Beyond The Wire is probably the closest that video games will ever get to satisfy my dream of having an authentic online FPS set in World War I. Developed by Redstone Interactive and published by Offworld Industries, Beyond The Wire is the latest foray into the Great War era in the form of a tense and epic experience with up to 100 players on a server fighting in a war of attrition through trench warfare.
Beyond The Wire released on Steam’s Early Access in October of 2020, and it has slowly been receiving updates. Just last week, the game received a major content update, which added a series of weapons and a new map, Château-Thierry. According to the developer’s public roadmap, players can also expect to see two new factions and three new maps dropping throughout Q1 2021. Also, although the developers state in the game’s Early Access F.A.Q. that they hope to release the game sometime in 2022, I’m sure that can obviously change as development progresses.
Beyond The Wire isn’t your typical online FPS. This isn’t a game where you can run around hunting for kills. If you end up doing just that, you probably won’t have a good time. A huge part of Beyond The Wire’s experience comes from actually playing with others and communicating. If you have played games like Hell Let Loose, Post Scriptum or Squad, then you pretty much should know what to expect from this one. This game is literally what would happen if someone took the Squad and Post Scriptum formula and decided to adapt it to World War I. Despite having not spent nearly as enough time with Beyond The Wire as I have spent with others in the same genre, I can definitely say that this, along with Squad, is amongst my top two games of this genre. Ever since Verdun, I always had a big itch for an FPS set in the First World War, and that itch has finally been scratched.
Like other games published by Offworld Industries, Beyond The Wire is an online multiplayer FPS of epic scale, where players fight in a series of long and arduous battles on the Western Front of the Great War. The game grounds itself on realism, and this is not only reflected in the game’s weapons, but also in how the player behaves, game modes, maps, mechanics, and team play. Speaking of which, at the moment, some players that dive into the game may find that it is lacking in game modes, maps, and weapons, but I would argue that that is precisely the point of developing a game, like this one, in Early Access. First, you want to build a solid foundation, and only then you want to expand on that base foundation by continuously adding more content.
There are currently only two game modes, Assault and Frontlines. The Assault mode puts attackers and defenders in an ongoing struggle, as the attacking side continuously attempts to chip away at the defender’s lines. Meanwhile, in Frontlines, both sides of the conflict must fight and capture multiple points in order to capture entire territory sections of the map. I honestly can’t say which is best or which I prefer the most. A part of me loves defending against an ongoing barrage of enemies in Assault, while another side of me simply adores the chaotic nature of Frontlines as each team scatters throughout the various points in an attempt to capture as many as they can.
As far as weapons go, each faction has its own arsenal, but what you can use depends on your role. Each team can have multiple squads, and these can range from 10 people infantry squads with medics, grenadiers and riflemen, to 2 person squads that focus on sniping, artillery, and heavy machine guns. Personally, I’m more of a medic or an assault class. While being a medic always gives you something to do, as you’re continually reviving downed teammates, an assault can just charge head-on with a pistol or a shotgun, which are much more reliable in close quarters than a bolt-action rifle. Don’t get me wrong though, all the bolt action rifles feel great to fire and to reload, there’s just something about it that also makes them really satisfying to use.
Then there is also the direction-based melee system, as well as bayonet charges, which never get old. With this game in particular, as opposed to others like Squad and Post Scriptum, melee combat is extremely useful due to the cramped nature of a lot of map areas, like the inside of buildings or trenches. Being able to perform a bayonet charge is actually more useful than you would probably think, especially if you are going up against someone with a bolt-action rifle that just keeps missing their shots. As for the other melee weapons, I find myself using these mostly when I happen to be in the middle of mustard gas. This, as well as off-map artillery strikes, can be called by your team’s Commander, and they either kill you on the spot, or they force you to put on your mask. This heavily limits visibility, and that’s why melee becomes so important, as you can get really close to enemies without even realizing it.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Beyond The Wire still has a lot of work ahead of it before it’s a fully-fledged title. However, it already clearly demonstrates that the team over at Redstone Interactive has got their head in the game and knows what the community wants and expects from them. Nonetheless, the game still needs to be optimized, but surely that will only come further down the road. However, things such as hit registration can be erratic. A lot of times you trade kills even though you probably shouldn’t. For instance, you might shoot the enemy and see him fall dead, but as he’s falling you can still get shot.
In spite of that, one thing that I really feel that still needs to be worked on are the sounds that characters make when you perform a bayonet-charge. Unless I’m not paying proper attention to my surroundings, I can only hear enemies charging at me when they’re right about to stab me. It’s actually kind of hilarious how many times I’ve gotten stabbed without realizing someone was charging at me from behind or from my flanks. Still, I also manage to kill others this very same way, so I guess that this is a win-win situation.
Despite everything, another big problem that Beyond The Wire seems to be facing currently can’t really be blamed on the developers, and that is the game’s small player base. Don’t get me wrong, the game is definitely not dead, but I wasn’t able to get into a full server throughout an entire week. From what I can tell, there’s only one active server at any time, and its population fluctuates between 40 and 60 people. Sure, that’s a lot of people, but given that the game supports up to 100 player servers, that’s still a little far off from providing the proper epic experience that the developers have certainly intended on delivering when making this game. Furthermore, unless you’re from Europe, you’ll end up having a high ping, as a lot of American players that I’ve played with can attest.
Finally, I’d like to emphasize that using a microphone is HIGHLY recommended in order to play Beyond The Wire. This is because Beyond The Wire relies heavily on teamwork and communication. Not only you may find yourself having to relay orders to your squad and fellow teammates, either through radio or by speaking to those in your vicinity, but you’ll also probably run into a few moments where you’ll spot an enemy creeping up on a teammate and you’re able to save them by warning them. Based on my experience, not everyone uses one, and I understand that everyone has their reasons, but I can’t stress enough that it enhances the whole experience tenfold.
Also, the game’s gorgeous visuals, alongside its sound design, make Beyond The Wire’s atmosphere absolutely spot on. I can’t stop myself from flinching every time I’m running through the map and I suddenly get shot at, or when I’m holding a position and suddenly it starts raining down artillery on where I’m at. It’s exceptionally immersive, something which other games under the Offworld Industries (Squad’s, Post Scriptum’s, and Beyond The Wire’s publisher) umbrella have also absolutely nailed.
If you enjoy playing games like Squad, Post Scriptum, and Hell Let Loose, but you just want something with that specific gameplay but in a World War I setting, then this is it. If you enjoy online FPS games with a focus on teamwork and tactics, over individual skill and play, then Beyond The Wire will probably quench your thirst. The game certainly has its problems, but it offers such a unique experience that I’m currently willing to overlook those issues and enjoy the game for what it is. While it certainly isn’t a game for everyone, it’s my new favourite World War I game, and I honestly can’t wait to see how it evolves over time. Do check it out if it sounds like something that you’d enjoy or that you’re willing to support in the long-term. Beyond The Wire is currently only available on Steam Early Access.
(Played on PC, only available on Windows)