The era of the modern shooter has lasted quite some time now, kicking off, to a degree, with Battlefield 2 and followed closely by Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. We’ve seemingly been due for an “old” war game renaissance for a while now, as Call of Duty has reached “future” warfare and DICE has been working on Star Wars Battlefront for the last few years. Cue Battlefield 1. Battlefield 1 brings players back to a rarely-visited war in the era of gaming, World War 1. We’re fairly used to playing World War 2 games, as previous Call of Duty entries, Battlefield, and other shooters have touched on the war multiple times over, but World War 1 is different. WW1 games are few and far between, and we’ve never really seen a big blockbuster franchise target “The Great War” as the backdrop. The were worries, when first announced, that Battlefield 1 would somehow make World War 1 seem less deadly, and somber that it actually was. That it would cast the War in a “cartoony” light to get people on-board. I’m glad to say that this isn’t the case. While not amazing, the mini campaigns in DICE’s new shooter do a very good job at representing the cost of war, and how barbaric World War 1 really was.
Technically Battlefield 1 is very solid. In playing on PC with a GTX980 I ran the game on ultra with little to no frame drops, even when people decide to throw 15 gas grenades in one area. The console versions seem to run very solid as well. Graphically the game is incredible. Extremely realistic and lifelike environments make the battles all that more satisfying, and the in your face audio just completes the overall immersion to form one hell of a package. Battlefield 1 is clearly the best looking multiplayer game out this year, and even looks great running on consoles or lower end PCs. The servers have also been fairly stable, outside of the DDoS attacks on the internet that brought PSN down during launch. Very minimal lag and good pings make it much more reliable than a lot of games are at launch for multiplayer.
The Battlefield series has never really had strong campaigns, outside of the Bad Company subset, and Battlefield 1 doesn’t resolve that issue entirely, but it does do a much better job of making you care and keeping your attention than any previous mainline entry. The single player campaign is broken up into groups of missions that essentially teach our the basics of the game and prepare you for multiplayer. The sub-stories are built around different characters and feature things like vehicle missions, on foot, and more to get you accustomed to the BF1 gameplay. Overall the stories are interesting and the gameplay suitable enough to pass the test more than the previous entries in the series. As mentioned in the intro, these small campaigns do a great job of conveying the horrors of war, and put you in seemingly impossible odds even from the intro that you play the moment you pop in the game. Thankfully Dice tried to take a serious and informative approach to the war, and gives players a bunch of educational moments throughout the campaign, and even multiplayer cutscenes. This works well to help the younger generation learn about a war that affected so much of the world, but may not be being taught about as much in schools anymore. Don’t buy BF1 only for the campaigns, but if you bought the game for multiplayer never intending to touch campaign, these are actually worth a playthrough. The only downside to the campaigns is the AI. It is not very smart, and sometimes feels cheap in that they will spot and shoot you instantly. Play on an easier difficulty if this becomes a big issue for you.
The meat of Battlefield has always been the multiplayer, and the case is no different here. Battlefield 1’s multiplayer component is fantastic, and easily DICE’s best work since Battlefield 2. After Star Wars Battlefront came out and was extremely stripped down, people were worried about BF1 suffering the same fate. Worry not. Battlefield 1 is the multiplayer shooter you’ve been waiting for, in a year full of multiplayer shooters. The game modes are pretty similar to what you remember, featuring standards like conquest, rush, and team death match, but DICE also has added a few new modes. One of them has you chasing a player holding a pigeon around the map in an interesting take on a Halo-style oddball mode, where you must release the bird every so often to score points. The enemy team can shoot down the bird or kill you and take it to try to score themselves. This mode is more of a fun side thing, and not what you come to Battlefield for, but it’s worth playing for laughs alone. The main new mode DICE is touting in BF1 is Operations. This game type is a play on conquest and rush mixed together, over the span of multiple maps. One team works to capture points and push the enemy team back to the next set of points, and at the end of the round you are shown how many out of the 5 sets your team captured, you then move maps entirely and repeat the same thing, seeing how many zones you can take and push the enemy back into. These matches are a ton of fun, but can easily take 45 minutes if you play from start to finish. They cover actual WW1 battles and feature some brief narration giving some history of the area and showing the map locations. I’ve really been enjoying my time with Operations mode. If you don’t have 45 minutes, though, conquest and death match are still there for you to jump into at any time.
The gameplay itself is very good as well. Movement feels great, time to kill is fairly spot on, and driving vehicles is fun to do (make sure you use the horse!). Battlefield 4 and Hardline felt solid, so this is nothing new for DICE, but paired with the great map design and visuals, you really get an entire package here. The only issues I ever ran into was going prone sometime got a bit glitchy and running over rough terrain was sometime iffy. Otherwise the game plays great. The new set of weapons are also nicely implemented. I expect we’ll see some balancing done to snipers and horses, which both seem very powerful right now, but overall I didn’t ever find myself getting insanely frustrated at one weapon or vehicle. A new feature in gameplay is the introduction of behemoths. If one team is losing by quite a bit you may see a behemoth come into play. These are map-specific giant vehicles like airships, trains, or battleships that you can spawn into and are added to try and give the losing team a fighting chance. They are a ton of fun if you can ever get into one, as you get to rain down death on unsuspecting enemies. They can be killed, but have a good amount of health. They really do help you fight back, and give you a boost if you’re in a bad match.
Progression is more or less what you’re used to. You level up as you score points in matches, which gives you currency called war bonds enabling you to buy new weapons. There are also battle-packs, which are random boxes of items, that you can win randomly at the end of the match, or buy with another currency you get from selling duplicate weapons or weapons you don’t want. The UI for all of this is a bit confusing and hard to tell what buys what, so hopefully DICE will clear that up a bit in the future. leveling is a slow process, so you shouldn’t run out of things to do.
Overall Battlefield 1 is a true Battlefield game, and might be the best shooter of the year on a multiplayer front. It looks and sounds incredible, offers a myriad of weapons to unlock and customize, and gives you fun and interesting vehicles, and maps to drive them on. Everything, including the new game modes, is well built and runs great aside from a few glitches and bugs. If you’re in the mood for a large-scale shooter to sink your teeth into over the winter, Battlefield 1 should be it. With the season pass DICE is promising quite a bit of new content over the coming months as well, leaving players with plenty of new things to look forward to. Battlefield 1 could have been stripped down like Battlefront, or done in a lighter tone, but it’s not, it’s a game that accurately represents the time period while still giving players the fun factor a game should have overall.