So I picked up Battlefield 1 on release day for this review. Admittedly, I was apathetic to the whole thing. ‘Oh here comes another military shooter’, I thought. Sure, I’d played the last two Battlefield titles, as well as Battlefront. So, I knew just what to expect and what I was getting into. However, EA Dice have polished nearly every aspect of this franchise into a fine sheen. While not all mechanics seem fair when playing online, it’s fairly safe to say this is the best Battlefield yet.
Battlefield 1 Is Immersive As Hell
We all play Battlefield for the online multiplayer so let’s start here. Never before has Battlefield’s massive open warfare felt so…real. We all know by now that everything you see is the a result of a player somewhere on the map. Fellow soldiers slump to the ground from a sniper shot from far far away. Mortar made craters form in the ground, spewing mud into the air as you race through the carnage, blowing your whistle. Aircraft whizz about above, errant gunfire spattering the ground with resounding pitter patter sound effects. Your comrades scream words of encouragement or doom… and that’s just the start of describing any online match you choose to play.
Suffice it say, Battelfield 1’s immersion levels in matches online are like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It’s this sheer level of involvement players feel per match that makes the game so fun to play. It’s also a reason to always come back to the mud and blood spattered environs as they will doubtlessly stick in your mind for some time to come. This level of immersion encourages most players to work together effectively as a team. The frantic to-and-fro of taking and losing objectives demands constant focus on prioritising plays against the objective targets together.
Battlefield 1’s Mechanics Are Solid, Yet Far From Perfect
Of course, all this immersion would be for nothing without solid mechanics and a fair class customisation system. So how does Battlefield 1 perform in these areas? With different classes boasting separate skills. These class specific skills involve helping other players for the benefit of the match as a whole. The medic can revive downed players, slowing the opposition’s progress in whittling away soldier count. Or the support class can resupply allies with ammo. This all goes towards working together as a team. A set of mechanics that a vast majority of other frantic shooters rarely offer.
Yet the variety in each of the classes is somewhat lacking. For each of the weapon types, players can only choose around four. Sure there’s variants of each, making for a longer list to choose from but…. There’s only an average of four distinct weapons per type. While this may have some players feeling powerless to modify things, suiting the situation, each of the weapons serve a purpose with their handling. Certain machine guns have great damage but shoddy range. Using sniper rifles requires good understanding of bullet drop and target-leading physics. Other weapons kick like a mule. Therefore, no one weapon is perfect. As a result, fighting your enemy on the ground doesn’t feel unfair.
However, some issues roll in when playing Battlefield’s new game mode, Operations .Or when playing smaller map modes like Domination or TDM. Operations is fantastic, don’t get me wrong. It feels like the final culmination of what the Battlefield team has always wanted to do. Based on real historical skirmishes, one team defends while the other attacks. Between rounds, the map zooms out and segments different territories, informing players of how their team is doing in the battle.
Are the defenders getting pushed back to the last line of defence? Or are they holding ground, whittling away at the attacker’s numbers? It gives a great sense of the ebb and flow of real battles. However, if the attackers fail in their last but one push, they’ll be reinforced with…something big.
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Depending on the map, it could be an armoured train, a zeppelin, or dreadnought. If players find themselves on the receiving end of this, things can start to feel unfair. When this series of events goes down, nine times out of ten the attackers will win. These massive handicaps take an absolute beating. Even if the whole team works together to get rid of them, the attackers will have taken advantage of this, taking even more territory. In turn this lessens the odds of winning as defence even further. Perhaps the developers need to release a patch where these artillery lobbing behemoths take less punishment. It would still be a fair fight.
When a game like this is condensed onto smaller maps to appease more conventional means of multiplayer,Battlefield 1’s ambitions come back to bite it in the ass. The spawning system tends to feel a little off. You may find yourself plonked into the middle of a cloud of gas. Or perhaps right underneath a mortar shell, soon to hit home. When this happens several times in a row, Battlefield 1’s near perfect multiplayer system can feel a little jaded. Even if players survive their soldier’s unfortunate arrival to existence, you’ll still be handling low health issues before you’ve even got started. This was only a minor issue and Battlefield 1 remains my favourite online shooter to date. The maps are great and the carnage is even better.
War Stories Are Great But Brief
While the only real historical character in the game’s campaign is Lawrence of Arabia, the campaign and its characters surprised me. It starts off with a very punchy battle in No Man’s Land. The game brazenly informs you that it does not expect you to survive. And you won’t. What follows is a brilliantly told wave survival, zipping from one area of the battlefield to the next. It is a brutal and vivid portrayal of the messy horrific nature of early 20th century war. When the player completes all the war stories the game has to offer, the developers have shown respect with a video ‘dedicated to those who served’.
Upon starting the first war story, I was pleasantly surprised with how it was told. I felt like I was getting into a game spliced with the blunt realism of Saving Private Ryan. Instantly, it establishes itself as a story made by those who have done their homework on World War 1. Even characters who die very shortly into the campaign are somehow humanised effectively. The characters that players will inhabit throughout the different war stories also feel like real people. Unfortunate victims of conscription.
Sadly, each of their stories come short as players can expect to finish each character in around an hour. This was a big shame as the Battlefield 1 team blatantly have new writers and they’re certainly upping their story telling game. Just when you’re feeling you’re hitting your stride with a certain character, their story will be over. Next up, players are placed in the shoes of a newly unfamiliar character.
Battlefield Sits Atop Its Ivory Tower
Battlefield 1 deservedly stands atop a very large hill, looking down on other shooters as they scramble over one another, vying for that top position. It has earned its position with photo-realistic graphics and excellent multiplayer mechanics. Its campaign is still feeling lacklustre akin to previous titles but it is evident that EA Dice are stepping up their game in that area. Of course, there is an ongoing debate about the morality of romanticising war in juxtaposition with its sheer grittiness. The same could be said of any other historical shooter.
I did come across a few graphical glitches too. One soldier’s cape decided to go for a little fly around, as it hover over the battlefield. A crater forms under an AA gun only for it to stay where it was, suspended above. Regardless, this writer will be coming back to Battlefield 1 for some time to come. Blowing his whistle, bayonet charging and questioning design choices from time to time.