Battlefield 1 Review – All This And World War 1

Blackadder Goes Forth was a fantastic series.

01

Developer: EA DICE
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Format: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Released: October 21, 2016
Copy purchased

Battlefield 1 successfully pulls off an incredibly tricky balancing act – portraying World War 1 as the destructive, wasteful hell it was while providing a videogame that shooter fans could still find entertaining.

Some authenticity has to go out of the window for this to take effect, of course, with a generous smattering of automatic weapons and thrilling gunfights emphasized over bleeding miserably in a soaked trench. Nevertheless, combat in Battlefield 1 can be chaotic to a terrifying degree – a dizzying mass of smoke, gas, explosions, and screams that turns an ordinary shooter into something altogether more intimidating.

Playing Battlefield 1‘s huge multiplayer modes can be confusing and disorienting, but not due to a design flaw. Instead the chaos is deliberate, designed to evoke a sense of panic and frantic survivalism. After years and years of so many multiplayer shooters, it’s been refreshing to finally get another one that can make me feel like a deer in headlights.

Battlefield 1 immediately sets the tone with an opening “tutorial” level focused on the Harlem Hellfighters. Players are informed that survival is not expected, and each death sees them thrust into the boots of another soldier – complete with an individual name and date of birth. Throughout its campaign and even the multiplayer, DICE is quick to remind its audience that World War 1 was a horror show inflicted on real human beings.

Life is cheap and death is free, this is something players are taught from the outset. While any war can produce heroes, it creates significantly more corpses, many young lives ending within only a handful of minutes.

Through a series of short campaign stories and a mercilessly anarchic multiplayer, Battlefield 1 reinforces that message constantly. Even loading screens are filled with educational information about the scale of the so-called Great War. Not just in terms of its death toll, but its geographical spread and the tremendous impact it had on world history.

02

Campaigns have been a weak spot for DICE in recent years – so weak, in fact, that Star Wars Battlefront never even had one – but this time around things have significantly improved. The campaign consist of six short stories that can be played in any order, each one telling a specific soldier’s story in a different part of the world.

From Australian runners to Bedouin warriors, Battlefield 1 does a terrific job of emphasizing that World War 1 did indeed impact the world as opposed to a couple of nations. It’s so common to simply view the event as something that happened between England and Germany, but this game spans across the globe with a multinational cast of well-written characters.

Each story bears a distinct gameplay theme. One is all about an American pilot and therefore contains all the chapters involving flight. Similarly, a story about a British tank unit is the sole source of land vehicle combat. In this way, DICE has done an admirable job of allowing players freedom to tackle the gameplay they like and discard anything they don’t care for.

Not a fan of stealth? You might want to skip the Arabian chapters and focus instead on the Italian ones, where you get to suit up like a space marine and chew through soldiers with powerful weaponry. Hate planes? Stick to the tanks, or ride across the desert on horseback.

Chapters can be picked up and put down at will, and while every single story will feature at least some regular first-person shooting, they all tend to remain distinct with their own unique structure.

The downside of all this is that no one story is ever given much time to develop, often finishing up all too quickly.

Battlefield 1‘s diverse protagonists are all deserving their own full games – their tales are genuinely gripping and I found it hard to dislike a single one. Any single story could support a full-length campaign, so the bite-sized adventures we get are just a little frustrating.

There’s definitely something to be said for a campaign that won’t outstay its welcome, but I have no doubt that more time spent with each character could only be a good thing.

03

Returning to multiplayer, DICE has retained most of the flavor you can see in pretty much any Battlefield game. Squads, classes, vehicles, ranking systems, they’re all in place and they’re all instantly recognizable. I can certainly understand some players growing fatigued of DICE’s hallmarks after so many games.

However, this one has its hooks in me.

Perhaps I’m simply so jaded by “modern” military shooters, but I find the WWI overlay truly does lend an added energy to the game. Liberties have been taken with the period weaponry, but the prevalence of slow-loading rifles (complete with bayonet charging), the devastating nature of gas attacks, and the appearance of elite gear for flametroopers and sentinels sets a special mood for every match.

In fact, I’ve no problem saying this is the most fun I’ve had with a DICE game that I can remember – a fun that has a sombre tone to it, given the respect shown for the reality of the war upon which Battlefield 1 is based. It’s a respect that should appear insincere and hypocritical, but somehow works alongside the gameplay, careful to never glamorize things.

Unlike Battlefront, this year’s EA-funded shooter is a complete package with not just a great campaign but multiplayer modes ranging from the moderate to the enormous. Added to Battlefield 1 is a new Operations mode in which one team defends while another keeps pushing back their front line.

Each Operation has a story attached and pits two sides against each other in multiple matches that can last a damn long time. Similar to Battlefront, one team will feel itself forced to retreat as it loses ground, creating a real sense of urgency when territory cannot be held.

Conquest will always be my bread and butter though, and it’s clear I’m not the only one. While it’s never difficult to get into the territory-claiming sprawling game type, the more exotic modes might be tougher to wrangle a team together for.

04

Being a DICE game, Battlefield 1 is gorgeous and sleekly presented, running at 60 frames-per-second even on consoles. Landscapes look both beautiful and haunting, rendered with a ton of polish but ultimately consisting of demolished buildings and burnt up trees. The sound is just as fantastic, with punchy weapon noises, horrible death shrieks, and encompassing explosions.

One thing to be wary of is microtransactions. At the time of writing, none are to be found, but Electronic Arts has already confirmed they’re coming, and the game’s “Battlepack” system looks custom-built to house them.

Right now, Battlepacks are randomly awarded to players post-match or purchased with “scrap” earned by destroying the contents of previous Battlepacks. In the days since purchasing the game, I’ve thus far managed to acquire only a single Battlepack. It’s a “reward” system that makes Overwatch‘s look positively generous, and leaves a sour taste in an otherwise engrossing game.

The constant reminders that Battlepacks exists are a real hassle, too. There’s definitely pressure on the part of the game’s design structure to treat these “packs” of cosmetics with reverence, despite how miserly the game is with them.

05

Despite this, Battlefield 1 remains a fulfilling experience on par with this year’s other premier shooters. I get the impression from some commenters out there that I’m supposed to dislike this one, but I’m going to have to disappoint them – Battlefield 1 has provided me with a damn good time and I don’t regret it.

It’s reverent without being mawkish, exciting without being tacky, and robust with content despite all the usual trappings of a big-budget EA product.

War is hell… but Battlefield 1 is pretty damn lovely.

9/10
Superb

Raging Krikkit
Guest
Raging Krikkit

I was all ready to hate this game when it was announced. The same trailer that had the internet praising DICE had me throwing my arms up and crying “what is this MLG bullshit?!” The prevalence of automatic weapons, the bombastic portrayal of combat, the distinct lack of trench warfare–all signs pointed towards this being just another modern military shooter with a First World War skin, and as the first major high-profile release of a game using this setting, I was disappointed to say the least. As details trickled in, this attitude only grew, my personal favorite being the video… Read more »

Raging Krikkit
Guest
Raging Krikkit

I was all ready to

Locuas
Guest

This is the kind of games in which i wouldn’t complain if we got DLC campaigns.

Ivan Sorensen
Guest
Ivan Sorensen

Why is the comment history full of people who’ve decided to hate the game because some twat on youtube said they should hate it?

Keasar
Guest
Keasar

Can’t say I agree on the campaign being that good. I did like one of the stories and that was the first big one, Through Mud and Blood, it had a nice length, enough variety and good character development and storytelling. However, after that it kinda started to fall flat. Every mission after is way too short to tell an engaging story. Two of the missions are set on two multiplayer maps. And most of them are just generally boring to play. The Harlem Hellfighter everyone was so spastic about being featured had never a character, never a visibly spoken… Read more »

09philj
Guest
09philj

Half a mile wide, half an inch thick.

Josh
Guest
Josh

This game is rubbish. Not once was i allowed to play as Blackadder or Baldrick in the campaign. And that flying section was just screaming out for a Lord Flashheart cameo. WOOF!

Dave Dogge
Guest
Dave Dogge

Forward, Joe Soap’s army, marching without fear, with our brave EA commander, safely taking you in the rear

Kevin Wilson
Guest
Kevin Wilson

But Totalbiscuit said this game isn’t that good, so this review is completely worthless! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c2d2456842de3b64b221b2cb393a999a677e67ac9fba9b697d37f2090bf7e9bf.gif

William Jones
Guest
William Jones

Can I just recommend, anyone interested in the subject of WW1 gets the Dan Carlin Hardcore History series “Blueprint for Armageddon” while it’s still free – the guy removes them and charges for them after a while and I think this series is going to go to a paid status soon. Not involved at all, just impressed at the presentation, he is not a historian and actual historians get their knickers in a twist over his podcasts, but he’s always clear when what he’s talking about is hearsay and when it’s actually credible, and he really makes the subject come… Read more »

Jimmy Donnellan
Guest
Jimmy Donnellan

DICE did a good job with the Campaign acting as a tutorial for the multiplayer. Not enough games do that.

William Jones
Guest
William Jones

Is the campaign an evenings worth or a days worth or a weekend etc?

diamond
Guest
diamond

Funny how you claim you’re “jaded” by modern military shooters, yet one of Total Biscuit’s main criticisms of this game was that it felt EXACTLY like a modern military shooter aside from the setting.

This game does not look like it’s respectful about WW1 in any way.

diamond
Guest
diamond

I don’t think this game looks very good at all, I think it looks fucking terrible frankly, have you seen Total Biscuit’s WTF is on the single player of this game? Wow does it fail at being a WW1 story, most notably there is a character who is able to run up a mountain despite wearing heavy steel armor, which makes him nigh invulnerable AND he somehow survives having a fucking plane crash on him, sorry but that’s WAY too much suspension of disbelief for me to possibly take the story in the campaign seriously.

Bind
Guest
Bind

This game is truly special, and I have a feeling we’ll remember it as fondly as some of the older Call of Duty and Battlefield titles. It certainly brought back that impact. That tangible feeling when you fire your weapon and see the impact on an enemy player. It’s visceral, aesthetically fitting, and responsive, and even though I suck, I’ve been playing a lot.

Alayen Eisenfell
Guest

Managing to portray the cruel realities of WW1 and stay fun as a game is incredibly praiseworthy imho.

I got interested in WW2 by playing BF1942 back in the day. I was still pretty young so I most likely didn’t immediately grasp everything I looked up, but it made me interested in history like nothing else could.

Jpkurihara
Guest
Jpkurihara

Hm, I have a question about the Jimquisition awards.
If a game contains no microtransactions at the time, but it is known that they will be added at a later date, are they still viable for an award?

SilentPony
Guest
SilentPony

Feh! Toy Soldiers is my WW1 game of choice, thank you very much sir!

Terriosaurus Hex
Guest
Terriosaurus Hex

The beta I tried quite sold me on the game alone. Their multiplayers (not battlefront) seem to be the only FPS multiplayer I can get into. Each match is large, ever changing and always something to do for all skill types. Lately I been loving the medic role, and squad dynamics are great for encouraging teamwork and even leadership. The weapon sounds and reloads all are weighty, which is a must for me with FPSs. On the other hand, I tried 2 matches of the Infinite warfare beta and got bored instantly. It was just too quick, light, breezy, small,… Read more »

Jordan
Guest
Jordan

Although I’ve always played through the campaign before even touching the multiplayer, it was the online gameplay that I got hooked to like crack in bad company 2. I’m glad to hear the campaign is so good, but I’m fucking elated to hear that I might get that bfbc2 experience, or something comparable, in the multiplayer… I might actually buy this one.

Nitrium
Guest
Nitrium

So this is not the copy pasta of Star Wars Battlefront that it (to the untrained eye) looked like it was heading towards. Who would have thought?

goodbyejojo
Guest
goodbyejojo

tally ho, pip pip and bernard’s your uncle!

Stephen Mc Devitt
Guest
Stephen Mc Devitt

Well that’s pretty a different-looking shooter is doing well creatively, not just commercially.

Polishfury5000
Guest
Polishfury5000

After playing most of the weekend, this is the most fun I’ve had in a battlefield game since Bad Company 2’s multiplayer.

Scott
Guest
Scott

Completely encapsulated every though I had about it when I played the early enlister version. Kudos.

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