EA Dice/Electronic Arts
Like many gamers out there, Battlefield 1 totally took me by surprise. I mean, I had watched a couple of multiplayer gameplay videos, months before its release. They gave me the initial impression that it more or less like Battlefield 4, just with a kitschy World War I aesthetic—still lots of jumping around and shooting from the hip type fare. After having played the final product, I now realize that it was that the individual person in the videos who was playing the game, just as one would play a typical super-fast-paced Call of Duty title, that had me saying to myself: Here we go again…
In fact, when played correctly, Battlefield 1 is as far removed from the typical triple A shooter out there that I’ve yet seen. But initially, I was skeptical. When I first booted the game up, although the prologue was epic, I navigated right into the multiplayer component. I was curious to see if there was enough meat in its multiplayer suite to be able to sustain the game long after the single player campaign had been completed. All I can say is: Wow.
My first game was in the long-running series’ new flagship multiplayer mode, Operations. This mode may seem like Rush a bit at first, but it adds a narrative element in, explaining who is fighting and why they are involved in that particular conflict. These brilliant new ripples to the formulae are introduced in the form of pre, mid, and end game cut scenes, by an off-screen narrator. Operations involves one team as the aggressors, who have a limited amount of attacks, and the opposing team as the defenders, who are trying to resist having their territory being taken.
The very first game map I played on was called The St. Quentin Scar, a contested area of France. It was a beautifully dismal battlefield with networks of muddy trenches flanked by pockets of both vegetation and small, quaint cottages. When the game started, I selected to come in on tank icon in order to try out the new WWI pieces of armor, and immediately noticed that instead of spawning into a vehicle spawn point zone, I was suddenly rolling along in a tank, and right onto the battlefield. Having heard so much about Battlefield 1’s much ballyhooed about destruction system, it was next on my list of things to put to the test.
Conveniently, my tank rolled up on a squad of scouts who, although prone, hadn’t anticipated our vehicle’s wide-angle third person field of view. We promptly rolled right over one enemy soldier, and his comrades, apparently realizing they’d been spotted, got up and sprinted into a nearby building. In Battlefield 1, the tanks are agonizingly slow, but I soon realized that I wouldn’t have to get close to the enemy squad…
Instead, as one of the tank’s side-gunners, I aimed at the building that the enemy had run into, and fired off its massive shells. My round hit the walls of the house, crumbled for a moment, and then I watched with glee as the roof came crashing down, killing everyone inside. It was a brilliant testament to the game’s destruction system. In fact, Battlefield 1’s almost fully destructible environments are much more akin to its Bad Company titles than it is to Battlefield 3 and 4.
I must have continued playing Operations mode for quite some time, because suddenly it was dark outside, reminding me that I should probably try out Battlefield 1’s other multiplayer modes. Classics such as Rush, Domination, Team Deathmatch, and Conquest are back, but besides Operations, another new multiplayer mode called War Pigeons is turning out to be quite popular with Battlefield fans. War Pigeons is an infantry only, Team Deathmatch variant that involves two teams trying to secure pigeons that are flapping around a map. If a player happens to get his hands on a pigeon, he then begins to write a message, attach it to the bird, and then tries to send it off into the sky. The slower that the player moves, the faster he writes his message, making him a more vulnerable target. Some of the hijinks witnessed in this often comical mode are just hilarious, and it’s a great, somewhat off-beat addition to the other modes on offer.
The classes in Battlefield 1 have also been revamped somewhat. Although simplified in theory, the sheer amount of ways that you can customize each one is what makes the new class system shine. The Assault class is a mid-range combat specialist who can utilize anti-vehicular weaponry, while the Medic can revive teammates with his handy syringe while also possessing some decent mid-range weapons. The Scout class is basically your long-range sniping expert who can fell foes out with one shot, while the Support class (my personal favorite) can not only suppress enemies with his heavy weapons, but also has access to both anti-vehicle weapons and artillery.
New Elite classes are also available to players, although they spawn in randomly at certain locations so that they can’t be over-abused. It’s a fantastic concept—one minute you can be on the losing end of a particular engagement, only to come across a flamethrower or armored machine gunner kit, for example, which changes the tide of battle. There are also dedicated crew and pilot kits available for the first players to spawn into both armored vehicles and planes, respectively. Although these vehicle kits are lightly armed, they can access a whole array of vehicle customization options that aren’t available to normal soldiers who commandeer vehicles. There are also gigantic behemoth class vehicles, such as destroyers and armored trains, which may be called in when one team is losing a battle and need some extra firepower to call on.
When I did finally get back to the single player campaign, I realized that it was so well done that EA Dice has set a new benchmark in terms of both innovation and immersion. Instead of playing it safe and rolling with the whole one-man army concept that most games rely on these days, Battlefield 1’s single player campaign is broken up into six distinct War Stories. These each focus in on specific person involved in The Great War, allowing you to plumb different facets of the conflict, as well as their repercussions, a little more deeply. Another thing I really enjoyed about Battlefield 1’s campaign was its outstanding writing. It was never preachy, and it also never fell into the typical good vs evil trap. Things aren’t as cut and dry, and leave much up to the player’s own interpretation.
Visually, Battlefield 1 could be the finest looking first (or third for that matter) person shooter I’ve ever played. I played it on a souped-up gaming laptop with a GTX 1080 gaming card with all of the bells and whistles set to maximum, and let me tell you, this is the perfect game to show off to your friends. The character and weapon models, environmental textures, and vehicle skins all look fantastic, and it’s hard to believe that on top of that, they threw in such an impressive destruction system.
EA Dice really took a gamble with their latest Battlefield title, and has paid off in spades. It’s phenomenal writing, brilliant concept, fun multiplayer modes, and slick and polished presentation make it an instant classic, and one that I’ll be playing for a long time.