Battlefield 1 [Review]

It's the first World War One title published by EA since 1994, but Battlefield 1 is most certainly worth the wait.

Battlefield 1 is exactly what the shooter genre needed, the return to the World War 1 era is a fantastic point of difference after countless modern and future warfare games have continually hit the shelves over the past several years. World War 1 is full of rich history, harrowing yet fascinating stories and is one of the most influential events in world history.

World War 1 was a war where every square foot of land was fought over, yet the front lines barely shifted. Soldiers were sick, injured, scared and unaware of the magnitude of their situations. Battlefield 1 captures the harsh brutality immediately from the outset as the prologue conveys how "you are not expected to survive". The opening scenes place you in the shoes of the Harlem Hellfighters, you're severely outgunned and out manned, enemies are swarming from everywhere as you fight for the life of you and your squad. Countless young men gave their lives for their country and DICE handle the events and horrors from World War 1 with the utmost level of respect and honor.

DICE have created one of the most true to life war experiences I have seen in gaming, the six War Stories presented within the campaign segment of BF1 had me emotionally invested from the outset. Throughout the War Stories you are never portrayed as a larger than life, unstoppable killing machine, there is no pandering to the shooter audience. Instead each War Story is firmly entrenched in reality, showcasing the emotions and fear of desperate soldiers. You play as several different characters including Lawrence of Arabia, an armored Italian assault soldier, an American RAF pilot, a British tank crew and also an Australian Runner in Gallipoli.

These six short vignettes, tell their own unique stories which branch over several years of war. They don't interconnect, but instead highlight the emotional journey people of war were forced to experience while also conveying how much of the world was impacted by violence. Each of the War Stories are handled with their own style, highlights and variations of the bloody battles. There are a number of truly emotional and personal stories on display, seeing the bonds forged during the Through Mud and Blood campaign was especially moving, there were times I was close to tears, which is certainly something I never expected to come from a Battlefield game. The overall storytelling throughout BF1 is done in in a way that avoids over the top cliches, instead focusing on true grit, emotion and the countless devastation that the young men and women faced during this horrific period.

The gameplay within the campaign is extremely varied, mixing stealth, long ranged sniping and trench warfare with dogfights, bombing runs and tank battles. The wide open levels provide you a sandbox to tackle your various objectives in whichever way you should choose. The tense moments of stalking through buildings, grassy fields and war torn countryside are second to none, one such night mission sees you avoiding enemy spotlights as you carry a fallen squad mate through enemy lines, hiding as enemy German search parties track your movements as you push through no-man's land.

The sound design shines in Battlefield 1, listening for footsteps, reloading, doors opening and of course gun shots allow you to identify where enemies are and plan your attack throughout the massive areas. The sound during battles is incredible, the booming crack of a shell exploding out of a field gun, the bolt action reload from a sniper rifle, tanks roaming the battlefield and the horrific screams of wounded soldiers teleport you directly into World War 1. The attention to detail taken towards the environments, NPC interactions as well as the unique feel and sound of each individual weapon within the game is second to none.

Battlefield 1 puts you on the front lines from the outset, whisking you back in time to experience the hell of the Great War in the early twentieth century. Combat was an up close and person affair with bolt action rifles, shotguns, pistols and bayonets being the norm. You will also wield machine guns, sniper rifles, grenade launchers and an assortment of melee weapons. On top of the weapons you will also find yourself supported by a wide range of explosives, sticky grenades, tank grenades, tripwire mines and remote explosives allow you more variety in combat and provide distractions during tense, stealth moments. This assortment of weapons and tools are essential to your survival, bullets fly thick and fast on the battlefield and death is a regular occurrence. This is even more evident in the multiplayer mode and is a huge reason players flock to this series for each new release, 64 player combat is a sight to behold.

Battlefield 1 you would be happy to know, has launched with stable servers, something that Battlefield 4 and Hardline struggled with at launch, which lead to a mass exodus of online players. Battlefield 1 works right out of the gate, runs smooth as silk (thanks GTX1070) and has a great match making system. Games still take a minute or two to match make and load up, but I would much rather this small issue compared to not having matches work altogether. 

Battlefield 1’s epic battles and atmosphere transfers to the multiplayer experience really well. Returning modes of team deathmatch, conquest, rust and domination all play exactly how you would expect. The gameplay is really well paced and consistently high in tempo and tension. You are encouraged to play the objective, roguery is frowned upon as the biggest experience givers are capturing objectives, handing out ammunition or medical supplies and taking down enemy vehicles. The same group based combat returns as players are put into squads of up to five. Teamwork is extremely important in Battlefield 1 and it is essential that within your squad, you have teammates that play as one of the game’s four classes. Assault, Medic, Scout and Support all provide specific strengths and weaknesses, unique loadouts and are all required when in battle. The diverse play style of each individual class brings with it different strategies and tactics, you will need constant communication with your team to succeed, lone gunman are nothing more than fodder on most maps. Even though a mode like conquest requires a winning team to reach 1,000 points, matches are usually very tight, during my twenty or so matches I only noticed two real blowouts and they were over very quickly.

There are also two new modes that have been introduced with more to come via future DLC. Carrier pigeon is a new mode that is basically capture the flag, however it is a pigeon that is carried by a player and everyone else chases them down to re-take the pigeon. Also the main draw is the new operations mode. This is a hybrid rush, combined with conquest and is packaged in with great cut scenes and dialogue to explain the impacts of the battles. For example if the British took over a specific piece of land from the Ottoman forces that was never won over, the voice-over explains the impact that this would have had if it really occurred during the war. It is a nice touch and adds some historical significance to what you are doing, making you care more about your actions and further adding to an already high level of engrossment. Combat feels tight, hit boxes and hit detection feel great and the overall multiplayer experience is absolutely fantastic, 32 player a side combat create countless frantic combat set pieces which are equal parts memorable and terrifying. Every mode offers intense gameplay, deadly true to life gunplay and a constant reminder of how grim and hideous war can be. 

Battlefield 1 touches on one of the most historically significant moments the world has ever seen and does so in a way that brings forth the horrific atmosphere that was seen throughout the time period. A flawless campaign that is touching, entertaining and full of shocking moments is packaged with one of the most well rounded multiplayer experiences released this generation.

EA and DICE have woven together an unforgettable experience highlighting the horrors and hardships of a critical time that lead to shaping the modern world. Battlefield 1 is one of the best games released in 2016, and one of the greatest shooters I have ever played.

4.75 out of 5

+ An Emotional, Honest Rollercoaster
+ Storytelling at it's Best
- Campaign Could be Longer