DICE has done it again. Battlefield 1 delivers on being one of the premiere multiplayer first person shooters on the market. Everything you love about the Battlefield franchise is here, except for some UI issues.
Despite most first person shooters going forward in time nowadays, Battlefield 1 takes us back to the past. To a time that games, and media in general, don’t touch on often enough. World War I. It’s a massive change in the technology that we may be used to in first person shooters lately. No drones or mechs. No red dot sights or helicopters. World War I introduced tanks to the battlefield. It was the first major conflict involving a heavy use of aircraft. War was fought amongst miles of trenches dug to give the soldiers some cover. Battlefield 1 does a great job of depicting the intense and dreadful combat of a different era.
If you’re new to the Battlefield series, it’s a mostly multiplayer focused military first person shooter with vehicles taking place on large 64 player maps. There are of course smaller maps suiting a lower player count and different game modes for all types of action. The game modes featured this year are:
- Conquest – 64 players battle to capture and hold as many locations as they can. The first team to accumulate 1000 points wins. This is a little different from previous games where there was a ticket system. Some returning players may not like the change, but it didn’t bother me too much.
- Domination – A smaller infantry focused version of conquest.
- Rush – One team defends 2 key points while the other tries to plant bombs on them. If they succeed in destroying both points, the defending team gets pushed back and another 2 points open up. Repeat until all the points are destroyed.
- Team Deathmatch – Pretty self explanatory. Two teams face off until one reaches the kill limit.
- War Pigeons – A small sized game mode where two teams fight to capture a randomly placed pigeon. Once you pick up the pigeon, you have to hold on to it until you complete writing a message to be sent off. Once you finish that, you can release the pigeon into the sky. The first team to release 3 pigeons wins. Although the enemy has a chance to shoot the pigeon out of the sky as soon as it’s released, therefore denying the point.
- Operations – A brand new game mode that is a big addition to the Battlefield franchise. Operations is 40 or 64 player asymmetrical mode where an attacking team looks to take control over 2-3 points to take over a sector, which then opens up another sector. The defending team is of course there to stop them. The attackers have a certain amount of lives to take over all the sectors on a map. If they fail, they have a few more tries but this time a behemoth (zeppelin, armored train, or dreadnought) will come to their aid to help them advance. What’s awesome about this mode is that the attackers have to do this for more than 1 map. Once all the sectors are taken over, the next map opens up and they have to do it again. The defending team wins when the attackers have lost all their tries and run out of lives. Personally one of my favorite things about this mode is the short narrative in the beginning of each map about the real life battles and significance of them. It brings a feeling of importance and purpose to the fight about to take place.
There are 4 different classes you can choose from, each with its own loadout and specialties. The Assault class is good at taking out vehicles with anti-tank grenades and dynamite as well as being great in close quarters combat with its smg and shotgun. Medic can revive and heal other soldiers. Support can resupply ammunition to others and lay down suppression fire with its light machine guns and mortars. Scout is the sniper class. You can unlock different weapons by leveling up each class separately and spending war bonds that you receive when you level up your overall account.
Battlefield 1 includes a diverse set of maps ranging from the Sinai Desert of Egypt to the forest of Argonne in France. You’ll be fighting in trenches, bunkers, open fields, deserts, and ruined cities. As usual, the sounds are fantastic in Battlefield games. The booms, the bangs, the pings, and the whizzes all combine to deliver an immersive audio experience.
Battlefield games generally aren’t known for their single player campaigns, and for good reason. The past games had plenty of AI issues along with poor stories and characters. Battlefield 1 looks to change that perception by doing something a little different. You play collection of short stories, ranging from 30 minutes to an hour, that take you through the eyes of different armies throughout the war. As soon as you start up the game, you are thrown into a brutal battle as a Harlem Hellfighter alongside your allies against the German army. Immediately you notice a more serious tone to war than previous games, with brief narrations of the tactics and struggles of being there. After, you will play as a British tank crew, the right hand of Lawrence of Arabia, an Italian armored infantry unit, and an ace pilot. The stories are short, but sweet. They also introduce you to the weapons and gadgets you will find in multiplayer. This was a big step up from previous years and it left me wanting to learn more about World War I. I hope they continue this in the inevitable World War II game.
Not everything is perfect though. The main menu UI looks great and is snappy, but can be a little confusing in some areas. There are weekly challenges in the form of medals that reward you with bonus experience for completing them. You have to choose a medal before or during a match to focus on. The medals each have 3 objectives to complete, but nowhere does it say you have to complete them in top to bottom order. This coupled with the poor tracking of progress led me to believe there was a display bug before eventually realizing what was really going on.
Missing information such as the benefits of taking off the bayonet from your weapons (increased aim down sight speed) aren’t explained. Battlepacks will randomly be awarded to some players at the end of each match. Battlepacks are loot boxes that give out 1 random gun skin. You can break down a skin you don’t want or have extras of to create scrap, which you can then use to buy more boxes. I’ve never been a big fan skins for guns so this doesn’t really cater to me, but the random nature of which they are handed out can hurt the unlucky players.
Users still wonder why you can’t unlock weapons and customize loadouts when not in a match. The mobile app and website have proved to be buggy by resetting loadouts and not displaying all the unlocked weapons. DICE is currently working on both of these issues.
Some returning players may not enjoy the older weaponry and machinery. Running into an elite class (rare special weapons that you can pickup on the battlefield, flamethrower, tank hunter rifle, etc) can feel like a cheap and inevitable death. Behemoths showing up to help the losing team in conquest and operations might feel unfair. The horses may take way too many bullets to put down . I can assure you all of this doesn’t ruin the feel and pace of the game. Everything is still very balanced and most importantly fun.
If you enjoyed the previous games in the series, you will most likely have a great time with this one too. It feels a little bit more respectful to the veterans who fought in the war and not just some cash in. I enjoyed the game so much that I went and watched some World War I documentaries and listened to some podcasts about it. If only more games inspired people to learn about the source material. I hope they continue this more serious direction with another World War II title.