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Battlefield 1's new Incursions mode is a shot in the arm

Battlefield games have been wrestling with size for a little while. Mostly, it’s worn as a badge of honour – grand battles, giant maps, The Great War – and mostly that’s fair. But it does lead to some problems. A death timer is replaced with a long trudge through empty, expansive desert or mud; the front line – quite important in a game based on years of static trench warfare – is often more of a swirling carousel of capture-and-forget control points; and the best work of your crack squad can, at times, feel like a churning, futile struggle to make waves in a 64-man ocean (although that kind of existential doubt is at least fitting for the setting).

Incursions, the upcoming five-a-side competitive mode, is an elegant, if sort of blindingly-obvious-in-hindsight solution to the problems caused by Battlefield’s scale. Why keep tweaking the giant Conquest modes, in endless search of an impossible balance, when you can create a new one, still very Battlefield-y – tactical and vehicular and full of buildings that fall apart in all kinds of lovely ways – but without the sacrifices demanded by its size?

I played Incursions back at Gamescom, and it’s even better in practice than theory. Two teams set up across a dense, roughly Domination-sized map with three control points – one near the spawn points at each end, already captured by the respective team, and one uncaptured in the centre – with the goal of accumulating enough points to win a round, and winning enough rounds to win the game.

The most immediate benefit to that setup is a more distinctive front line. There is a clear point of conflict at the central marker, but thanks to the intricacy of the map – the one I played on was a modified corner of St Quentin Scar – that line of combat never degenerated into a static choke-point. Instead it was all prodding and probing, some sniper fire here, smoke grenades there, a sudden vehicle to break the deadlock and force some momentum (or just to act as cover once it’s destroyed, with broken vehicles now staying in place on the field).