Let’s start with the fact that I haven’t had this much fun in a shooter in years, and I’ve played a lot of shooters both casually and competitively. Where Battlefield 1 truly succeeds, though, is the way cinematic experiences occur within the multiplayer. Take my favorite one so far: A teammate and I are trying to flush out a fully detailed, three-story house. He has the Flame Trooper elite class and I’m just a lonely peasant soldier with a slow automatic rifle. The first floor was clear from the get go but the second had at least one full squad. We dug in at the bottom of the stairwell while trying to take well-aimed shots. It’s not going too well for me due to the angle of the stairs but my friend is spraying liquid death up above. The enemies are firing back just as futilely. Finally, we’re able to pick them off with some well-placed shots and fire engulfing their bodies. Second level clear.
However, we heard footsteps above us and then we investigate. There’s even more people up in this attic. We quickly retreat back down the stairs, heavily damaged, and try to repeat our previous success. Luckily, it didn’t take as long because the fire really did its job here. I don’t know if the fire was dynamic and spread through the ceiling but damn was it bright and smokey in this house now with fire crackling regardless of what direction you faced. Through amazing teamwork of well-placed shots, healing my flame thrower, and some luck, we are able to take them all out. A two-man team took out at least ten people. But wait! There’s one left. Just before I turned to go back downstairs, I see out of the corner of my eye one enemy booking it. Except not for us. He ran from one side of the attic to the other and Jason Bourne jumped out the window. The guy jumped out of the third floor window, survived, and continued running down the street.
I’ll leave it to your imagination to figure out if we got the guy by chasing him down the countryside street. Expect more moments like this for example: outrunning artillery, running around like a crazy man in a gas cloud, pushing through trenches with what seems like waves of opponents running at you, being a crazy knife ninja in the middle of a sandstorm, and more. If anything the multiplayer can be just as cinematic and action packed as the campaign. But we’ll get more into that later. For now let’s start the review with a few words on the campaign that DICE has put together.
Battlefield 1’s campaign was a pleasant surprise for me. Gone are the days of trotting out a war hero who goes about saving the day and looking like a complete badass who can take on anyone anywhere. Also gone are the doltish futuristic tech that shooters now try to bring to the table. DICE kept it simple and focused on a bare bones time with simple machines and boots-on-the-ground soldiers. Not to mention the horrors and sacrifices of stories untold in World War 1. There will be no high-octane action here where the protagonist always wins. The story is grizzled, down to earth, and unapologetically realistic. Point being, if this compilation was on book shelves, I would gladly purchase it.
The campaign is essentially a collection of five stories all scattered through Eurasia. The game says there’s six but the first one is just a quick prologue more than anything else. Not a single one skimps out on the horrors of war and that in turn affected how I went about my gameplay. Whether I was in a tank, plane, in the desert, or just simply on foot, I played smart and not gung-ho. I was ensnared in the time and the atrocities happening around me. Was there a soldier in my way? Let’s go around him or take him down with stealth. Was there a fellow pilot being hampered by an enemy plane? Break off objective and help my comrade out.
This significantly different playstyle I used than in most shooters was because of two things: Battlefield 1’s ability to bring everything to life and the constant loss of life around me. I know it’s just a game but everything hit home with so many individuals being torn from their families and losing their lives. Take for example when you die, your character’s name and date of birth to date of death were displayed. Rest assured it drove the rest of the point home. When people die in this game, expect to actually feel something.
Of course this was all brought about thanks to what DICE does best. Their ability to shape graphics, orchestrate sound, and manage in-game destruction with such mastery that you’ll lose yourself in the experience. Everything was a sight to behold from death ridden mud pits to exploding zeppelins to simple buildings. The cut scenes in particular where very well crafted and dare I say looked incredibly lifelike in a few circumstances. The soundtrack was both beautiful and haunting. It all depended on when you heard it. The same sound could bring a sense of triumph after a well-earned victory or downright heartbreak after a suicide run. In addition, the dialogue and voice actors did a terrific job. Accents were portrayed correctly and drama was well delivered.
There were times when I had to play the single player with surround sound headphones. It just made the game so much better as you’re running off and completing objectives with artillery fire raining down upon you, or you’re behind enemy lines and quickly being surrounded by thundering footsteps. There were even times when sound helped me complete missions. Speaking of which, most of them will take place in a huge open-world area but there will still be out-of-bounds areas if you wish to stray off the beaten path. You’ll need to capture points, collect parts, slaughter enemy troops, relay messages, rescue allies, and a whole lot more. Fans of the movie Fury will be particularly happy with one such mission. Sadly, completing all of them one time through won’t take more than six hours.
Beyond the entertaining but emotionally draining story are a few minimal issues. Per usual the A.I. wasn’t always on point. Sometimes they’d freeze in place, sprint in a never-ending run, or stalling their shots. Most of the challenge from harder difficulties will come from increased damage more than anything else. Besides typical computer problems, this was one story in a long-running, shooter franchise that I actually enjoyed and lost myself in.
What about the multiplayer you ask since I’m an avid gamer in that regard? It too is astounding. From both a competitive and fun standpoint. The classic game modes, as well as the new ones, mix together incredibly well with the map design and objectives. There’s your classic Battlefield conquest where you have to capture a handful of objectives on a massive map, domination where there’s only three objectives to capture, rush as everyone knows has teams attacking or defending two objectives at a time, the proverbial team deathmatch, war pigeons and operations. The latter two being brand spanking new. War pigeons can be all out chaos as two different teams try to acquire and protect an actual pigeon so it can be sent off to successfully deliver a message. However, it takes time so whoever holds the pigeon needs to stay alive long enough and this needs to be done three times for a win. As you can imagine it can get hectic with an entire team bearing down on you.
Operations is Battlefield’s attempt to bring a story to multiplayer. I’m happy to say it works incredibly well. At the start of every match, you’ll get a quick cut scene with narration about what your troops are doing there with panoramic shots. It plays like a conquest sized map but with rush’s mechanics. One team has to overtake two or three objectives (sometimes just one) at a time in order to move on to the next set of objectives. Unfortunately, this isn’t easy with forty or sixty-four players in one match. Luckily, you’ll get three different chances to overtake the entire map with your progress being saved if you failed the previous attempts. The term ‘organized chaos’ would best describe the experience this mode offers.
Also new to multiplayer are the behemoth vehicles in the bigger game modes. If a certain team starts losing by a certain amount, potential tide turning metal beasts will appear. There are three types of beasts and they are the airship, the armored train, and the dreadnought. Each will appear on a certain map and will spawn only once if at all. They each serve their purpose and can be exciting when they appear, even if you’re on the wrong side of them. When they’re destroyed is also a moment of bliss because of the hard work required to do so and the beautiful destruction it brings.
At its base level though, Battlefield 1’s design is near perfect. The maps are incredibly varied in appearance and are built extremely well. Near every single building can be entered, literally everything can be destroyed, and the structures are well placed. I can’t tell you how many times I would run through trenches either unnoticed or clearing out an entire team before they realized what was happening. I can’t really say the same thing more than a few times but know that the base design of all maps is a wondrous thing. Best I’ve seen this side of the PlayStation 4.
The multiplayer adventures can be delightfully harrowing and cinematic, as I mentioned before. There will be many instances where you’ll create your own stories with the chaos that is going on around you. Trench warfare, blowing your way past obstacles, infiltrating houses, and so much more I can’t even begin to describe, will bring you many amazing moments. What’s more is Battlefield 1’s online simply feels alive. Thanks to the design and maps I’ve mentioned before but also due to the detail implemented. Buildings being destroyed only a certain amount because that’s what the explosion could take out, instead of the whole building is one such example. Another is basically the atmosphere. Smoke rising to the sky around you, half-destroyed establishments, mud on your guns, fire that is put out when you lay down, craters in the ground due to explosives, screams of those killing and being killed, etc.
I haven’t dabbled too much in all the unlockables but rest assured there is a huge variety of weapons all pulled out from the WW1 era. Plus, each class that houses these unlockables has its own dedicated purpose. The assault is meant for destroying, support meant for supplying ammo, medic’s heal, repair, and revive teammates, and scouts take out enemies from afar. There will be a time and place for every role so find one that fits you and has the equipment and weaponry you enjoy. What isn’t apart of classes are the new kits that let you be an elite soldier. These are timed and random pickups that will let you be a heavy machine gunner, a flamethrowing pyromaniac, and an armored soldier that can take down vehicles.
The problems with the multiplayer are also far and few between. There are no major hit detection problems ala Battlefield 3 or server issues ergo Battlefield 4. I also haven’t stumbled upon any overpowered weapons. The only true issue that I had with the online portion was in end game lobbies. When a match is over and takes you to the end game screen, you only have five seconds to quit and go back to the main menu. After that the option disappears and you have to wait until the next match starts. So if you’re like nearly everyone else and want to view your stats or unlock battlepacks, expect to wait around a little longer than you’d like.
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