The First World War is revisited in the game Battlefield 1. Known at the time as “The Great War,” it can be considered among one of human history’s most troubled times. The fact that DICE Studios decided to make a computer game about an event that doesn’t conjure memories of excitement or fun for anyone, could be considered perhaps disrespectful to the millions of real life soldiers who gave their all in the line of duty.
However bleak the backdrop of World War 1 may be, those fears have been proven unjustified. Battlefield 1 is a game that is without doubt, a stunning and honorable depiction of “The Dawn of All Out War.”
History Revisited in Battlefield 1
Upon starting the game, you are met with a tutorial mission to help you learn the controls and give you a feel of the environment that you will be facing. You are also met with a message that tells you “What follows is front line combat. You are not expected to survive.” As the amazing and dramatic scenery of a desperate battle enfolds around your character, you quickly understand that the message was entirely accurate. You witness menacing clouds of poison gas rolling towards you. Bullets and tracers fly all around, and the noise of screaming pain from the wounded is punctuated only by the booms and bangs of explosions and gunfire. Compelling drama from the word go. During this tutorial, which is actually your first glimpse at the single player story missions known as “War Stories,” progression is only accomplished by death. Rather poignantly you are given your fallen characters name, date of birth and date of death. Immediately this gives you a sense of the personal side of the Battlefield. During voice over of the mission, this is further driven home by reminding us that behind every gun-sight stands a person. Perhaps what DICE is trying to do early in the journey of this game, is keep us in touch with the human element to this very real global conflict.
Single Player Drama
War Stories are the non-linear single player game mode that can be dipped in and out of at your leisure. They feature some fantastic cut scenes that help you build an understanding of who you are playing as during your missions. They also help us come to terms again, with some of the human aspect of what made World War 1 so needless and so full of heroes from all sides. If played before delving into the multi-player aspect of Battlefield 1, they can prove to be an invaluable tutorial for effective usage of the multitude of vehicles available. From heavy tanks to zooming bi-planes, the vehicles are an enjoyable way of spending your time in the game, and are also fantastically represented in all their gritty and mechanical glory. The inclusion of this single player mode is a welcome distraction from the other game modes, and is nicely done. It is not just a rarely used or inconsequential part of the action, but can be considered an exciting stand alone element to the title.
A lot of people got involved in the Open Beta test that took place in early September. We had access to the Conquest game mode on the expansive Sinai desert map. Conquest is just one of the many multi-player modes, and a very enjoyable one to boot. Two teams of twenty must compete across stunningly rendered maps, that are a far cry from the symmetrical maps of Battlefield 4. The Argonne Forest map in particular stands out for its amazing scenery, with dappled light through the canopy and underground Howitzer bunkers to take in. You can’t stand and admire for long however. The pace is relentless, and you quickly become accustomed to hitting the dirt and crawling behind any kind of natural barrier for safety. The team that is more successfully managing to hold the objective checkpoints for longer periods of time are punished. Their opponent gets back-up in the form of either a Behemoth airship, a Dreadnought cruiser or an Armored Train brimming with turrets. If not taken out quickly, these giants can become a real game changer. Sometimes it pays to be behind at the halfway stage.
Class for everyone
The survival strategy of going prone and searching for cover is an invaluable tool in making a contribution to your squad, especially if you choose the Scout class. The class system on Battlefield 1 is designed to let players find their niche in the game. If running and gunning is your style then choose Assault, with its variety of automatic weapons and devastating arsenal of high explosives. If sniping is your thing (very handy on some of the more open ground maps) then choose the Scout. There is also the Medic class, with a selection of highly satisfying rifles, and Support class who sport heavy machine guns, proving useful for defensive positions. There is a nice level progression for each class, and although DICE may have employed a little artistic license with the loadouts, each have their place, and all seem well balanced, with none being a stand out favorite among players.
Leveling up brings with it the in game currency of War Bonds. These are used to buy better (or at least different) guns and equipment for each class. The balance found in the different classes also transfers to the weapons. Even rookie players have a fine choice of killing tools to select. The advantage of being at a higher level, mainly comes from having increased practice over newbies, rather than having an untouchable weapon. This really helps Battlefield 1 multi-player be exhilarating at times, more often than it is frustrating. Having more games under your belt can also bring you what are known as Battlepacks. These are essentially new skins for your weapons. Assigned randomly at the end of each match, they come in an assortment of rarity and can be swapped in exchange for “scraps.” In turn , these scraps are exchanged for higher grade Battlepacks that contain rarer skins, and sometimes a puzzle piece that goes towards the unlocking of legendary melee weapons.
As Battlefield 1 is a game based on World War 1, melee does play a substantial part to your arsenal. Getting behind an opponent leads to a one hit kill with any of the included melee weapons. Nearly all guns also come with a bayonet as standard, and getting a kill with the cold steel is quite a rush. (The opposite can be said if you are on the sharp end of one.) When playing as mounted cavalry, players can also swing away with a sword for instant kills. It must be stated however, to expect to become a target quite swiftly when riding a horse around a battlefield containing lots and lots of guns.
All Out War
The center-piece online mode is Operations. 64 players compete across what is essentially small map sections joined together, making a varied and often frenetic contest that can last for up to an hour. You will need all your skill and wits if you are on the attacking team to win the map section by section. You have a finite amount of team lives, which can be depleted rapidly if squad leadership is not shown. The squad system is something, that for the disciplined player, can be the difference between defeat and victory. Working as a team towards a shared objective puts extra pressure on the opponents, and if your squad is well balanced across the different classes, then you may be a force to be reckoned with. Each Operation also has a nice voice over of the background of the real life battle that took place, helping you picture in your mind the genuine struggles that occurred a century ago.
Other multi player modes are Domination, a scaled down version of Conquest, where smaller teams fight for control of just 3 objectives. Perfect if you haven’t got time for a longer version of the game. Team Deathmatch, which is fairly self explanatory. Rush, where players are either attacking or defending on a section of map, with the aim of destroying or protecting telegraph posts transmitting artillery co-ordinates, and finally War Pigeon. War Pigeon is almost a novelty game, and probably sees the least play. You must find and then release your pigeon with a note attached, a note that must be written either quickly standing still, or taking longer when on the move. You must then try to ensure its survival.
There is lots and lots in Battlefield 1 that has been done superbly. The graphics are faultless, environments are dripping with detail and even weather plays its part during matches. On Empire’s Edge the fog rolls in from the sea, and you are left cursing your lack of visibility for sniping. On Sinai, sandstorms can whip up from nowhere, giving you the valuable opportunity to take cover from hostile fire. Other plus points are the balance of weapons across classes and levels, the multi player modes of Operations and Conquest, and the dramatic single player mode. Improvements could perhaps be made to the Battlepack system, as it is rather underwhelming. This is just a small negative that takes nothing away from the game as a whole.
The First Person Shooter genre has many excellent titles. It now has another. Battlefield 1 can definitely be classed among one of the best ever produced, and we all look forward to what DICE can add in the form of updates in the future. Right now however, it isn’t in the need for anything else.
Overall Score 10/10
Reviewed based on the Xbox One version.