Talk about a turnaround.
A few years ago, EA and DICE released Battlefield 4 to a highly-expecting public, and ended up getting on their sour side right away, between non-working multiplayer and a single player campaign that was so average, it made Call of Duty: Ghosts’ story look like Citizen Kane. We wish we were kidding.
But then the team opted to try something new (or rather, older) with Battlefield 1, taking the series all the way back to World War I and experimenting with a new formula that effects both single and multiplayer, while keeping many of the aspects that we’ve come to know from the first-person shooting series completely intact. And you know what, it was a hell of a gamble – probably the biggest EA has taken with a franchise – but it has paid off in spades. This is easily one of the best Battlefield games I’ve ever played, and that’s including the Bad Company saga.
First, let’s talk about the single player campaign. It doesn’t just follow a particular soldier into action, but rather several, splitting up their stories with different motivations and drives. One pilot practically steals his friend’s identity just to get in the air, only to become a hero in the process; another works alongside a tank squadron in the hopes of getting out of a battle in one piece. Although it’s hard to really judge which stories are better, they all sum up into a magnificent, well thought out experience that really tells the horrors of war – and the joys of merely getting out in one piece, despite the consequences.
That’s a far cry from the crap we went through in Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4, which focused more on a lackluster experience instead of telling the tale about compelling acts of war. Glad to see DICE woke up on this front. But multiplayer is just as extravagant, although it does take some getting used to. You see, the maps in Battlefield 1 are huge – frickin’ HUGE! – and even with the right respawn points, it could take you a little while to get where you’re going. But a lot of the mainstay modes – Conquest! Operations! – are included, and well worth indulging in. But don’t be surprised if you die a few times – treading this territory takes a great deal of practice.
But wow. Operations in itself is probably one of the most in-depth multiplayer modes I’ve seen, and will take you a great deal of time to really get through. That said, it’s built for the persistent Battlefield players out there, and they won’t get enough of it. Of course, Conquest and the more traditional modes kick ass, too.
Battlefield 1’s gameplay does have some minor changes, since the weapons and vehicles are older than the modern stuff. But DICE takes some creative liberties here, introducing experimental weapons that actually do a great deal of good, along with superb vehicle performance. I loved flying through the sky and shooting enemies down, and mowing down young punks trying to get at my tank. In fact, they may be the preferred weapons of choice in multiplayer, so be prepared to fight for them. A frickin’ lot.
There are some slight hiccups that get in the way of the game’s performance – one clip I came across introduced a fallen zeppelin as a frickin’ fire tornado, you’ve probably seen it on Twitter – but overall it’s a monumental piece of work, with very little problems with online connection and, despite lengthy loading times, strong performance in single player. It’s amazing how far DICE has come here.
Of course, “amazing” is also a word I use heavily with Battlefield 1’s visuals. Wow. The game as a whole runs at 60 FPS, even when the action is at its most hectic, and despite load times taking a while, it never really loses that performance level. Plus the graphics are well polished, especially flying through snow-capped mountains or charging across a desert, sword in hand. I love the destructive factor, too – these buildings fall apart beautifully. I want to blow everything up because of it. This is probably DICE’s best looking game to date, and that’s a mighty statement considering how incredible Star Wars: Battlefront looked.
I love the audio as well. The music is pitch perfect when it comes to capturing the toils of war, and the sound effects are spot on, from the rolling of old-school tanks to the fiery explosions that boom through your speakers. I would’ve liked to have heard better definition from singular enemy footsteps in some areas (especially during stealth missions), but as a whole, the team did a great job.
If there is one complaint to Battlefield 1, it’s that the single player campaign ends a little sooner than expected. Still, the stories are superb, and help provide weight to the meaty multiplayer that everyone will get into. If you can look past the shortcomings (length, glitches) and enjoy the awesome experience that comes with Battlefield 1, you’ll find it to be a welcome addition to your library. It’s definitely found a spot in my best-of-year list.