Who thought taking a step backward would prove so beneficial.
Instead of following the recent trend of futuristic first-person shooters flooding the market, developer DICE decided to say goodbye to the comfort of modern warfare, sending the Battlefield franchise back 100 years to the unimaginable savagery of the First World War.
The death of a single man provoked what is still considered one of the most bloody global wars of our time, with the horrific number of casualties, known to many as the “Lost Generation”, geo-politically shaping the world that we live in today. Battlefield 1 doesn’t weigh heavy on the outcome of the conflict, or how it came to be, instead it focuses on those fighting within it and the struggle to survive when the odds are undeniably stacked against them.
To really deliver an emotionally-charged single-player experience, DICE decided to let gamers play from the perspective of multiple protagonists on various fronts throughout the war. While these War Stories are visually appealing and well scripted, it’s hard to get involved enough before the story hits its crowning moments and abruptly comes to an end.
For example, The Storm of Steel chapter that works as the tutorial/introduction to Battlefield 1 follows a band of African-American soldiers known as the Harlem Hellfighters. Despite the company being a major part of the marketing campaign for the shooter, their representation is scarce and somewhat disappointing.
Thankfully, some chapters of the campaign are fleshed out and include some interesting narratives. Through Mud and Blood is a fine example of great character delivery, as chauffeur turned tank driver Danny Edwards and his team of everyday men navigate through german-infested towns and forests, putting you in full-action and stealth scenarios.
Friends in High Places is another superbly delivered tale, as you take the reigns of Clyde Blackburn, an American pilot in the Royal Flying Corps flying alongside a gunner/photographer named Wilson. The story is one of lies and deceit between the two, but the objective of war is something they both agree on and the large-scale plane battles you partake in are enjoyable.
DICE have completely reworked on how they deliver their single-player experience. Instead of putting you in the shoes of a Rambo with zero personality, the faith of the character you control is personal to you and leaves you feeling hollow or shocked at the eventual outcome.
It’s been some time since I’ve invested myself as much into a Battlefield single-player offering and after playing through the six War Stories on offer, I’m excited to see what DICE deliver in the future.
Unsurprisingly, multiplayer returns in Battlefield 1 and brings with it a plethora of changes to complement the drastic change in technology. Before we get into the nitty-gritty, it’s worth taking note of some new game modes DICE have brought to the table, in particular, the Operations mode.
To really give you that large-scale war feeling, Operations offers the straightforward nature of Rush, while mixing in the objective based nature of Domination as well. An attacking team is tasked with capturing two control points from the defending team, with a total of 13 sectors available to capture across two or three maps depending on pre-match selection.
This mode suits those who love to completely immerse themselves in Battlefield 1’s multiplayer and appreciate the uncommon narrative it brings for an online mode. The games can be long and the balancing is somewhat off at the moment with defenders winning the majority of the time, but nonetheless, Operations is the crowning jewel of the multiplayer experience.
If Operations isn’t your thing, you can still jump into game modes Rush, Conquest, and Team Deathmatch, or try out the new War Pigeons game mode: a Capture the Flag-esque offering that stays within the theme of Battlefield 1 and has you chasing pigeons around a map before it delivers a message to the enemy team.
These modes are played across nine vast multiplayer maps, covering a variety of different terrains and coming in various sizes. The lush foliage of Argonne Forest and the urban claustrophobia of Amiens( a french town) are the most notable additions, offering visually stunning scenery and destruction, while also being tactically sound.
Battlefield 1’s multiplayer also features a dynamic weather system that can tactically change how you play the game. Approaching sandstorms and the onset of fog make sniping, fighting enemies at close range, and flying planes difficult.
On the weapons front, Battlefield 1 isn’t as generous with their selection as previous installments, which is understandable giving that breakthroughs in technology were few and far between during that time. Now the Assault class takes the role of Support class, carrying anti-tank grenades and close-to-medium range automatic rifles. As you would expect, the Scout class and Medic class share similarities to previous Battlefield games, while the usually overlooked Support Class remains somewhat overlooked.
DICE wanted to be historically accurate with Battlefield 1 and the weapons design and their sound justifies that. Most weapons are clunky and are much harder to control, but give you an overwhelming sense of satisfaction when you take down an enemy.
Having played a good portion of the multiplayer while using the Scout class, I’ve become very fond of the Martini-Henry Infantry, the last weapon you an unlock in the class. Like many weapons in Battlefield 1, it oozes character and fits the feel of the shooter, adding that little bit more when you’re scoping the map for targets.
Altogether, the Battlefield 1 multiplayer experience is balanced and the best we’ve played from the series for some time. Like every game, it does still fall victim to some nagging glitches, mostly involving around creating squads, changing loadouts, issues with ranking up, and getting killed when I occasionally climb a ladder. However, the exciting gameplay and tremendous score that plays throughout will quickly help you forget these rather insignificant issues.
Battlefield 1 is a triumphant return for the series following the disappointment of Battlefield Hardline. With an emotionally-charged single-player experience that branches out to various fronts of the First World War, it’s easy to immerse yourself in each of the six war stories available. DICE’s willingness to stay historically accurate with the content shows their respect towards those who fought in the war, with each weapon oozing character and each multiplayer map telling its own story.
The online offering is only topped off by the addition of Operations and its version of large-scale warfare and a progression system that might feel stripped back but easy to understand. While some glitches may hamper the experience for some, Battlefield 1 managed to deliver their best campaign to date and reinvent their already successful multiplayer recipe.
Review copy provided by Electronic Arts
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