I don't like horses, for a lot of reasons. I don't like them because they have inscrutable lizard eyes, because they have weird spindly backwards legs, and because — for an animal that big — they have no right to be as skittish as they are. Take a lesson from cows, horses! Walk up to a cow and the worst you'll get is an inquisitive moo. A horse will kick your head clean off, just for the fun of it.
But I love Battlefield 1's horses. I've been riding them around the World War 1 shooter's Sinai desert map (the only one available in Battlefield 1's ongoing open beta), eschewing a selection of planes, trains, and automobiles in favor of living steeds. It's not the smooth animation, nor the perfectly captured neighing, or even their majestic coats that turned me around on horses, though. I like Battlefield 1's horses precisely because they're not like horses: they're more like fearless, furry, four-legged hoverboards.
All other video game horses are terrible
Part of the reason I've grown to loathe horses is that most video game versions are so incredibly frustrating to ride. I grew up with Ocarina of Time's Epona, but I never warmed to the creature, with her stubborn insistence on going in straight lines and her demand to be fed hundreds of carrots before she'd approach anything close to a gallop. Oblivion's horses were also liabilities, happily kickstarting fights with local wildlife and dying from their wounds, leaving me to trudge around the open wilds. Even Roach, Geralt's trusty steed from the Witcher 3, is burdened with a too-long mounting animation, making a speedy getaway take a few seconds too long. Red Dead Redemption, Shadow of the Colussus, even Metal Gear Solid V — all featured mildly annoying attempts at the animals.
Battlefield 1's horses, on the other hand, seem like they walk on a cloud of air. They leap barriers and barbed wire, hopping handily over boxes, low walls, and the other detritus of the Great War. Plug any other video game horse into Battlefield 1's messy levels and you'd have an exercise in screaming frustration, the animals whinnying to a halt as they brushed up against discarded bricks or other bits of inconsequential garbage. Not DICE's horses. So keen was one of them to prove its worth that it leaped over the wreckage of a burning tank, a jump with an apex of about eight feet and longer than a modern car. It didn't make it, the poor thing, but it didn't not make it. It just sort of hung there, floating in the air above a gnarled and flaming hunk of metal, occasionally letting out a proud horsey yelp.
Battlefield 1's horses are coated in super-strong metal
I had to climb off, in the end, when I realized my equine friend wasn't going to be coming back down from its new home a few feet off the ground. I wasn't worried, though: Battlefield 1's horses are tough. Real horses get summarily executed if they snap one of their unnecessarily spindly legs. Battlefield 1's horses can take a blast from a tank turret to the face and keep clip-clopping on. The horses of the era must've been coated in adamantium: I've emptied entire clips into their flanks at close range, only to have them continue to canter right through my character, killing him in the process.
They're brave, too. Real horses bolt when they hear a branch crack; Battlefield 1's beasts have ice in their veins, and will happily sidle up to an artillery piece and dig a lazy hoof into the dust, ignoring the deafening noise of the war going on around them. They usually stay where you left them, too, waiting like a parked car for someone to grab their reins and spur them on. That is, unless someone else pilfers them first. Battlefield 1's horses seem to have evolved a hardened carapace, but they've also lost any sense of loyalty their species may have possessed, letting anyone onto their backs for a trot around the desert.
How effective they'll be on the smaller, tighter maps that'll populate the game come launch on October 21st, we'll have to see. But for now, they're the best part of a particularly enjoyable Battlefield 1 beta, and I'm going to get as much mileage as I can out of them until the beta ends.