My Great War
With first-person shooters heading into the future, one series is taking a-risky-step back into the past. Battlefield 1 takes first-person shooters to a time and place rarely seen before. In many ways developer DICE has nailed the atmosphere and sheer chaos of The Great War. Culminating into what is ultimately a successful-if somewhat questionable-shooter.
Friends on the Battlefield
Battlefield 1’s main campaign consists of six vignettes. Each of these six stories-including the prologue-are vastly (and surprisingly) different from one another. Besides the prologue-which acts as a setpiece showing the sheer horror of war-there are five different stories to play. Those include: a rookie tank driver, a posing fighter pilot, a soldier in the Italian army trying to find his brother, an Australian message runner, and a Bedouin woman fighting alongside Lawrence of Arabia.
These six vignettes drive the point across of how horrific this war actually was. That’s thanks to the confidence the campaign shows. Instead of being an all-out action game, there is a fine line Battlefield 1 walks on. Before the game dives into Michael Bay territory, it will switch course when you least expect it. It all feels genuine.
Each character you play as feels slightly different than the next. Mostly due to each chapter having the player try out different mechanics the game has to offer, whether its flying a plane, driving a tank, or even riding a horse. Which is really useful when preparing to jump into multiplayer. There is, of course, the lack of historical accuracy found in Battlefield 1. The Great War mostly consisted of bolt-action rifles and grenades, and for last resort hand-to-hand combat. But given that it’s a game, it would be pretty dull if the game mechanics were structured as they should.
The slow psychological trench warfare takes a step back in favor for aggressive combat. In all honesty, it felt like I was playing a WWII shooter instead of WWI. This is clearly evident when jumping into multiplayer. Everything from the prototype assault rifles to the optics used on snipers may seem historically iffy. It’s when the use of mustard gas comes into play that drives the point home.
Collectables are pretty divisive in games…especially shooters. But Battlefield has a good argument as to why you should seek them out. Each level of a vignette has a series of collectables and challenges that have an actual benefit to the player. Unlocking a certain amount of these challenges rewards the player with a weapon unlock used toward multiplayer. That way you can look all flashy while fighting through mustard gas.
In the past, Battlefield has struggled to keep up with Call of Duty’s Michael Bay-eske campaign’s. Instead they focused on smaller, more intimate stories that I would be glad to see in their games going forward. After taking a step back and trying something new; World War 1 let’s DICE experiment with a setting that’s the complete opposite of this holiday’s shooters.
Fighting all around me
Battlefield 1’s multiplayer even feels different. Modes such as Conquest, Domination, Team Deathmatch, and Rush make a return, but even given the change in setting and character customization…it’s still Battlefield. It’s only when playing a new mode such as War Pigeons-players capture war pigeons, and use them to call in artillery strikes-that make Battlefield feel different. It’s also the way players play the game that makes it different as well. Through the multitude of hours I spent playing online, players would play as if it was World War II all over again; rather than World War I. I kept getting this vibe the more I played; and its not out of the norm considering people like to rush toward their objective rather than play it safe.
Pickable classes are integrated into online play, consisting of Assault, Medic, Support and Scout. Spawn-based classes are featured as well with the likes of Tanker, Pilot and Calvary adding more variety. Calvary stands out as being one of the more unique aspects of playing. Playing as the Calvary allows players riding on horseback to either shoot enemies, or use their sword. This comes in handy when traversing the sprawling maps. Battlefields nine maps range from small to large depending on mode; offering different locales featured in the campaign. Coupled with the classes and variety of weapons add to some intense battles.
Besides playing well; Battlefield 1 looks and sounds good too. DICE’s Frostbite engine has been powering the series, and with Battlefield 1, that engine is on full display. Muddy and rainy dirt plasters your character as you crawl on the ground. Building’s crumble in disastrous beauty. Bomb’s explode leaving a ringing in your ears as you get too close. All of these are examples of just how detailed Battlefield 1 can be. But let’s not forget about the sound. One of DICE’s most celebrated aspects when it comes to their games is their sound design. Every explosion and shot sounds like you’re in the front lines.
Even with all the core game modes, there is one that feels like complete chaos-in a good way. That mode is called: Operations. In Operations two opposing teams battle each other (of course). One team is tasked with not letting the opposing team take the objectives. There are two objectives per sector; as the attacking team, you must be mindful of your respawns, as there are only a certain amount.
Once the attacking team has their respawns depleted, two things happen. The assaulting team has another two tries to capture all the sectors starting off from the last captured; as well as get some vehicle support by means of a zeppelin or armored train depending on the map. At first this seems unfair for the defending team, but keep in mind the defending team has unlimited respawns, plus artillery to combat oncoming attacks. The attacking team must capture all sectors to win. For the defending team, the key to strategy is fending off the assaulting team and delete their spawns.
Operations was a stand out mode for me, in fact, it was the only mode I consistently played that always felt fresh. The sixty-four player limit can be complete chaos. It can also last for upwards of an hour depending on how well each side is doing. Going forward, I hope future games in the series utilize this mode.
On paper, Battlefield 1 shouldn’t work. But developer DICE has constructed an unique game. With it’s surprisingly poignant and emotional storytelling found in the campaign. To the action-packed multiplayer that Battlefield veterans have come to known and love. It truly is an achievement that sacrifices some historical accuracy to deliver a thrilling game.