As a somewhat lapsed first-person shooter fan in the modern era, it has been impossible to ignore the groundswell around BattleBit Remastered. Developed by the relatively unknown studios of SgtOkiDOki, Vilaskis, and TheLiquidHorse, the newly released early-access shooter could have easily fallen into obscurity thanks to its low-poly art style. Instead, it’s become a Steam sensation that’s beating some of the genre’s biggest powerhouses.
Having felt the burn of Battlefield 2042‘s dearth of content, and falling off the battle pass and microtransaction grinds of most other high-profile shooters, I wasn’t expecting much booting up this graphically simplistic $15 shooter, and yet the overwhelming number of players and positive reviews on Steam implied there was something special here. What I ended up finding in BattleBit is a reminder of how a mechanically tight game that invites players to make their own stories trumps any kind of big-budget spectacle or hyper-realistic graphics.
BattleBit Remastered isn’t reinventing any wheels here. This is a massively multiplayer first-person shooter where you can fight it out on fully destructible maps with up to 254 players. The game is class-based, with even more customization found in your gear and armor that all impact your capabilities. If you favor having more armor or space to carry ammo, you sacrifice speed. If you want to be quick, you’ll run the risk of getting downed in just a couple of shots. It all makes sense and allows you to tweak the game a bit without it getting unbalanced.
The fun of earning new guns and attachments is made all the sweeter thanks to the lack of any battle pass or microtransactions. BattleBit has managed to resist any free-to-play or pay-to-win models and it shows in the design. Earning new items comes at a satisfying rate, and encourages me to come back without feeling overly grindy.
Even if the blocky aesthetic doesn’t appeal to you, the visuals essentially fade away once you get into the flow of things. Aiming is snappy, guns have appropriate weight and kick, and movement is intuitive and predictable. By 2023 the idea of fully destructible maps isn’t the same selling point it was a decade ago, but the scale and impact it has here will bring you back to the first time you saw a tank blow a hole in a building while bullets whizzed overhead and dust kicked up in your face in a Battlefield game. It’s chaotic and adrenaline-inducing every time.
With 17 massive maps already in the game, plus a light building mechanic and night variations, I have yet to lose that exciting sense of unease and tension running through a map not knowing exactly what to expect over a dozen hours later. That’s a feeling that usually passes the second or third time I play a map in a shooter, but has yet to wear off here.
Each match, or each life really, is a unique story in BattleBit. Playing alone or with a squad, you end up setting your own little objectives within the game, such as clearing a building and getting to the roof, or loading up into a helicopter and diving out behind enemy lines. That experience of being a single unit within the larger conflict, but still having the agency to impact the larger team effort, has been what modern massive shooters lack. Sure, plenty of these “missions” end in me getting picked off trying to cross the street, but the ones where I survive for minutes on my own, fighting for my life, and barely evading death until backup arrives to turn the tide, are those emergent stories only possible in such a flexible yet solid game.
BattleBit is still in early access but has already more than earned my $15. The amount of content puts most $70 shooters to shame while matching their level of mechanical quality. Graphically, I can’t say this is a beautiful game, however, if I had to pick between the most photorealistic shooter that was light on content and constantly pushing microtransactions down my throat and a simple-looking one with satisfying progression, great balance, and rewarding gameplay, I’d choose the latter every time.
Battlebit Remastered is currently available in early access on PC.
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