Lest we forget. For King and County. O la vittoria, O tutti accopati.
Heroism, sacrifice and emotion are the central themes of Battlefield 1, as the player experiences the plights struggles and triumphs of five different theatres of WWI.
At the start of the prologue mission a survivor opens his eyes in a hospital bed, and the player is thrust into a memory of brutal hand to hand fighting. Taking part of an engagement as a member of the celebrated 369th Infantry Regiment the “Harlem Hellfighters,” caught defending a desperate push by the Austro – Hungarian empire.
This is the player’s first foray into the chaos and fear that clings to the battlefields. As each of your positions are overrun, the soldier you are controlling meets his unfortunate end. The soldier’s name, year of birth and date of death hang on-screen as a sombre message to the lives lost in this conflict, reminding the player quite overtly that whilst this is a game, these events are real. These men and women who died were people. After a second the game cuts to the next section of the battle, control over another soldier is given along with a new weapon. This serves as a simple, yet effective tutorial, but at the same time makes a comment on the never-ending nature of warfare.
The campaign is a great introduction to the myriad elements that make up Battlefield 1. It’s structured a little differently than previous titles and instead of following the exploits of Pvt. Kickass “McWhitey” O’Hoolahan as he cuts a bloody swathe through his own story, the player is treated to the individual stories of men and women across the world. The range of characters is broad and includes the swash-buckling, scoundrel aviator Clyde Blackburn, the driven and vengeful Bedouin warrior Zara Ghufran and even the controversial legend; Laurence of Arabia.
This is critical to the experience as Battlefield 1 feels very much like a thrilling interactive history lesson. After my play sessions I’d find myself hungrily scouring the internet for more information on elements that piqued my interest. One downside I regrettably have about the campaign is that it was, a little easy.
The AI was fairly dumb and provided little challenge. Super soldier syndrome was a little too real in many parts of the game — particularly the Australian and Italian campaigns – including an unfortunate event that saw me on the side of the Ottoman charge as the Aussie runner. Somehow I must have been where I wasn’t supposed to and the enemy dutifully ran alongside me. I was able to casually shoot them in the back to feel less bad about my unintentional betrayal.
Another instance was during Laurence of Arabia campaign. I sat atop a water tower casually sniping enemies alerted to my presence, yet they just stood there, not moving to engage. Instead they simply yelled curses at me while I picked them off with ease. Like come on guys. I’m right here. Come get me.
Multiplayer is undeniably the biggest drawcard of the Battlefield series and is a beast of its own. Many of the campaign levels feature in the various game modes and while traditional modes such as Conquest and Rush will excite and challenge the hoary old veteran players , old and new alike will be excited by the sheer scale of the engagement of all out 68 player warfare.
Among the stack of new features, new mode War Pigeons brings an exciting, new flavour to the game. When the game starts, a pigeon coop with a messenger pigeon is placed on the map. Teams need to locate the coop before the enemy and carry the pigeon out into the open. Once completed, a message is prepared and sent off and a devastating artillery barrage is unleashed to strike the enemy team. Elements like this are undeniably not for everyone, but options to keep the multiplayer experience fresh and new, are welcome. It’s a far cry from the days of time spent in the saddle levelling up your chosen class with unlocks.
A contentious point on multiplayer is the battle pack system. Battle packs are unlockable content such as weapon skins and puzzle pieces. These are currently for two legendary melee weapons. In BF4, these were awarded for certain milestones such as player rank for example. Now, they’re randomly assigned post battle. Some may like it, but I don’t. I enjoy being rewarded with cosmetics and attachment to my weapons for progress, not leaving it to the chance that I may or may not get one.
It feels a little off receiving something random, only to be given the option to destroy it for a chance to save up and buy the exact same thing or a chance of receiving something better.
Audibly and visually the title is spectacular. Whilst at its heart, the story of Battlefield 1 is a classic linear shooter, the levels feel incredibly vast. The mix of men and artillery screaming into the mud and dutiful report of the period accurate weaponry will satisfy any FPS gamer within. Gone, are the endless winding hallways and the stock standard wartime locations (I’m looking at you German U-Boat docking fortress/factory) so prevalent in so many shooters of this vein.
The use of different locales serves to keep the title fresh without compromising on story. Moments of the game were truly breathtaking; like flying over the burning ruins of London, the sun almost blocked out by the ash and smoke, while desperately avoiding AA fire from a German zeppelin or assaulting a fortress in the picturesque Italian alps, clad in Arditi armour with a heavy machine-gun. I found myself taking screenshots to admire later, full well knowing I can just play the campaign again. I just felt compelled to capture some of these moments.
EA and DICE have produced a very respectful vignette of the “War to end all wars” with Battlefield 1 and created a respite among the sea of advanced, futuristic beige titles currently available. With such breathtaking locations and a range of activities to keep everyone entertained, this is one title that’ll be sticking around for a long time.
See you in the trenches!
Battlefield 1 was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a promotional copy as provided by the publisher.
Game Title: Battlefield 1