In recent years, EA’s Battlefield franchise has redefined the first-person shooter market. When Battlefield 3 initially released in 2011, the historically Call of Duty-dominated market was split in two with Battlefield offering a more fleshed-out, war-like experience and COD offering more of an arena style combat. Battlefield 1 not only takes both of those experiences and combines them into one, but it also takes the FPS genre back to its roots.
Single-player Campaign Disappoints Despite Potential
Opening up the campaign is a short sequence that throws you into the middle of battle as a part of the “Harlem Hellfighters,” the all-black U.S. 369th infantry unit. As the cutscene finishes, you assume control of the soldier, and an ominous message appears: “You are not expected to survive.” This not only sets the mood for the battle but really for the whole game. In fact, to progress to the rest of the campaign you must die—several times in fact.
While the multiple campaign stories aren’t anything to write home about, it does a great job of setting the atmosphere and showing various viewpoints from the war. This vignette style of storytelling splits the campaign into five 30 to 60-minute episodes, each of them dealing with a different part of the war. They all have their impact moments as well. From driving a British tank in 100 Days Offensive to riding on horseback with Lawrence of Arabia in the desert, the player learns that this war affected everyone in a different and unique way.
Frankly, I think that more could have been done here. The campaigns in Battlefield have never been amazing, but with a background like World War I, the setting was perfect for an epic story that cold have been blended into real-world events with real-life legends. Unfortunately though, the campaign mostly serves as a five-hour multiplayer tutorial.
While the campaign may have been disappointing, the large-scale multiplayer battles that made Battlefield famous are back and better than ever. From “Team Deathmatch” and “Conquest” to the new “Operations” mode, multiplayer game types are varied enough to keep you on your toes, should you want to switch between them.
The new operations mode is a battle-for-territory game variant akin to the series “Rush” mode. The difference between this mode and “Rush” is that “Operations” spans over multiple maps. Like “Rush,” one team is designated to push forward while the other is designated to defend. If the defending team can eliminate all the attackers before they take the objectives, they win that round. All in all, it’s an exciting and welcome addition to the game.
The real stars of multiplayer, though, are the guns. We have all become accustomed to the endless customization options of the modern-day firearm, and, while the guns in Battlefield 1 can be customized to a certain extent, they are customizable to a limit that is expected during the early 20th century. For example, instead of changing scopes, you can change what your reticule looks like.
What really sticks out is the lack of the spray-and-pray tactics that are usually employed in multiplayer shooters. Because of the simplistic and rudimentary nature of the firearms, you are forced to focus on your target. From reload times and their respective animations to various recoil differences and rates of fire, you have to compensate for all of these factors in order to be successful. They force you to be good at what you’re doing in order to make the biggest impact.
Along those same lines, the vehicles in Battlefield 1 are not only true to the time period, but they also feel like the titans of war that they were. In modern-day based shooters, any soldier can carry an anti-tank mine or carry a rocket launcher. Battlefield 1 forces you to run and hide from vehicles, specifically tanks and planes, praying that they didn’t see you run into the building next to them.
Vehicles also provide some of the most cinematic moments available in the game. Switching from seat to seat in your plane, for example, requires you to run across the body of the plane. If tanks and planes aren’t your style, though, you can ride in motorcycles, cars with gun mounts, or even on horseback while wielding a sword. Battlefield 1 does a great job at making sure players feel like they’re in the battle.
Lastly, the map design is excellent. In one match, players find themselves on the streets of England. In the next, you’re on the Sinai Peninsula. Every map in Battlefield 1 lends itself very well to the various game modes offered. Each of them feels large enough that it’s daunting to think about running all the way across. However, the squad system does an excellent job at counteracting this feeling, allowing you to spawn on fellow squad members. This feature is nothing new, but it’s still vital to individual success.
Battlefield 1 is an excellent game. It takes players back to the Great War and reminds everyone what it’s like to get into a firefight with only a bolt-action rifle in hand. While the campaign is a sore spot, it’s more exhilarating and enjoyable than any other Battlefield title to date. With the beautiful scenery, hand-crafted level design and the near-perfect gun play, Battlefield 1 crushes the competition.