Review: Battlefield 1
Battlefield 1 Brings Shooters Back to Early Twentieth Century Warfare
The Battlefield series has always been more of a hit or miss with me. The past few entries have done little to entice me, but all of that has changed with Battlefield 1. After nearly a decade of modern and futuristic shooters, it's nice to take a step back and revisit the era of early twentieth century combat. Not only does Battlefield 1 cleanse the shooter fan's palette by offering a refreshing setting, but it also introduces a new campaign style that tells poignient stories, offers varied gameplay, and represents a bigger picture of the "war to end all wars."
CHANGING THE BATTLEFIELD
Battlefield 1 sets itself apart immediately following the start of the campaign. Rather than having a continuous campaign that's spread over the course of the game's seven hours, Battlefield 1 opts for a vignette style of storytelling, that the game refers to as "War Stories." Each of the five War Stories focuses on a different set of characters, and tells a different part of the war. In the first story, I was playing in a British force team while trekking through France in a Mark V tank, but by the last story, I was rebelling against the Ottoman Empire as a Bedouin warrior alongside Lawrence of Arabia - a side of the war that is often neglected in video game storytelling.
Each story feels unique and offers different key mechanics, such as playing on foot or in a vehicle, or dabbling in different infantry classes. Each gameplay style ties in nicely to their respective story, and by the end of the campaign, players are introduced to all of Battlefield 1's options for combat, which proves to be helpful in multiplayer, but more on that later. In traditional Battlefield fashion, the game offers numerous ways to play, and tons of toys to use in each mission. I never really felt like my objective in the game was to just run and gun, which only furthered the unique experience of the game. There was always something I was protecting, capturing, transporting, driving, flying, you name it. The game is one of the most dynamic first-person shooter I've played in years.
One criticism I did have of the gameplay was the heavy emphasis on stealth. While generally I felt like I could handle any situation the way that best fit my play style, I couldn't help but feel like the game was too often urging me to play stealthy, a gameplay method that simply doesn't jive with me usually. Sure, it's World War 1 and most of the war's battles were fought in trenches, but that doesn't really make for a fun game, so developer DICE put a twist on the historical trench warfare, while keeping the slow and steady combat that was World War 1. The result is a stealth heavy game that can be played in any way, but it's still stealth, no matter how many times you try and run through the battlefield slaughtering everyone in sight.
LOOKS AS GOOD AS IT PLAYS
Without a doubt, Battlefield 1 both looks and plays fantastic. While DICE has had numerous years and entries to perfect the Battlefield formula, it has never felt or looked better than it does in Battlefield 1. Environments are convincing, textures are rich, and I could hear every footstep and reload through the speakers of my television. The Frostbite 3 engine is no joke, and DICE has really utilized its potential in Battlefield 1. Even on my standard PlayStation 4, the game looked jaw dropping.
Of course it also plays like a Battlefield game. There's more heft and animation in a character's movement than in faster, more twitch based shooter like Call of Duty, but that's part of what makes Battlefield standout - there's really no other shooter like it. Environments are as destructible as ever, and there is still no feeling more satisfying than completely demolishing a structure and watching the dust settle. The strong relationship between the player and the environment adds to the dynamic nature of battles, and can really shape the way the game plays out.
Cut scenes are rendered perfectly, with incredible animation and expression on every character's face. The moments where you're watching Battlefield 1 rather than playing it are some of the best. In a lot of ways, it's one of the best war dramas I've ever seen, and the wonderfully executed cutscenes make all the difference.
TAKING THE BATTLE(FIELD) ONLINE
Battlefield's main attraction is, of course, its multiplayer. There's the usual large scale combat in modes like Conquest, but if you want to go bigger, there's Operations, which is a large scale match that spans over several maps. However, as a multiplayer casual, I found myself enjoying modes like Domination more, which is a smaller scale mode that focuses on capturing and holding objectives. The game also offers Team Deathmatch, because it's a shooter and it must, as well as Rush, a classic Battlefield mode. New to Battlefield 1 is War Pigeons, where teams fight to get pigeons in order to call in artillery strikes. It's different, and novel, but I didn't find myself sinking much of my multiplayer time into it.
As someone who rarely plays online shooters, I experienced most of my online playtime seeing screens like this one:
And this one:
Despite my inability to play proficiently, I later got better and better at the game by playing the small scale modes like Domination, as well as learning all that the game has to offer in campaign. After getting a firm grasp on battling alongside many players and pesky flying vehicles, I finally learned how to adapt and play Battlefield 1 in the way it was intended, leading me to run into more instances like this one:
Battlefield is a shooter that is all about squads, patience, and tactics. Once I got over being so new and bad at these elements, I was able to appreciate the truly vast and dynamic game that Battlefield 1 is.
Speaking of squads, that's what is going to make you or break you in this game. While it may not be new knowledge to seasoned Battlefield fans, its a must know for first timers. Without your squad, you'll usually end up as dead meat. Each infantry class offers special perks that aid the rest of the squad. Medics can heal, assault soldiers have anti-tank grenades, etc. It all culminates in creating a squad that can work together to successfully traverse the battlefield. My only criticism of squads is that it makes the online experience slightly less enthralling for those who don't have a regular crew to play with. While you can jump around squads throughout a match. A dedicated squad that is communicating and planning together is the team that will get the most out of Battlefield 1's online.
Unlike WW1, I'll keep things short. Battlefield 1 is an exceptional first-person shooter. Although the latter half of 2016 was filled with many shooters, this game manages to be a must play. From a innovative and compelling campaign experience, to a robust and addictive multiplayer offering, Battlefield 1 is filled to the brim with good content. While I don't necessarily love the heavy usage of stealth, I was able to find work arounds and play the game the way I wanted. And while multiplayer may seem a little daunting at first, there are plenty of tools available to train players to master the necessary skills needed to enjoy the large scale battles online. If you're starting to get a little nostalgic for the era of early twentieth century shooters, or you just wanna play a damn good game, Battlefield 1 is absolutely worth a shot. Get it,... a shot.