War is hell and Battlefield 1 conveys this in a brilliant, brutal and visceral series of short lives from the moment you enter its world.
The prologue has you charging towards the enemy switching from one doomed soul to the next each time you are shot, stabbed or burned alive.
The great war then, not so great if you were in it. I think the first thing that hits you is the scale of the who was involved. Countries that no longer exist and it’s really brought home when you look at the menu screen and see the areas you will be fighting over.
I was a little bit disappointed with the choice of WW1 for this iteration of Battlefield. I felt that there wouldn’t be enough variation in the weapons and specifically there would be far too few vehicles of interest for those large multiplayer matches.
It’s not my fault then that I was shocked and awed by the brutality as the horror that was the first world war was shoved down my throat through these initial first few moments of play. You see, the interesting thing about this time period is that technology was starting to make a difference to how people fought, so there were tanks and planes but not so much that just charging the enemy with a bayonetted rifle looking to run them through wasn’t a legitimate and effective tactic,
The result of all of Dices hard work (should that be die?) is that you have an actual physical real world reaction to what is happening, it’s a mixture of shock, joy, and excitement that is rare in this day and age.
I’ll start with the campaign which I don’t really want to go over too much but I will say that it is more focused and enjoyable than recent outings, in fact, I haven’t enjoyed a Battlefield campaign since Battlefield 2 Bad Company. One stand out is the Clyde Blackburn story thread. I found myself actually disliking him to the extent I was shouting at him through closed teeth, IRL, I know right?!
For me and probably most people reading this deciding whether to buy or not will be multiplayer and I am pleased to say it really doesn’t disappoint.
Whilst it stays faithful to the series open level combat it has a feel of its own. The detail in the level design, always a treat in Dice games, and thanks to the Frostbyte engine, the ever-changing cover, the maps stay interesting for a far longer period, further to this players have the option to lock certain doors on some levels meaning you can inhibit the flow of a map, set up and ambush or protect your flank and its these on the fly changes that can create or release certain choke points until the enemy has time to adjust and flank or just blow the doors up.
A stand out of the multiplayer is Operations, a multiplayer mode that can last for an hour or more spread across up to five different areas in a region. One side defending the other attacking and if one side is being overpowered by a stronger enemy they will get help from an Airship, a dreadnought or even an attack train to rain artillery at the enemy.
The old favourites return too, there are Rush, Conquest, Team Deathmatch and my preferred mode of the moment, Domination to choose from and more promised. Much like previous iterations of the Battlefield franchise, it’s not just about how many people you kill it’s about playing as a team and supporting each other with a common goal of winning. There are four classes, Assault, Medic, Support or Scout and having a balanced team is vital to winning. Certainly, the smart players who adapt to the changing circumstances of each battle, figuring out what is role is needed so they contribute the most to their team will often find themselves on the winning side. That could mean playing as a medic to offer to heal or to revive the support and assault team who are dropping like flies or counter sniping as a scout so that your team can break through the enemy lines. Playing as support you have the option to bring a mortar into the fray meaning you can clear an area that your team is trying to push into. Lastly, there is the assault class, the frontline troops, getting shot often but getting up close with the enemy and bringing them down with a well-placed SMG burst or more likely a shotgun slug to the chest.
Let’s address our first issue with the multiplayer here, The shotgun noob. It isn’t the shotgun noob that bothers me, the 12-year-old boy who is constantly killing me despite me getting the drop on them. The guy who never plays the objective and is only concerned with the number of kills they have at the end of the game. It’s the comments while the game is happening that people make about these players. “squeaker”, “noob” and “no skill” are phrases I see typed on every match.
There are some people that are just good at shooting games, they use a sniper rifle and kill you 7 times in a single match and they always seem to be behind you. Great, I hope you are on my team but don’t be that guy, the one who claims that others have no skill. I will tell you this as a 43-year-old man who has lived a full life, moving a mouse slightly better than someone else isn’t a skill and if the only way that person can compete with you is by using the overpowered gun before it gets nerfed then fair play. I find it really irritating myself but the comments just prove you are a bad loser/bad winner or spoilt, irritating little shit.
The final game mode is Catch the Pigeon, which is essentially the replacement of capture the flag with a twist, instead of getting back to your base you have to find a place to write a note and release the pigeon, get that wrong and the bird will be shot from the sky. Not one for PETA but it’s an interesting twist on the mode.
So far Battlefield is doing pretty well, and speaking of pretty, this is without a doubt the best looking Battlefield game ever and possibly the best looking FPS game ever. There are several maps that stand out and of them, the most visually appealing is Monte Grappe in the Alps. It’s like fighting in the sound of music and you can almost smell the fresh air. It’s not just in the looks department that the maps shine. The layout of all the maps will always give you a way to swing by a bottleneck and flank the enemy and it is this movement of players each trying to outwit the other that gives the game a tactical run and gun feeling.
It’s not all roses though, the game does have some big let downs. The biggest issue for me is navigating around the menus, specifically when outfitting a soldier, it’s unwieldy and doesn’t fit the flow of the game. Firstly finding the right weapon, are you looking for accuracy, damage or do you want to lay down some suppressive fire? What have you unlocked, what can you unlock, what do you want to unlock next, how will it affect your weapon. Well, in short, you will find it hard to work out and given that you have three load outs for each class, you could spend hours just sat in the awkward menus fitting out your soldier.
The gripes don’t stop there, the matchmaking is slow, the loading of each level, whilst not as bad as Battlefield 4 was and is a lesson in patience. Player balancing feels off too. Many matches I have been in saw a completely one-sided victory only for the teams to remain unchanged for the next match. In truth that does appear to have improved but I often find myself matched against superior/inferior players and only occasionally find matches ending with a close score.
With all that said the overall experience, the immersion, sights and sounds are all on point and I challenge anyone to play and not feel something. When there are mortars bursting around you as you charge towards an objective catching the glint from a sniper’s scope just long enough to take him out or as you stab your bayonet into an enemy and hear him screaming as he dies you get the feeling you are in a real battle.
It’s easy to forget how important sound is in a modern title. It’s as important to realism as graphics are and again Battlefield 1 astounds you. When you are firing from a tank you can hear the cases hitting the floor, when you fire the last round from your rifle and you hear the ting of the w spring, when you fire a mortar watch it land and then hear the sound get to you at the right time you don’t feel anything is off. You don’t notice the sound because it is right and it works perfectly to bring you back to 1916.
I didn’t want to like Battlefield 1, I thought the time period was wrong for a new Battlefield game but it has won my heart. I thought I wanted modern weapons with accurate scopes and that iron sights were the devil. What Battlefield 1 has done has shown me that I should drop my prejudgments because I could have missed out on an outstanding game with a superb and balanced multiplayer which has already provided me with hours of enjoyment. As I was writing this article I discovered that there will be no new battlefield in 2018 and it filled my heart with joy, we will have Battlefield 1 for a few years yet then.