I’m quite good at shooters. I attribute it to a combination of being born in the rocket-splash fires of Quake and bred on the recoil management and headshots of Counter-Strike. Whatever the reason, online shooters have long been my jam. When it comes to Battlefield 1, even with long dry spells between drinks, you’ll find me at the top of the leaderboard, or not far off it (and that’s PTFOing, by the way).
In fact, the Battlefield series is the one where I feel most confident in showcasing my shooter skills. That was, until I played Battlefield Incursions which, after my half-hour with it, should have been renamed Battlefield Humble Pie. I sucked. Hell, worse than that, I let my team down. But before we get into the nitty-gritty of that, here’s what you can expect from Battlefield Incursions.
Incursions shrinks the Battlefield 1 fighting formula down into a squad-versus-squad (5v5) showdown in custom-built, smaller maps. There are three points to capture, but only one point is available for capture at a time to keep fighting concentrated. On top of this, there’s a convoluted scoring system that didn’t (and still doesn’t) make a whole lot of sense. The squad-sized teams are restricted to one class per team, which is a shorthand way of saying a subset of the regular classes you’re used to playing as in the core Battlefield 1 game.
It’s better to think of them as kits, five of which were available during my single-round hands-on time with the game at Gamescom. For the alpha, the eight kits break down into Trench Surgeon (medic), Control Leader (loves smoke and can be spawned on), AT Assault (anti-armour), Battle Mechanic (vehicle driver), Mortar Support (mortar-wielding, ammo-dispensing), Raid Leader (places spawn beacons), Shock Assault (balanced anti-everything), and Proximity Recon (intel gatherer). I couldn’t tell you which of those five made up the fixed kits of my play-through, but I can tell you that I was the Battle Mechanic.
That’s actually more of an apt description of my play time than DICE intended, because I spent more time attempting to repair my tank than driving it. At spawn, I had the option of light tank or armoured car, but there didn’t seem to be any real logic to choosing the armoured car over a tank. I’m told that the armoured car is there for highly skilled drivers who want to quickly flank the enemy team. It’s even more powerful if the player manages to rank it up to level three, which is part of a universal inter-round ranking system that grants players access to better weapons and equipment.
One of the cooler things is that vehicle wrecks stay behind for the entirety of the fight, which means they make great cover when destroyed. I wish I could say I deliberately ‘let’ my tank be destroyed to create makeshift chokepoint, but that wouldn’t be true. Here’s the thing. I don’t often play in vehicles in Battlefield 1. I’m more of an infantry specialist. The only reason I was playing as the Battle Mechanic in Incursions was because I sat in front of the last remaining station, which happened to be assigned to that role. Bugger.
I’m not normally a fan of tank players who hang at the back of the map and treat their armoured vehicle as a glorified sniper rifle. After my round, I was told that I should have been doing pretty much that. Without that knowledge, though, I treated my light tank as a close support vehicle. It worked well to begin with, as the appearance of an armoured vehicle does have a tendency to scare the shit out of nearby enemies, especially considering only one infantry kit is best suited to taking out tanks.
My plan quickly fell apart, though, when I encountered an invincible wall. If I see an enemy run into a house in Battlefield 1, I just blow up the wall next to them and score a free kill. In Battlefield Incursions, there are invincible walls by design (not all of then, mind you). This is, assumedly, to stop tankers from flattening everything around an objective point, which offers the enemy team little recourse for a counter-attack. It’s a necessary inclusion, but one that left my flank open to easy attack.
The other team had also reportedly played quite a few rounds and knew to target my tracks. Instead of it having a random chance of disabling movement, like in the core game, targeting a tank track and hitting it with enough damage guarantees disabling it. It’s this kind of certainty and the removal of little randomised elements that goes to show how seriously DICE is taking its first foray into the competitive scene.
On foot as a tanker, I wasn’t much use to my team, either. My armament options meant I was kitted out for patient long-range fire courtesy of a slow-firing rifle, or point-blank battles care of the Frommer Stop Auto. The tank, understandably, takes time to respawn, but losing it early, particularly when the enemy hasn’t lost theirs, is a very quick way to put your team on the back foot.
Apart from me not playing my role properly, at least not in a vulnerable level-one tank, it was clear that communication between teammates is essential to victory. Staying bunched up in a corner with tunnel vision towards the objective is a fast way to a team wipe from a flanking enemy. Spotting is paramount and, as weird as it reads, trying to die in close—and, more importantly, unexposed—proximity to your medic is one of the better ways to play. It felt like DICE has boosted the intel-gathering portion of the Battlefield formula, which reminds me a lot of Siege, which is a very favourable comparison.
But, really, who am I to talk about better ways to play in a mode where my team was annihilated, and I feel responsible for a big chunk of that, given how dominant the enemy’s Battle Mechanic was. Honestly, it wasn’t a great first impression of Incursions, but that’s not because the new competitive mode seemed imbalanced or unfair. It was just because I was trying to play it like I would the core Battlefield 1 experience, applying the kind of aggressive infantry tactics that are so often rewarded in Conquest, but clearly aren’t as applicable in this mode… let alone when you’re solely responsible for your team’s vehicle.
My first (and, so far, only) experience with Battlefield Incursions was more frustrating that I’d hoped. But after the frustration passed, it’s clear this mode has some strong competitive potential, even in the pre-alpha version I played. I’m keen to give it another crack and, hopefully, next time—for the sake of my frustration levels and my team’s chances of success—not as a Battle Mechanic.