A world at war.
Military shooters are a staple of the Fall gaming season. Each year, players get a chance to visit various theaters of war, and each year they seemingly change drastically, or attempt to improve upon last year’s game. DICE and EA have thrown us a curveball this year with Battlefield 1. Still the most ridiculous name for a sequel, this latest entry in the series takes players back to one of the most underutilized wars in gaming: World War I.
On paper this sounds like a colossally bad idea. I mean guns from that era are not suited for video games. One shot rifles and inferior military technology cannot possible be as cool as futuristic jump suits and wall-running…can it? Well the developers at DICE have taken some liberties with the weapons on top of crafting the best campaign in a military shooter since Modern Warfare wowed us all back in 2007. Battlefield 1 nails almost every aspect of being a great shooter, and it really does feel good to go back in time.
Platforms: XB1 (reviewed), PS4, PC
Price I’d Pay: $59.99
Let’s start with the campaign. Instead of focusing on one particular protagonist, the game instead delivers a series of stories, with each one featuring different characters in various areas of the war. The missions are broken down into chapters, some as short as an hour, and each one features unique game play mechanics. The first story has tank combat, while a later mission gives players an open world to tackle objectives how they see fit. It is fantastic.
Each mission is paced so well that I was never bogged down doing the same boring shooter encounters over and over again. On top of that, each character is extremely interesting. From the cocky fighter pilot to the horseback resistance fighter, each story is told with brevity and impact. I never got bored of these stories, and there are constant moments that stick out in my mind. DICE made a wise decision breaking things up. It never gets boring, because I was never doing the same thing for too long. This is a shooter campaign worth playing.
The focus of Battlefield 1 though falls on the multiplayer. Even when booting up the game (which tailors itself every time, a really neat presentation aspect) the available options favor multiplayer. I could jump directly into a match without much hesitation right from the splash screen.
Familiar modes such as Conquest and Domination return alongside new modes like War Pigeons and Operations. There are nine maps total, but are broken down into areas for each mode type. Maps are massive in Operations and Conquest, and while Conquest remains mostly the same, Operations brings a familiar take on the large scale battles.
Operations mode pits two teams against each other. One defends, while the other pushes the attack. It is similar to Rush mode, or even the more recent Battlefront Supremacy mode. The biggest difference here is that if the attackers succeed, then the map changes for the second point. It is a cool dynamic, and when Battlefield is at its best. Large maps with tons of players just feels fantastic.
I had no issues getting into games, but on occasion I ran into the same problems I did with Battlefield 4. Teaming up with friends is not always reliable, which stinks because that is how I want to play these types of games. It is how I play Overwatch and Battlefront, and it is also why I have played those games non-stop since their launch.
There are a couple issues with Battlefield 1’s multiplayer though. First up are snipers. Yes all of us casual players hate snipers, but Battlefield 1’s massive maps make snipers extremely effective. I found myself spawning only to die over and over. There are too many perches, and the rifles are super effective. This makes jumping in harder as frustration sets in long before I was able to really get my feet planted.
Next up is the revamped class system. Engineers are gone, and now their duties have fallen to the medic. This is a cool idea, but the medics have no way to take down vehicles effectively, making them a large target when they are attempting to repair vehicles. The unlock system is also plagued with boxes full of random loot, which again is both a blessing and a curse. Opening boxes is fun, but getting a weapon for a class I rarely play is not. I prefer being rewarded with things I actually want, instead of a roulette of items I will never care about.
The last thing I want to talk about are the visuals in Battlefield 1. Holy cow. Most of the time I see screenshots of games and I think “No way that is actually in-game.” With Battlefield 1, it really is. The levels are so detailed all I wanted to do was take screenshots. Subtle details such as raindrops and mud collecting on weapons, tanks collecting mud as they roll through, and small mists above dreary areas all set the tone. This game is gorgeous, and it (mostly) runs at a steady frame rate throughout. This game is beautiful.
Battlefield 1 might seem like a step backward, but it moves the genre forward in several areas. Mostly the campaign, which is the most polished, and enjoyable campaign I have played in years. I cannot recommend it enough. The multiplayer feels great, but it is still Battlefield, so if that has never been your cup of tea, this entry likely won’t change that. Even with its minor pitfalls Battlefield 1 feels like the best entry in the series in a long time. It stands out as yet another great game in the lineup of 2016 already chock full of excellent experiences.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.