lucky), you can actually outflank a firefight in progress. Remember: run and then jump around the corner for maximum benefit.
As you play the game and rack up points (and level up), Battalion 1944 will award you loot boxes. Those hold a weapon skin each, coming in several varieties of rarity and state. Some of the alternate skins are quite nice and not too outlandish, but before long, you’ll see rainbow-faded metallic BARs and pearlescent Lugers (you should drop the pistol as soon as you encounter a better weapon on the ground). It’s nice that there’s less of a loot treadmill involved in the game. Now, if you want to be engaged harder, Faceit provides the backing for the ranked segment of the game, and folks online seem to like it enough.
Battalion 1944 isn’t the prettiest of games, however. It certainly shows that it wasn’t cranked out by a AAA studio, though I guess that works well enough for the type of game that it is. Small maps and low numbers of players should not tax your PC, and as we all know, every FPS counts. Of course, it would help if there was some variety to player models or if they didn’t all wear comically large armbands with a flag.
In the end, Battalion 1944 is a good-enough FPS for those who are tired of all the hoops one has to jump through in, say, Call of Duty: WWII. The experience here pared down to the core, where split second reactions and accuracy rule the day, while anything outside of the shooting experience is merely in the background. It’s not my cup of tea, but it might be yours.