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Battalion 1944 is a classic WWII shooter, upgraded for modern players

Imagine Medal of Honor built with Unreal Engine 4

Bulkhead Interactive/Square Enix
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Classically-inspired World War II shooter Battalion 1944 is doing surprisingly well on Steam. Just days after launching into Early Access, the retro title is already among the top 25 best-selling games on that platform.

The budget-priced title is a throwback to classics like Medal of Honor and Call of Duty 2, popular WWII-themed shooters from the late 1990s and early 2000s. Bulkhead Interactive, a veteran U.K.-based developer, began the project as a Kickstarter campaign. It exceeded its modest £100,000 ask in March 2016, bringing in more than £300,000. Since then, the studio partnered with Square Enix, which also assisted in the development of The Turing Test, Bulkhead’s adventure puzzle game launched in August 2016.

According to Steamspy, The Turing Test sold around 250,000 copies total on Steam. Battalion 1944 looks on pace to beat that number in its first week. (More on how Steamspy gathers its data here.)

So far, Battalion 1944 hasn’t made much of a splash on Twitch. It’s currently only the 40th most-watched game, just behind Escape From Tarkov and Twitch’s music channel.

After putting in a few hours this afternoon, Battalion 1944 clearly evokes the classic games of the past. The ex-AAA developers and ex-esports professionals working on the game have clearly done their homework. It feels a lot like Day of Defeat, but with wider, much more open lines of sight and a blistering pace. Quickly leaning out of cover to take a snap shot and bunny-hopping through open spaces is a must. Thankfully, the team has posted detailed maps with clearly assigned callouts. That should help speed the growth of the game’s meta layer by encouraging communication between players.

The build that’s available right now lacks voice support, so coordinating with random people in open games is challenging at best. The visuals are also decidedly low-poly given how much they were touting the fidelity of the experience on Kickstarter. But, according to the team’s updates, they’re mostly focused on stability and infrastructure right now. The goal is to crank the visual effects up as time goes on.

The game does include loot crates, called “warchests,” that can be earned as you level up your account or purchased outright for $1.75 plus tax. Inside are a random assortment of weapon skins than can be equipped or traded on the secondary market inside Steam. Top skins are going for upward of $150 right now.

“I told my kid brother I’d get him a luger. Flawless, with ivory grips.”

The team is pushing hard to become considered as a sanctioned, competitive esport and there’s been lots of chatter among professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players on Twitter. Ranked mode opens up on Feb. 8, and Bulkhead Interactive has already Tweeted that they’re in talks with the ESL.

Still, the game isn’t fully baked yet. Bulkhead has a detailed roadmap, and it states that they don’t anticipate being in Steam Early Access for more than one year.

Battalion 1944 is on sale right now, discounted 10 percent to $13.49. Expect the base price to go up after its full release, currently scheduled for 2019. The game is also expected to be ported over to both Xbox One and PlayStation 4.