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

gasmaskangel
Guest
gasmaskangel

I’m super glad that this turned out well, and especially that they didn’t make WWI look like some Oo-Rah! war is glorious horse shit. Incidentally, if this sparks anyone’s interest in the actual history of the war, its roots and its impact I’d really recommend checking out the Blueprint for Armageddon miniseries from Hardcore History. Its four podcasts, each about three hours long, but well worth the time investment.

Think I’m gonna check this one out.

NaotaChannel
Guest
NaotaChannel

What a stupid review and comments.

If you’re not going to tell the truth about WWI – Then – WHY PRETEND YOU’RE MAKING A GAME ABOUT WWI ????

Toby From HR
Guest
Toby From HR

People complain way too much. Who cares if BF1 is not 100% historically accurate, it is a video game not a BBC documentary. Video games are supposed to be a way to escape reality, why would you want to play something that is truly historically accurate.

SirAngry
Guest
SirAngry

This game is so unrealistic! All the pictures and footage I’ve seen from WWI was black and white, there wasn’t any colour back then. 2 out of 10 at best.

Terriosaurus Hex
Guest
Terriosaurus Hex

Just thought i’d check back an…Oh dear. This game seems to have pissed on people’s grandkids at christmas a bit, hasn’t it? Is it too soon? Might as well check metacritic for this kinda fallout…

Jeddostotle7
Guest
Jeddostotle7

I’m surprised by the number of people who think all the automatic guns straight-up didn’t exist at the time of the war, and that people only used bolt-actions. The truth is, all of these full- and semi-auto weapons existed at least by the end of the war, if not before then. Most of them were not in widespread use, and a number of them were barely used at all and were just prototypes, but they still existed. Their inclusion and widespread use in the game is no different than the inclusion of the variety of guns in the other Battlefield… Read more »

La Chica Incognita
Guest
La Chica Incognita

Kinda thrown for a loop with the people crying about how they tried to portray this game as super historically accurate. All I really saw was a trailer or two and it’s over the top and cartoonish complete with a guy wearing his coat as a cape holding a pistol like this is some kind of anime from before Japan realized the rest of humanity didn’t’ find the Nazis as cool as they apparently did. But really did I miss something in the marketing? Nothing about what I’ve seen regarding battlefield 1 bills it as anything more then the bubblegum… Read more »

Krim
Guest
Krim

This game is no more than a stones throw away in tone from any other previous glory boner modern millitary shooter where you seemingly play a terminator sent from the future. In order to ensure victory for the nation that then goes on to create the machines that will destroy us. Except that would be a fun presmis and not one where you’re sold the story straight faced, as if what’s happening is a gritty plausible tale. And by no means would I suggest the oft-paroted alternative that the game should be 100% realistic, with instant game over for taking… Read more »

Max Whiteley
Guest
Max Whiteley

I do completely agree that the world dice have created is just incredible. And prior to my previous worries that this game would create a false representation of the war, and if we’re talking purely about gameplay then yes it does, but dice have crammed the game with real information about the war in to read! They took care with the source material and its payed off. I’ve not played the single player yet so I will judge it then. There are times, in operations mainly, when your dug in as a German soldier, waiting for the enemy team to… Read more »

Edwin Jackson
Guest
Edwin Jackson

I’m very surprised this got a 9/10 simply because the lack of effort from dice, the mechanics and gameplay are pretty much copy/paste from every other Battlefield game instead of actually reworking it to be a realistic WW1 game and realism is Battlefields selling point. Also it’s yet another £50 season pass from EA really not acceptable

Jack Trevor
Guest
Jack Trevor

I’m sorry but after watching “The Great War” YouTube channel, this comes nowhere close to depicting the horrors of WW1. And nothing ever will in my opinion.

And from what I’ve seen, it’s pretty much Battlefield 4 set in a different skin. And while that’s not a bad thing, it is gonna be a massive disappointment for everyone.

Martijn Fiering
Guest
Martijn Fiering

I just came off a massive twitter war (against me) with people that say this game negatively affects the average person’s perception of how things happened in history.

I mean… It was exhausting. This game isn’t even trying. It’s so… blatantly obvious.

If you’re reading this: You don’t really believe that they jumped on and off Zeppelin’s right into the Thames, right?

PanelHopper
Guest
PanelHopper

I’m really glad that the game at least tries to depict the war respectfully. WW1 was a nightmare not just for Europe, but everyone. And it is responsible for most for the following century’s other conflicts (both directly and indirectly)

The game’s first trailer made me cringe a little, at least the History graduate in me did, so I’m glad it seems to have found the right balance

Putang Inamo
Guest
Putang Inamo

I’m not quite sure what people have against “all the automatics” in this game. There are 9 full auto weapons, versus 15 semi autos and bolt actions. 3 of these automatics are SMGs, the rest are LMGs that were indeed widely used in WW1. Sure, you can complain that no one can actually use these weapons portably, But then using LMGs like an assault rifle has been a staple of FPS games since forever. And if you do have a problem with the unrealistic use of automatic weapons in BF1, then the semi-autos probably tick you off too. Only one… Read more »

Rachel McVeigh
Guest
Rachel McVeigh

Gotta say I’m really interesting in the campaigns for Battlefield . I’ve watched a few streamers & I love that each has it’s own character, feel & takes place at a different front. That being said, I’m not into multiplayer that much so I’m not paying full price for a 5-6 hr campaign.

Alexander Yordanov
Guest
Alexander Yordanov

Men of War needs a WW1 title. Show these amateurs how it is done.

Wolfie
Guest
Wolfie

So this is a bit of a divergent topic, but speaking of horrors of war and such… There was a game that came out, one of those anime visual novel types, that gave the protagonist, a female virgin, the choice to simply say no and not have sex at all. I know, wtf does this have to do with war? Well, in the comments section of a certain site, there was a discussion and someone opposed to it (for some reason) basically equated it to wanting to play Call of Duty, and instead playing photographer, and was like “would YOU… Read more »

sillyskeleton
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sillyskeleton

I watched TotalBiscuit’s video on the singleplayer campaign and it looked like a completely different game than what everyone else has been raving about. You get into a massive dogfight, shoot down about 100 planes while taking enough shots to completely stuff your cockpit. When bullets don’t work, you can just ram your plane into the enemies. Lol! Then the aforementioned Space Marine level where you’re running up a hill in armour at least twice your own weight, mowing down hundreds as a one man army. Now, I wasn’t expecting complete authenticity, but holy shit man, this game was one… Read more »

Alexander Yordanov
Guest
Alexander Yordanov

More should be said about the incredibly bad, 1997 (and this time it is not even a joke…) AI and dumb heroic superhero combat.
Also no one in the civilized world thinks WW1 was between England (lol) and Germany only. Perhaps only in America…

Unit
Guest
Unit

I got excited about this game when it was first announced. I felt like shooters were going in a fun direction. Got to play this game and immediately got reminded why I don’t buy EA titles. It played exactly like a modern shooter and that’s a big, red no-no. Too many automatics. Too much man-portable AT. Too little respect for the original conflict to do it right. I know I’m in the minority and I won’t bash others for liking the game. I’m glad you like it Jim. However I don’t. It feels like Dice were too afraid to change… Read more »

Giorgos Katsas
Guest
Giorgos Katsas

Came by to get a feel for how TF 2’s review will be like, I am happy BF scored well, I want both games to step on IW/MWR’s neck and double tap it.

Might get my wish it seems, great write-up Jim 😀

kbc71
Guest
kbc71

I have had fun playing this game and I really liked the introductory level. That said, all the complaints about “the prevalence of automatic weapons, the bombastic portrayal of combat, the distinct lack of trench warfare–all signs point towards this being just another modern military shooter with a First World War skin” are fairly accurate. Yes, I expected them to do a fair amount of that in order to please most shooter fans and make the game fun and exciting instead of a bore, but I would have liked them to err on the side a making it an authentic… Read more »

Putang Inamo
Guest
Putang Inamo

I don’t care about the setting, the “respect” to historical events, the authenticity, etc. This is a fucking video game, and the number one thing is “is the game fun?”

To me, it is. All that other stuff is just icing on the cake, albeit very tasty icing.

Putang Inamo
Guest
Putang Inamo

I just watched a video where a dude got 2 battlepacks in a row. Perhaps you aren’t sticking around till the end to the match Jim?

I personally love the Battlefield battlepacks, because they’re so fucking USELESS. Jesus, in BF4 not only do you get one practically every time you play, they unlock the most boring of things. I have over 300 Xp boosts, of which I used one back when I was level 5.

Lloyd
Guest
Lloyd

Rented for a night, blew through the single player in a few hours, tried the big battle mode for a bit, deleted the game and returned it the next day. Not bad but not worth more than rental unless you really like the multiplayer.