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

Assassin-chan
Guest
Assassin-chan

This game is too unbalanced, besides, being a medic and going into the field trying to revive people while no one supports you is shitty. Likewise, spawn spots are horrible, I’ve spawned numerous times in front of enemies and died 1 second later. I’m thinking of returning this game.

Scott Tait
Guest
Scott Tait

England and germany???? You’ll find it was BRITAIN & GERMANY ,and each og thier allies , no russia , france ect this will probably be in overpriced exlansions , just like in
Ww2 the americans where late to this one aswell, so dont know why they should be so prominent

nicethugbert
Guest
nicethugbert

I’ll wait for the bargain bin to claim it, then, if EA hasn’t turned into a microtransaction scam, I might get it.

IronSalamander8
Guest
IronSalamander8

Black Adder goes forth is indeed excellent Jim!
I haven’t bought this yet but between you and Angry Joe enjoying it I think I might now. Odd that France and Russia weren’t baseline nations although glad to see Austria-Hungary is.

Eric Schneider
Guest
Eric Schneider

Great review as usual Jim I really agree with you on the campaigns that each could be longer and in my opinion I would totally pay for DLC that extended each of their stories.

A Vicious Hunter
Guest
A Vicious Hunter

I agree with Jim on this one, this game is pretty damn sweet.
My favorite campaigns were the plane campaign with Blackburn, which was a load of fun with an interesting ending, and Harlem Hellfighters, with it’s cruel and heartbreaking depiction of Hell.

Ethan Stapley
Guest
Ethan Stapley

9 is too much really. 7.5 to 8 is more realistic from the criticisms and appraisals you mentioned here Jim; although that’s just my opinion.

Sad to here EA are too scared to give early copies to a fair reviewer as well. Gutless.

marvelator
Guest
marvelator

As someone who isn’t interested in mutliplayer and is only interested in single-player, can someone tell me how long the campaign(s) for this game are? Might buy it if it levels out to something substantial, but if they only equate to a few hours I likely won’t pick it up. Please help?

Olyphantastic
Guest
Olyphantastic

Jim Sterling and TotalBiscuit should have show together like Ebert and Siskel (offical I guess it was called Siskel and Ebert at the movies) where they discussed video game. The discussion of the Battlefield 1 campaing would be classic. It would be like watching Ebert and Siskel.

ChocoROID
Guest
ChocoROID

If EA are brave enough to go back to WW1. Then perhaps they will be brave enough to give me back a classic CnC tiberium game!
Previous previous tiberium. yeees.

Gui-Hu Fookd Yoormum
Guest
Gui-Hu Fookd Yoormum

Only hipsters and COD dummies could dislike such a well made game.
So many more facets to multiplayer matches, has a quality campaign, audio/video are fantastic. People just love to hate I think…

Nuserame
Guest
Nuserame

So, supposedly there is not a single campaign character from the Central Powers side? And what happened to the east front?

Are they still stuck in their American good-guy-bad-guy mentality after a hundred years? There was no good side, or completely bad side in that war. Or any war.

I get that they have limited resources and all, but spreading the campaigns out a bit more might show people that the only ‘bad guys’ are the guys your told to shoot at regardless of what side your one.

Gui-Hu Fookd Yoormum
Guest
Gui-Hu Fookd Yoormum

You’ve only gotten one battleback? Lol
I’ve gotten at least 10…

Za_Docta
Guest
Za_Docta

“But it’s not realistic enough!” Let’s take all these complaints on board and make a shooter with absolute 100% realism for the people who shriek those complaints. Let’s make a multiplayer shooter where you have to do push-ups for six months before you’re allowed into a public match, then once you’re in that match, you can take one or two bullets before your skeleton shatters (can’t have regenerating health, you silly billy), and you have to be laid up in hospital and rehab for a year or so before being allowed back in the match. Then, three years after the… Read more »

Even Luck
Guest
Even Luck

Is this gonna be the new CODMW3? Liked by some hated by others, but the latter counteracts the former and all hell breaks loose?

Whatever the case, it looks interesting to say the least.

Philipp Phelps
Guest
Philipp Phelps

Did I get this right? The mission where you play as a black soldier shows how insignificant a single soldier in the war is, while the the (presumably) white characters are actually characters with stories and you are supposed to care about them? This sounds … interesting. Please note: I did not play the game (though I’m interested to do so) and did not read any other reviews and the only video I watched was Jim’s, so I may be completely off with what I wrote. It would be nice if someone could say whether this is true or not,… Read more »

Nism
Guest
Nism

I love all of the teenagers pretending they are WW1 historians all of a sudden. It doesn’t take a smart person to see how this game isn’t historically accurate. Battlefield has always valued authenticity over realism, and BF1 presents the setting in an OTT way that nobody in their right mind would think is accurate. The game presents the loss of life in the war, the senseless bloodshed and the lasting impact as best as a video game can, but at no point was this advertised as a documentary on the first world war, it was sold as an action… Read more »

mariovsgoku
Guest
mariovsgoku

Seems that Jim has a weakness for multiplayer shooters. Not that I’m faulting him, I have a weakness for fudge, so faulting Jim would make me a hypocrite.

Wayne You Nerd
Guest
Wayne You Nerd

Other than Valkyria Chronicles, I’m serious looking forward to JRPGs inspired by WWI. Oh, RTSs too. There haven’t been many RTSs based WWI saved for a few turn-based strategies like Ace Patrol.

Wookie Groomer
Guest
Wookie Groomer

I enjoyed the War Story’s so much I’m incredibly annoyed they were so short and so few. I hate to say it but if they released more War Story’s as DLC I would buy them. I despise multiplayer, could never stomach the ADHD crowd so the few short hours I had with the War Story’s is it for me. Also, the 4K/60 on PC was epic. Many of the environments were recycled from Battlefront so playing through campaign missions made me even more disappointed with Battlefront.

zeeby
Guest
zeeby

I never played a BF (or a COD believe it or not).. not a fan of the contemporary conflict settings personally. Got this and absolutely love it. The intro of the campaign is spectacular, you really feel like you’re in a conflict, the confusion and desperation.. just great. I think the MP is going to have long legs too. Very pleased.

Gixxer
Guest
Gixxer

I will just say stuff like “I have a cunning plan” or “Wobble” out loud on my Xbox to see if people get the reference. Thanks for the reminder Jim!

StarTsurugi
Guest
StarTsurugi

It’s really surprising how much the setting brings into this. I don’t think I’ve ever thought so much about a historic period and event in game before. Unlike most modern-military FPSs with a “Fuck Yeah! Let’s kill the enemy!” vibes and flashing HUDs, this seems minimalistic and reverent…and brutal. It manages to not glorify the violence, but at the same time really show the sheer magnitude and scale of the slaughter the Great War was. Although, a bit disappointed that there wasn’t a campaign for Germany. I know they are the “bad guys”, but the common soldiers in the trenches… Read more »

Aristatide
Guest
Aristatide

Your Big Budget review comment sections remain, as ever, a fascinating train wreck, Jim.