Battalion 1944's classic gameplay makes it a remarkably pure shooter

The first-person shooter space has seen some drastic evolutions during recent years, with various subsets in the genre becoming more prominent over time. While current-day military titles seemed to draw the most attention only a few years ago, near-future combat has taken the stage as of late. However, with a clear abundance of these sci-fi titles, the genre's next shift looks to be just around the corner.

As proven by the successful launch of Battlefield 1 and the rumored World War II-themed Call of Duty in 2017, it's clear there's a revitalized demand for historical warfare in video games. Proving the somewhat cyclical nature of consumer interests, several titles are now starting to revive both World War I and World War II settings.

Battalion 1944 is one of the latest titles to following this trend, after a successful Kickstarter during the early months of last year. Promising to recapture the "intensity of classic multiplayer shooters," the game emphasizes arena player-versus-player combat in a World War II setting. Having accumulated three times its initial funding goal, it's clear there's desire for such a title.

With the game's release currently scheduled for later this year, we managed to get hands-on with an early Alpha version of the game at the EGX Rezzed 2017 show. While some mechanics are still undergoing changes, we managed to get a look at how the project is currently shaping up on PC.

Battalion 1944 retains fast movement, tight controls, and general consistency

The charm of WWII

Finding its funding through community investment, Battalion 1944 managed to diverge from some common trends among "AAA" titles. Reviving the magic of classic first-person shooters, the game looks to retain the simplicity in both content and mechanics associated with games of last decade.

What surprised me initially was Battalion 1944's pace – it takes a much faster approach to gameplay than I initially expected. With exo-suits and laser weapons making for faster combat in modern shooters, historical warfare is often approached with a much slower take on gameplay. Battalion 1944 retains fast movement, tight controls, and general consistency, making it hard not to draw comparisons to the earlier entries to the Call of Duty and Medal of Honor series.

Back to basics

Feeding into the game's fast pacing is player movement, which at first was the most jarring aspect of Battalion 1944's gameplay. With no limitations on sprinting and unnatural player speed, movement through maps feels fluid and responsive.

Simplicity and consistency make for a 'pure' experience

Level design also accounts for this approach to locomotion, with opportunities to use environmental objects to quickly traverse the map. During our session, I gained the impression that tiered sections of maps would play a role here, with chances to jump between parts of the map using careful footing.

Overall, these approaches make for tight and responsive controls that interact seamlessly with the environment. The simplicity and consistency simply make for a "pure" experience without any of the unnecessary complexities bundled with today's AAA shooters.

Following the transition to World War II combat, Battalion 1944 also accommodates the iconic weaponry of the era. With iconic firearms from the era, the game manages to retain a classic feel through its weaponry. From clunky bolt-action rifles to fierce submachine guns, weapon classes are clearly defined with their own unique styling.

Small details in weapon design, such as predictable but less aggressive recoil, also contribute hugely to recreating this classic feel. While more weapons and load-out choices will be available at launch, it's clear the game's developers are approaching these mechanics with a commendable mindset.

Ultimately, there's a single theme running throughout every aspect of Battalion 1944, by recreating the classic feel of early multiplayer shooters. Looking back on the earliest first-person-shooter (FPS) experiences on consoles, the game looks to inherit both the simplicity and consistency which made those titles so compelling.

Going against the recent shooter trends, the game has carved out its own approach to a World War II arena shooter. A closed Alpha is scheduled for next month ahead of the official release, which will make for an interesting competition with other titles that are currently in the pipeline.

Matt Brown

Matt Brown was formerly a Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.