Editor’s note: Our reviewer managed to secure an early release copy from a second-hand seller in the UK in order to provide this review. The game reviewed is the Xbox One version of Battlefield 1.
Battlefield 1 takes a bold risk as the latest entry into the renowned Battlefield franchise subverts the current trend in first-person shooters. When Battlefield’s biggest competitor, Call of Duty, has year-by-year steered further into futuristic territory, Battlefield makes a defiant move by bucking this trend and putting players into the roles of various soldiers during The Great War; the devastating first world war that shook the world when war erupted in Europe in 1914.
First of all, it’s quite a marvel at just how well this game plays. I’ve always enjoyed Battlefield games but the blend between old and modern is quite an achievement to behold. One thing’s for sure, this is my favourite Battlefield since the 2010/2011 years of Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3. Some of the most recent offerings in the form of Battlefield 4 and Hardline have been off the mark in my experiences but Battlefield 1 feels like a return to form; a reinvigoration if you will.
Battlefield 1 reminds me of the Matthew McConaughey Lincoln commercial in which he says “sometimes you have to go back to move forward” and this line seems to draw a parallel with Battlefield 1. It’s certainly gone backwards, further back than most major FPS games have dared to go back to and it’s refreshing to see that it’s actually done a ton of good for the game. It’s unlike all other major FPS games coming out this year and yet it manages to feel the most refreshing of them all.
If I had to compare Battlefield 1 to another game, it actually most strikingly reminded me of Valiant Hearts – a beautiful World War One game. The similarity comes from the way in which the story or the campaign is delivered; instead of following one solitary protagonist, you instead fill the shoes of various people caught up in the theatre of The Great War; each new chapter providing a fresh and unique experience from the last. One of the best and strongest aspects of Battlefield 1’s campaign is the ability to fill the roles of both men and women.
Battlefield 1 does away with the strictly linear stories of previous games and instead offers up a ton more variety in the way that the campaign in delivered to the player. The First World War was perhaps the most devastating upheaval of the entire 20th century, the first time a war of such scale had ever befallen humanity. As such, Battlefield 1’s campaign is mediated multiple perspectives, as various individuals come to terms with the upheaval of the world in the years of war.
Battlefield 1 doesn’t glorify war, everything you see and play exudes a tone that feels eerily similar to reports on the war itself. There’s an awe of the sheer magnitude of destruction, devastation and grittiness of the war. Battlefield 1 seems to make this a priority; it serves to present these stories in a fashion that engrosses the player in a story that’s more down-to-earth than a lot of other FPS campaigns.
When playing the prologue mission, I felt genuinely disturbed and what I saw. This isn’t some explosion up in some space station, this is gritty, gruesome and horrific. Just thinking of my great grandfather who served in the war, all the other men and women who experienced some of the worst atrocities ever witnessed by our race, it was deeply moving. Seeing shell-shocked soldiers reminded me of one of my favourite World War One poets, Wilfred Owen.
These are men whose minds the Dead have ravished. Memory fingers in their hair of murders, Multitudinous murders they once witnessed. Wading sloughs of flesh these helpless wander, Treading blood from lungs that had loved laughter. Always they must see these things and hear them, Batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles, Carnage incomparable, and human squander Rucked too thick for these men’s extrication.
There’s no way of knowing the horrors of a war like this, but Battlefield 1 doesn’t shy away from trying it’s best to not censor or hold back on these disturbing realities of war. Later on in the campaign, you get to see how these horror stories affect various persons from different corners of the globe. It truly does make you realize just how wide-stretching and devastating the war was.
Speaking of its presentation, it’s worth mentioning that the campaign feels like exactly what I would want from a World War One game. Naturally, there’s a Battlefield touch to everything and even some of the sneak elements from Hardline make quite a heavy appearance but they feel more at home with Battlefield 1 and the mechanic feels more appropriate in Battlefield 1 compared to Hardline. What this does is create a feeling that you’re overwhelmed by the sheer scale of events and the size of the battlefield, if you pardon the pun.
In terms of how realistic Battlefield 1 is to the actual era, it’s safe to say that there are some liabilities taken to make the game more accessible to a wide range of players. Automatic weapons are far more prevalent in the game than they ever were during the course of The Great War but one also has to give credit where credit’s due; while it may stray a bit from complete historical accuracy, Battlefield 1 creates a game where you will never feel too disadvantaged going up against enemies using automatic weapons.
In comparison to Battlefield 4 which received a large amount of criticism for server issues and the like, Battlefield 1 feels like a greatly improved experience. Now, some of my criticisms of the Battlefield 1 beta still exist here in the full game; I won’t delve into the term ‘overpowered’ but tanks/snipers feel like they give players a much stronger advantage just because of the open nature of Battlefield 1’s map design. Whilst historically these are clearly much more effective than they were during The Great War, they also feel inconsistent within the game’s self-contained balance.
Having said that, the multiplayer is immensely fun and a thrill to play. Conquest, as always, gives players access to a massive battlefield full of infantry, vehicles and various environments. There’s some truly epic moments to be made and I found myself frequently using the record feature on my console to grab videos of awesome moments I experienced in various matches. Whether it’s the addition of the melee charge or even to the gritty hand-to-hand combat, Battlefield 1’s multiplayer is gritty and creates a tense atmosphere that gives an insight into a fraction of the feelings that must have been felt by the real soldiers of the time.
Tactical planning comes into play a lot within Battlefield’s 1 multiplayer. Most maps are designed to be very open, even more so than previous entries and as such, you might be quick to rush to the vehicles not only as a means of transportation, but also to protect oneself from the open terrains. However, vehicle supply is short and with upwards of 60 players, you’ll soon be forced to adapt your play-style given how any particular match is playing out. Will you risk running to cover in an open field in order to secure cover? It’s a risk you might just have to contemplate and decisions like this is what makes Battlefield 1’s multiplayer so intriguing.
Ultimately, Battlefield 1 goes back to move forward and it’s a delight to experience. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a video game that dares to throw you into the horrors of a Great War and yet Battlefield 1 feels modern, something one might assume to be oxymoronic considering the setting of 1914-1918. Whilst other FPS games this year and in previous years have switched to jet-packing and wall-running, Battlefield 1 feels like its reinvigorated a genre that I had grown tired of in recent years. By making this risky decision, DICE and EA actually have proven you don’t need to go futuristic in-order to reinvigorate a genre. In fact, DOOM as well as Battlefield 1 this year prove to me that sometimes reverting back to the basics can be one of the most refreshing experiences possible.
Battlefield 1 is currently playable in trial version on Xbox One/PC via EA Access and Origin Access. The full game is scheduled to release on October 21, 2016 for the Xbox One, PS4 & PC. If you want earlier access to the full game, the Early Enlister edition allows you to play Battlefield 1 three days earlier, starting on October 18.
Final Score: 9/10