For the last 6 years, Battlefield has departed from its World War roots to focus on modern-day technology and warfare. After this period, Visceral Games took the series on a small detour into cops-and-robbers territory with Battlefield Hardline in 2015. Despite some positive feedback and strong sales, the game proved to be an unfulfilling entry into the series for many of its fans and it didn’t manage to live up to previous efforts. Now, EA and Dice have chosen to go back in time to one of the most world-changing and devastating events in human history; World War 1. Battlefield 1 aims to recapture the atmosphere of the series predecessors as well as introduce the new generation of gamers to the warfare of the 1910s but does this dramatic change of settings make for a compelling battleground.
The game’s campaign mode is set in the final years of the war; 1917 and 18. The five storylines that make up the majority of the single-player are told from the perspective of separate characters across the face of Europe and the middle-east. Before they start the game begins with a truly riveting opening that introduces players to the terror of war. The prologue does an excellent job of showing the horrors of warfare and the destruction it brings from a physical and psychological standpoint. As you desperately fight for survival you will see the destruction of the landscape, the intensity of the battle and the torment of shell-shocked soldiers on both sides. After each character dies the game will show you the name of the soldier and the dates of when they were born and when they were killed, which makes the moment even more emotionally powerful. While it only lasts five minutes, it’s easily the campaigns greatest achievement and it couldn’t have been done better for an opening.
While the opening sequence is solid, the rest of the campaign falls flat. Despite some attempts to make you engaged in each character’s struggles and motivations, the game never succeeds in making you care about them. The abysmally short, 5-hour campaign doesn’t give you nearly enough time to become invested in the war and moments that are meant to inspire or touch you emotionally, such as the relationship between Clyde Blackburn and Wilson, and Frederick Bishop’s ultimate fate, come off as clichéd and laughable. Each campaign takes over 1 hour to complete, some even less, and within them, there is a lot of drama, mainly shown through overlong cutscenes, filled with the visual grandeur the series is known for, but also with poor writing and moments that make these storylines more silly than heart-wrenching. There are some small sequences that might tug your heartstrings, such as learning about the past and present life of a soldier, but these moments aren’t enough to breathe life into the story.
Far worse though, is the way in which the game portrays its protagonists, and the lack of diversity the cast really has. Every character you play as is either from the Arab rebel forces or the Triple Entente. The variety and emotional power of the story would have been vastly improved if you played as soldiers from both the Entente and the Alliance, as you would experience and see the perspectives of ordinary people on both sides and what they thought of the people they were fighting. The game chooses to place these soldiers into areas where the player could take on huge quantities of enemies like a superhero. You can practically take on any number of soldiers by yourself due to the poor enemy AI, possession some overpowered weapons and equipment. One level in the story, for example, has you battle the enemy while wearing metal plated armour. Not only is this historically inaccurate and ridiculous, you are given far too much protection and power, and you end up simply mowing down enemies without much difficulty. In another storyline, where you play as an Arab rebel, fighting alone int he desert, you are tasked with destroying three enemy vehicles and clear out an entire village by yourself. Levels like this wouldn’t be too distracting if you were playing as a character like Wolfenstein’s BJ Blascowicz, but as ordinary soldiers, who would work with other teammates, as well as players through cooperative multiplayer, it’s very difficult to connect with them as characters, since there never seem to be placed in that much pain or danger.
The gameplay provides some areas of enjoyment but in the end, it doesn’t fare much better. Firing guns is satisfying and driving a vehicle into battle is fun enough but the majority of levels like where you drive in a tank are restrictive and quickly grow monotonous since you’re rarely given the chance to leave it and fight on foot. levels, where you fly planes resort to simple shooting galleries and traversing large stretches of the desert to clear out enemy outposts, becomes tedious and repetitive. Cut between these sessions are stealth sections, where you must avoid multiple enemies to reach a checkpoint or gather tools and equipment. These sections go to waste since the enemy AI is extremely incompetent, even on harder difficulties. While it’s possible for them to overwhelm you and kill you, the majority of the time, you will be able to shoot your way right through all of them. They would mostly be too slow to react to your shots, shoot tanks with machine guns and sometimes would simply stop and wait patiently for you to blow their brains out.
Players are divided into four classes, which possess significant traits whilst the battlefield. The Assault class is equipped with rifles, machine guns, and shotguns and can use a range of explosives to tackle vehicles. The medic can heal oneself and other teammates and could revive them when they’ve been killed. The Support class uses large weapons with extended magazines and could lay down traps and supply crates to re-supply players with ammunition. Snipers could pick off enemies from vast distances and can drop wired mines to protect them from the occasional sneaky player. A large change introduced to the class system is the inclusion of tank and pilot classes. Instead of picking a class and then selecting a vehicle, players are at points given the option to select an entirely separate class of either a tank driver or a pilot. The tanks could completely change the course of the battle as they could cause huge chaos with their guns and flamethrowers and are difficult to destroy. Planes could cause havoc from the sky and could provide protection from other aircraft. Their effectiveness in battle also compensates for the weakness of the players themselves. Once these classes are selected, players are equipped with small pistols and have equipment used primarily for repairs. The increased vulnerability of players makes their vehicle much more precious and getting out to repair them, or to evacuate and fight on foot is made even riskier. Like within the time period, players can also travel across the battlefield on horseback, which is also provided alongside tanks and planes as a transportation class. Whilst riding a horse, players are equipped with a rifle, as well as a sabre to cut enemies down. It’s a serviceable class that brings some satisfaction as you ride across the battlefield but it sadly becomes extremely frustrating. The horses are difficult to control, making it highly difficult to shoot or slash other players and they would very often refuse to jump over obstacles. Overall, horse riding is horribly implemented and frustrating and it wastes a potentially compelling element to combat variety.
Battlefield 1 comes with many modes present in other military shooters, including Team Deathmatch, Conquest, Domination, and Rush. The newest and most compelling mode is Operations. In Operations, the battlefield is divided into large sectors, which each have 1 to 3 checkpoints. One team of players must try and capture each checkpoint of every sector to win the match, while the other team must try to stop them. The attacking team has up to 200 reserve units, meaning that if all combined players within the team respawn up to that number, the match is lost. They also have 3 battalions when these units are lost and each one gives them access to large supportive vehicles like a zeppelin, an armoured train, or a dreadnought. The battlefield scale in operations also allows both teams to use planes and tanks against each other, which helps to make these already enticing fights even more chaotic. Operations is easily the best mode in the entire game. It contains an outstanding level of tension as each team desperately tries to capture or defend themselves, and it brings a greater sense of teamwork as players try to work together to achieve these same goals. It also feels much more story-driven and this provides a much greater urge for players to fight on. The final mode introduced is War pigeons. Here, two teams fight over a pigeon placed randomly over the map. Once a team picks up the pigeon they must protect the member who got it as they write a note and set it to lose. The mode’s nature makes it feel more like a joke and it doesn’t have as much strategy or tension as some of the other modes. it manages to be an enjoyable mode with plenty of competition but in the end, you may ignore it altogether.
The game provides all of the visual and technical achievements the series is known for. Excellent visuals, stunning weather and special effects, and organic sound design help to fully immerse players in the world around them. The visual style also allows for some exceptional sights as you run around the map. Watching planes battle in the sky is especially exhilarating and buildings and vehicles all have a substantial amount of destructibility to them. houses will explode and crumble upon detonation of bombs, and enough damage will cause even the huge zeppelin to blow into oblivion. Watching these instances occur makes the game far more intense to play and sometimes you wouldn’t help but waste a few bombs just to watch a large building tumble to the ground in a heap of rubble and smoke.
Combat also has to make adjustments to match with the era. One of the biggest is that melee plays a much larger role than it has done in previous entries. Alongside firearms, players are equipped with a variety of melee weapons like knives, spades and shovels and players are rewarded when they use each of these a certain amount of times. many guns can also be fitted with bayonets which when activated, make players charge and deliver devastating blows to enemies, killing them in an instant. The guns themselves feel spot on with satisfying visual feedback and sound design. Some, like the hunter shotgun, give an effective kick and blast enemies from close range, while machine guns could spray the ground with bullets at the expense of decreased accuracy. bolt-action rifles are much more common and only fire 1 shot before the next round needs to be loaded. loading each bullet could put players more at risk since they aren’t given as much power over how bullets are shot compared to automatics. Overall, Battlefield 1’s combat is fresh and satisfying and learning how to use the different varieties of weapons from a conflict fought more than a century ago is deeply fascinating.
The environments in multiplayer comprise of blasted landscapes, cosy villages, grasslands, and fortifications. many of these levels are wide open and allow for players to use it to their advantage in a variety of ways to kill other players, while other levels are more linear and rely mainly on corridor-based shooting, where players have fewer places to run and must find different ways and hallways to come up behind the others. The majority of the maps present are well crafted, especially for huge modes like Conquest and Operations. They provide huge stretches of land for soldiers, tanks, planes, and boats to fight upon and they bring a compelling sense of scale as if you are fighting on a real battlefield.
Player activities also contribute to the game’s progression system, which rewards them with experience points depending on the tasks they accomplish, and their overall contribution to matches. When a player reaches a certain number of XP they gain a rank and are rewards with an in-game currency known as Warbounds. Players could use them to purchase new weapons, tools, and gun modifications. The number of Warbounds received increases the higher your rank is. This is where things begin to get awkward. While it’s exciting to unlock a new weapon or a piece of equipment for each class, it’s easy to grow disappointed by how many of these there actually are. Not including DLC, each class only has 4 unlockable weapons and the rest are simple mods of those same weapons, which add very basic visual enhancements and minimal improvements to their overall qualities. It’s useful to be able to attach a scope to your assault rifle but that is almost everything that the system provides.
Battlefield 1 is one of the most absorbing multiplayer experiences in recent years, even if it doesn’t live up to some of the high expectations from fans. The campaign is shallow and vastly overrated, progression leaves much to be desired and there is a rather unsatisfying amount of content present. Yet somehow, in spite of everything Battlefield 1 always manages to draw you back into its world of chaos and fury. The amount of exhilaration you get from fighting over a battleground is huge and it becomes increasingly difficult not to be entertained by the shire scale of the battles. The game is flawed in very serious ways and some of these have been with the series for years. For a game set in the first world war, they are now virtually impossible to forgive. But it’s hard to deny that the game provides one of the best multiplayer experiences of the generation.
REVIEW CODE: A PS4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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