To claim that first-person shooter gamers are blessed this year would be an understatement. Come the final two months of 2021, we have three major FPS titles coming our way instead of the customary one or two we’ve been getting these past couple of years. On 5th November, Call of Duty: Vanguard drops while Battlefield 2042 swoops in two weeks after, on 19th November.
On the 8th of the following month, Halo Infinite launches making 2021 one of the most stacked years when it comes to FPS titles releases in recent memory. Conventional wisdom would see any hardcore FPS fan worth their salt would end up picking up all three.
But what about the more casual sort like you and I? Assuming we only have a budget for only one or two of the three on offer; which ones do we go for?
Thankfully, the publishers and developers of all three titles recently launched beta exercises which gave us a decent impression of the titles coming our way. To help you make a more educated decision for your next FPS title, we compare all three titles and their state of readiness leading into the holiday season.
These titles will be judged on several criteria during their beta tests, and while one can expect minor issues to be ironed out come full release date, are fair gauges on the final product. Also, if you are already a fan of a particular franchise – for example, Call of Duty – then your decision might have been already made.
This assessment is more for the ones on the fence and/ or aren’t committed to purchasing a specific title yet.
Theater of War
So let’s start with what we feel is the weakest of the bunch. When we say weakest, it essentially means the title which we feel requires most work leading up to its release. And this unwanted tag goes to Electronic Arts’ Battlefield 2042.
Perhaps it boiled down a lot to the mode EA has chosen to feature in BF2042’s open beta. While Conquest is a fun mode to play on paper added with the fact that you’ll be running around like a headless chicken with 127 other players, it all feels same-y but with less punch. The modern setting takes you back to Battlefield 4 but is somewhat watered down as EA tries to capture the more casual FPS crowd. The destruction of buildings and structures felt muted as well; nowhere near the devastation fans of classic Battlefield were used to.
Although the graphics are indeed gorgeous and the ridiculous verticality of Battlefield is definitely something to harp about, the game gets a bit old quick.
Sure, we have four different ‘Operators’ for the Beta but I’m willing to bet that almost everyone who tried the beta just stuck with the one with the grapple hook. Because he’s the best and most fun to use.
The on-the-fly weapons customization grew old pretty quickly as well, mostly due to the limited number of weapons made available during the beta. As it turns out, the map made available for the beta isn’t the largest one in DICE’s arsenal – and in my opinion, is already too big, even for a 128-a-side game.
For the beta, most players would find themselves in one of these three scenarios.
- Running around like headless chickens in the open to only be sniped by a camper,
- Camping to only be shot in the back by remnants of the headless chickens who managed to get into one of the buildings safely; or
- Overconfident headless chicken whose slaying spree got abruptly ended by a content creator or tryhards in vehicles.
Thankfully (and hopefully) I feel these gripes can be instantly addressed and quashed once more maps are made available on launch. But believe me, there’s an equal chance of things turning for the worse. Because while I constantly found myself awed by the presentation, I rarely had fun throughout the beta.
A close second is Call of Duty: Vanguard. We enjoyed the beta sessions but let’s not downplay the fact that a ton of work needs to be worked on.
One big negative being that the World War II setting has already been done to death definitely didn’t help. In 2017 we got Call of Duty: WW2 which was developed by the same guys who are also responsible for this year’s iteration, Sledgehammer Games. In 2018, DICE took another stab at the dead horse in Battlefield V. Three mainline FPS games set in World War 2 in the span of five years is a tad too much, don’t you think?
While the gameplay was solid and fun, it grew old pretty quickly and the developers really need to work on the spawning and overall game audio if they are to release a much more enjoyable game with decent longevity. The saving grace for the game moving forward would be its engaging gunfights, variety in locations and maps – even for the beta – and the fact that this style of play will be the future of Call of Duty’s battle royale arm, Warzone. So love it or hate Vanguard, you better get used to it if you plan to invest a ton of hours into Warzone.
We saved the best and most promising of the lot and by far, it is Halo: Infinite.
Easily the most fun we had on beta tests this year, and probably the most solid beta release for FPS titles in years, the Halo Infinite Insider Test Flight was a joy. It was so fun, that if it was released in this state, I’d be fully satisfied to jump right in. Of course, there were bugs but they were of the fun sort. The sort of bugs well within the expected realms of Halo games.
In my books, betas aren’t only just to test the technical capabilities of a particular game, but how it actually resonates with its player base. A general consensus was that, if the campaign of Halo: Infinite was half as good as the beta we were given, we should all be happy. It was that good. The biggest shame is that Halo Infinite will be restricted to Xbox and PC players.
Then again, betas should not be treated as the final representation of an unreleased game. A sampler, more like it. But just like food, that first bite plays a crucial role in determining your purchasing pattern and decisions. Honestly, we are still excited for all three titles and we look forward to improvements being done from top to bottom, and developers addressing gameplay and notable issues brought up throughout their respective beta tests.