Battlefield is back - this time bigger, bloodier and more brutal than ever.
Since its initial reveal earlier this year, the anticipation for Battlefield 1 has emerged to be one of the most remarkable aspects of its launch. With many of today's leading franchises still pursuing concepts set in the near future, the spotlight has shifted over to Electronic Arts and the new backdrop for its flagship shooter franchise.
Battlefield 1 takes players back to the brutal events of The Great War, alongside revised gameplay and notions better suited to the era. As a period associated with brutal, unforgiving violence, few blockbuster titles have even attempted to approach the subject, let alone with successful execution. Amidst a genre currently dominated by human augmentations and laser weapons, Battlefield 1's change in approach couldn't be more welcome to the current triple-A shooter landscape.
But with pre-release hysteria at an all-time high for the franchise, how does Battlefield 1 stack up against the high expectations?
The war to end all wars
Battlefield's focus has always laid with its multiplayer modes and while still true in Battlefield 1, an effort has also been placed on reworking the approach to a single-player campaign.
War Stories manages to capture the dynamic, sprawling gameplay of the game's multiplayer modes
In modern Battlefield games, the single-player narrative has always been an unoriginal amalgamation of years of military fiction. These timeworn tales of all-powerful soldiers have grown old, leaving much to be desired from a narrative standpoint. When presented in conjunction with linear gameplay, campaign experiences never felt memorable or truly engaging.
Battlefield 1's single-player experience, known as War Stories, follows the stories of five different soldiers who participated in World War 1. Each of these characters is presented in their own isolated narratives, which sharply defines the narrative into five missions and a moving prologue. With their own motivations and roles, each account of the conflict has differing themes and gameplay mechanics that arise.
As proven with other successful titles this year, character-driven narratives are becoming much more appealing concepts in today's industry. This approach has translated nicely into Battlefield 1's campaign, creating an appealing cast worthy of investing into.
Across all six missions, War Stories manages to capture the dynamic, sprawling gameplay of the game's multiplayer modes. While more scripted events are still present, their smooth integration into gameplay doesn't detract from its open-ended aspects.
Battlefield 1's single-player missions take place in a range of expansive sandboxes, which manage to convey a true sense of scale. This is noticeable from the outset, with a ruthless opening act, primarily intending to convey the scope of the conflict. Switching between multiple roles on the front lines makes for a memorable experience, while also subjecting the player to the horrors of early 20th-century combat.
Switching between front-line roles makes for a memorable experience, while also subjecting you to the horrors of early 20th-century combat.
And while the game isn't afraid to portray these unsettling images, Battlefield 1 is still a triple-A shooter at its core. With a need for action-packed thrills to keep players engaged, both gameplay and cinematics sometimes often diverge from the somber undertone of the narrative. Being a video game rather than a war documentary, inconsistent themes and inaccuracies in the single player are mostly justified.
Overall these changes push Battlefield 1's single player in the right direction, rivaling the developer's previously praised work in Battlefield: Bad Company 2. While the series has never been recognized for moving narratives or expansive single-player gameplay, Battlefield 1 diverges from the faults of its predecessors to become a substantial part of the package.
Into the trenches
Like other games in the series, Battlefield 1's biggest focus is on its multiplayer mode. Known for its expansive all-out warfare, the core Battlefield formula is still present across all six modes available at launch. These play out across nine diverse maps – each with a distinct flow and unique gameplay opportunities.
While Conquest has previously been Battlefield's flagship mode for large-scale warfare, Operations is a close contender
For returning fans of the franchise, Battlefield 1's roster doesn't offer a huge abundance of new game modes. Old favorites such as Conquest and Rush return for the masses, with new modes such as Operations and War Pigeons also being thrown into the mix.
Out of the two new modes, Operations has emerged as one of my personal favorites during my time with Battlefield 1. With a similar setup to Conquest, Operations pits two teams against one another in a fight for capture points. Taking place across a number of rounds and maps, the game mode attempts to imitate the progression of a long-term conflict. While Conquest has previously been Battlefield's flagship mode for large-scale warfare, Operations is a close contender with much faster pacing and a greater emphasis on objective play.
Battlefield 1's other new mode, War Pigeons, offers a twist on objective transportation modes such as Capture the Flag. As a part of this game mode, players must obtain a carrier pigeon and release it into the wild. While an intriguing concept initially, War Pigeons will likely remain a gimmick that struggles to find dedicated players after launch.
Complementing these game modes, Battlefield 1's roster of maps spans the globe with a range of differing environments. From the war-torn remains of the French countryside to the ruined fragments of an Arabian town - all of the game's maps have a distinct look and feel.
Unlike more recent Battlefield titles where large-scale destruction has been most scripted, Battlefield 1 introduces a more natural map dynamic. Aside from sturdy fundamental structures, these destructible assets are responsible for the ever-changing environments of the game's multiplayer levels
Consequently, each map its own changing playstyle, with environments composed of both large-scale battlegrounds and tighter spaces. These aspects culminate to produce a balanced rotation of locales, marking some of DICE's best work from the past decade.
Through mud and blood
Battlefield 1 bears a much grittier undertone after its shift to the First World War, which also extends to the multiplayer gameplay itself. From the screams of injured soldiers to the sharp sound of cocking a bolt-action rifle – every aspect of Battlefield 1 has a notable weight behind it.
World War 1 is always painted as a bloody, cruel conflict and in Battlefield 1 the period also lives up to this repute. During a period where industrialized warfare was first introduced, gameplay also reflects this transition between the featured new and old technologies.
Most of the game's weapons feel heavy and responsive, which leads so more skill based encounters with greater control over the outcome of gunfights. Despite the wide range of varied weapons and gadgets for each class, the game ultimately feels consistent and balanced. This comes down to the situational nature of most these firearms, with some weapons having a greater advantage on larger maps. Other new additions such as gas, bayonets and ruthless melee weapons, all unite seamlessly with the main Battlefield formula.
While Battlefield 1 itself is an amazing title, its biggest limitation is the hardware it's running on. We reviewed the game on the Xbox One, so we're not getting a definitive experience in terms of graphical fidelity — though PC gamers with high-powered rigs will be able to exercise Battlefield 1's full graphical potential. Nevertheless, despite Frostbite 3 having a rocky history on Xbox One, Battlefield 1 performs surprising well on the console. Unlike many recent titles on the engine, Battlefield 1 has seen a significant performance bump since its open beta period earlier this year. Pursuing a higher resolution has massively helped Battlefield 1's presentation, and adds to the overall polish of the package.
After years of creating expansive warzones, Battlefield 1 has emerged as one of DICE's greatest titles to date. In terms of raw gameplay mechanics, a range of new concepts has been put in play, shaping a truly outstanding first-person shooter.
Between its pacing and general approach to gameplay, Battlefield 1 feels like a return to the series' roots. Rather than a simple World War 1 skin over the traditional Battlefield gameplay, Battlefield 1 successfully adapts its mechanics to the period. With a successful character-driven campaign and a diverse multiplayer sandbox, Battlefield 1 is a timeless return to a once forgotten period in video games.
- Engaging single-player campaign
- Battlefield's expansive multiplayer returns in all its glory
- Moves away from the trend of near-future warfare
- Lack of variety across multiplayer gamemodes
This review was conducted on Xbox One using a copy purchased by the reviewer.