It’s no secret that gamers have been impressed by the premise of Battlefield 1. Opting to go back in time rather than into the future, the reveal trailer for the latest iteration of Electronic Arts’ trademark shooter gathered over one million ‘likes’ on YouTube – not to mention more than 47 million views as of this writing. Indeed, there is a lot of excitement surrounding the WW1-based FPS, and developer DICE has managed to live up to these grandiose expectations by providing gamers with a new setting, an engaging (albeit brief) single-player campaign, and absolutely immense online battles.
As many players will attest, the campaign options in previous Battlefield installments (outside of the Bad Company offshoot) often leave something to be desired. This time around, Electronic Arts has ensured that there is a single-player offering that touches on more than just one convoluted story, opting to create brief, but impactful, bite-sized narratives that tie into the wartime stories that still surround the mythos of World War I. Whether it’s the premise of a young man trying desperately to save his brother during the Great War or a cocky drifter that puts himself before anyone else – brothers-in-arms included – there is enough to pull from the entire six-mission experience that it feels fulfilling.
Another benefit to this layout is that stories can be told from several different perspectives and outfits that were present during the conflict, which gives a more rounded view of how the war itself may have actually played out. The stories featured are all works of fiction, of course, but the introduction and conclusion of these missions makes them seem like they could have actually unfolded and (in some cases) probably did. Tragically, they are short-lived as players can blow through them within a few hours, but their layout serves as a nice introduction to the real meat of Battlefield 1 – its multiplayer.
With a penchant for creating large-scale multiplayer conflicts, DICE has perfectly applied its trademark touch with an early 20th century flair. Despite the setting, the core modes that occupy BF1 don’t feel all that different from what’s been made available in the past. Conquest, Domination, Rush, and Team Deathmatch all make their glorious returns in this installment, and they’re filled to bursting with the vintage aesthetic that the game is based on. Each have their own appeal though, and they all play out in a similar fashion to previous iterations.
Meanwhile, one of the more shrug-worthy additions arrives in the form of the multiplayer-driven ‘War Pigeons’ mode, which pits two teams against one another in a bid to secure messenger pigeons that will then send notes to allied artillery units. This more or less equates to a no man’s land variant of Capture the Flag, which forces players to protect the scribe penning instructions and the bird itself. This is a far cry from the immense battles found in the rest of the Battlefield 1, but it’s certainly not the only addition to the series this time around.
The marvellously constructed ‘Operations’ mode makes its debut, bringing with it a history lesson based on actual battles during this era. Each area brings with it an introduction to one of the two sides (depending which nation players find themselves fighting for) of these real-world campaigns, and they demonstrate actual facts about the battle as well as outcomes that may have come to fruition had history’s victors not been granted that result. It’s an interesting look back at these global initiatives, but Operations brings with it much more than just a brief history lesson.
Opting to enter either a 40 or 64-player match, the gameplay that follows is as vast and chaotic as one would expect from the sheer volume of participants. The premise of Operations is to rally together to either defend or capture points, with the stance varying depending on which side players find themselves on. The map will continue to open up as points are captured, and those defending will find themselves hustling back further into their territory in a bid to stay on top of the invaders. The sheer size of these battlegrounds are the most appealing part of it, as all five of the included areas have a second (and in one case a third) location that the action will shift to once the invaders push far enough.
Each area also has a special reinforcement option that will make itself known in the form of an armored train, a gargantuan war zeppelin, or the sea-based dreadnought. These make each area feel distinct from the others, and they add an entirely new threat that can dramatically change the tide of game. These power weapons also add to the destructive beauty on display in any given match, with the likes of a flame-ridden blimp spiralling down onto a squad of players being as beautiful to watch as it is horrifying to comprehend.
Much to the surprise of very few, the Frostbite Engine is as stunning as the last time gamers saw it in Star Wars Battlefront. Every crater formed following a bombing run, every puff of fog that periodically rolls over the level, and every spec of light that pours across the map is nothing short of impressive. It’s everything that fans can expect from a piece of DICE-developed software, and it only adds to the realism (or at least the perception of war during this time) that the studio has strived so hard for.
There’s no doubt that Battlefield 1 is an expert execution on the premise that made it so highly anticipated to begin with. Electronic Arts and DICE have provided consumers with a beefy multiplayer game that impresses at every corner and features a brief campaign that will stick with fans longer than previous franchise attempts. Despite what some may have thought initially, a blockbuster first-person shooter like Battlefield can take place in a setting like World War I without cutting any of its most adored features.
Sometimes innovation requires a look back rather than ahead. Battlefield 1 is proof of that.
Battlefield 1 is currently available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Electronic Arts provided Game Rant with a digital copy of Battlefield 1 on PlayStation 4 for review purposes.