First person shooters and other types have all struggled to find their niche lately. Almost every big name title still pulls in enough fans to keep themselves running but almost every entry is now moving forward to the point where battles are fought with high tech equipment, super-soldiers, or even mechanized behemoths. Among these shooters there is one that has went back in time instead of forwards and by doing so, and revisiting a war that is given very little attention, Battlefield 1 stood out immediately. Now that it is available for fans, does it manage to hold up to expectations?
The way that Battlefield 1 handles the single player campaign is rather unique. Instead of portraying a single soldier’s viewpoint throughout various battles during The Great War, the developers have instead created a series of stories that place the player in the eyes of various soldiers as they fight for their lives on various battlefronts. Players will be able to select any story they want and play through them in whichever way they choose in what turns out to be an incredibly focused experience that helps portray the sheer size of the war as well as the various reasons certain soldiers are fighting.
These War Stories as they are called feature distinctive characters that grow into their own in a very short time as players fight their way through very open feeling levels and experience the numerous gameplay elements that Battlefield 1 has to offer. You see, while this roughly ten hour story mode is not only incredibly well handled for a first person shooter that generally is seen as a multiplayer oriented title, it also gives players a little taste of what to expect when they go online.
Various missions, especially in “Through the Mud and Blood” war story, place players in a vehicle while others sample various game modes that can be played, making the single player a great way to not only experience World War I in a unique manner but also prepare yourself for the multiplayer modes. In fact, the best multiplayer mode, Operations, even delivers a little bit of storyline in its own right by giving some historical context to the battles that players are taking part in via a pre and post-match voice over that goes so far to speculate what might have happened if a battle that was historically lost was actually won by the other side, depending on the outcome of the match.
While the story mode may be a very satisfying experience, the bulk of your time will be spent taking part in Battlefield 1’s multiplayer mode and I must say that this time around it is better than ever. While the main large scale battles take part during the aforementioned Operations Mode that offers 40 or 64 players fighting at a time and Conquest offering 64 player combat, there are also smaller scale modes such as your standard Domination, Rush, Team Deathmatch, and the token unique mode called War Pigeons that serves as something of the “Oddball” type match that has players obtaining the bird and finding a safe place to write a message and release the pigeon in order to obtain points.
Operations is the real shining star found in these offerings as players are placed on either the attacking or defending side of a conflict and must battle against one another in matches that can last for over an hour if it comes down to the wire. When selecting this mode players can select which battlefront they actually want to take part in and then are randomly given a side to fight for. These matches can change wildly depending on how things unfold as the attacking team must push back the defending side with the maps even changing if they are pushed back too far. By moving the fight across different maps and regions these long battles remain exhilarating, especially when the losing side is given a special temporary advantage in the form of a large scale assisting vehicle such as an armored train, an airship, or even a dreadnought.
One of the key elements in these battles doesn’t really come from trying to get the best kill to death ratio but to making sure that you’re actually playing as a team. Thanks to the sheer number of soldiers battling at any given time, venturing out solo will often be the death of you as you will likely encounter embedded snipers, field guns, artillery, and more that will wipe you out if you aren’t planning properly. This means that by changing your class on the fly to help your group art, be it supporting them by laying down suppressing fire or getting out repairing a damaged vehicle or supplying them with more ammunition/grenades, healing them up as they are hurt or flat out reviving them as a healer, playing the spotter as a sniper or simply charging ahead as an assault class, there is a place for every role on the team and often the best squads are the diverse ones.
This even includes jumping into a rear-gunners seat in a bomber or jumping into a tank. Thanks to the designs of these vehicles being kept to World War I standards, players generally will need the help of others if they want to make full use of their vehicles, especially when it comes to tanks as the larger ones require more than one player to properly move around and make use of their main guns and most planes only being able to target ground troops as a pilot, resulting in needing an ally serving as a tail gunner to keep fighters off of your back.
While the combat and gunplay is as tight as ever and players are given a large amount of tools to use at their disposal, including the ability to use different types of grenades such as gas grenades that require the enemy, and yourself, to wear a gas mask to avoid constant damage while also limiting their aiming ability, the actual menu navigation and customization is a bit of a pain in this entry. Players will find that Battlefield 1’s menu systems are given the most bare bones treatment possible and while it is easy to find matches, there is no real way to actually back out of a fight after it is completed. Instead, after the match has ended and loads the next fight players must either quit out on their team to go back to the menu or simply quit the game entirely and start there.
This issue also transfers over into the fact that players are only given the option to customize their classes while in an actual match. Trying to swap your weaponry (which is unlocked through “war bonds” that are given to players by leveling up with certain weapons also locked behind class levels) or customize your load out while leaving your team hanging dry is a terrible feeling and something that should be able to be done while either loading into a match or at least at the main menu.
Visuals & Audio
Players will find that a lot of work has been put into making sure that each and every map in Battlefield 1 feels unique in some way as well as massive in scale. Although there are only so many maps to offer the various details and unique areas in each map help make most fights feel very different from one another, especially since there are so many routes available to try and avoid getting bottlenecked. This same level of detail goes into the weather mechanics that play a significant role at times by often clogging up the battlefield with fog or sand and making various tactics such as sniping or shelling far more difficult as you will need to get up close and personal to accurately target enemies.
The graphics in the title are also exceptionally well handled with plenty of detail put into recreating authentic looking weaponry and vehicles. In fact, while skins can be unlocked for weapons at least at the moment they are nice and subdued and if you end up crawling through mud, then your weapon will end up dirty as well. This same level of detail is applied to the destruction that returns in this game as players will regularly find that most buildings and objects in the environment can be destroyed almost completely, making tanks something of a wrecking ball in certain areas and mortars quite devastating at times.
One must also commend just how great this game sounds. While venturing across the field players will hear the sounds of battle in the distance, whether it is horses crying out, artillery blasting, or simply gunfire players will be able to hear it all. If you happen to be getting shot at you’ll hear bullets pinging off the ground and know where to take cover and with so much happening at a time, there is a real authenticity to just how intense and chaotic war sounds and it is all portrayed in an incredible manner here.
EA and DICE took something of a risk by going back in time to World War I but they have easily proven that this war is one that has gone overlooked for far too long. Battlefield 1 feels like a return to form for the series and delivers a satisfying single player experience as well as an intense multiplayer mode that constantly keeps players engaged thanks to the variety of modes on offer, just how immense the battles can be, and the slew of options available to them in each mode.