I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a huge fan of online shooters. Tit-for-tat battles usually plagued by whiny 10 year-olds with superhuman reflexes and lazy sniping campers do nothing for me aside from create an uncontrollable rage. Surprisingly though, when it comes to the Battlefield series I make an exception.
There’s something about Battlefield’s massive and often thoughtfully designed maps, jaw-dropping destructibility, and above all else, refreshing lean towards objective-based gameplay that makes for a tense and thrilling concoction that is hard to beat. Sure, there’s still plenty of shooting and killing to be done, but it’s not the be all and end all – stealth and subterfuge can often prove to be just as beneficial as mercilessly mowing down the enemy. Battlefield 1, DICE’s newest entry in the series proves this point even further, as by going back in time to give us a taste of combat during World War 1, the implements of destruction available aren’t quite as accurate, reliable or easy to use, but it’s all the better for it.
The series’ staple Conquest and Domination modes obviously make a return, and upon the strength and variety of the maps available as well as the hard fought nature of combat are as compelling and addictive as they’ve ever been. Whether you find yourself in a dense jungle, open desert or rural town there’s a fantastic flow to battle as your team moves to claim and defend control points, engaging in skirmishes both big and small along the way. At times the action is a chaotic melee of bullets and explosions, other times it’s a tense one man adventure into enemy territory fraught with caution, but it’s always exciting. They say that variety is the spice of life, and Battlefield 1 offers that every time you play.
As action packed as Conquest and Domination are, those who do just want to kill their way to victory can do so in Team Deathmatch. War Pigeon also satiates a lust for blood, forcing teams into heated clashes as they clamber to pick up and keep hold of a pigeon on smaller maps until it can be released to deliver a message, bringing forth an artillery strike upon success. What I imagine will be more interesting to players however, is Battlefield 1’s new Operations mode, which offers large scale battles across multiple maps.
Similar to Battlefield’s obligatory Rush match type, which is also included, Operations mode has one team attacking while the other does the utmost to defend their territory. Unlike Rush, however, there’s no need for the attackers to complete any sabotage, all they need to do to push the defenders back is occupy numerous control points. With limited respawns available to the attacking team, a successful defence relies on being able to effectively eradicate enemy numbers, but it’s not always that easy when advanced hardware such as war trains or airships are called in after your first taste of success. Should the attackers be successful, the battle then spills over onto another predetermined map or two, giving the defenders additional opportunity to put a halt to the opposing team’s war effort albeit with less glory.
Moving away from Battlefield 1’s multiplayer offerings – which we’ve ascertained are bloody good – let’s now focus on its single player portion which has seen the benefit of some radical changes. Split into six separate stories spanning the globe, each slice of Battlefield 1’s single player campaign features its own charming characters and unique taste of gameplay. From jumping into the shoes of multiple Harlem Hellfighters in France to working under the command of Lawrence of Arabia in Mesopotamia, each tale is intimate and focussed, careful to not glorify war whilst equally not suffocating you with its horrors.
More importantly, the gameplay has also been greatly improved, with many missions now taking part on bigger, open maps that allow you some degree of freedom as to how you achieve your goal. The second of the Lawrence of Arabia missions in particular is a good example of this, placing you in the shoes of Zara Ghufran as she travels across a vast desert to send three messages needed to halt a thunderous war train. Feeling vaguely reminiscent of a Metal Gear Solid V operation, whether you choose to ride in on horseback before taking a stealthy approach or commandeer an enemy tank to go all guns blazing is up to you. Either way, it makes for an experience that is unlike any previous Battlefield campaign.
Battlefield 1’s single player campaign isn’t flawless however; it does put the odd foot wrong here and there. The gameplay contained in the Through Mud and Blood story, for example, is a bit dull, and the occasional difficulty spike or poorly placed checkpoint can annoy, especially on hard difficulty. On the whole though, it is undoubtedly the best Battlefield campaign there’s been for years, and those who wish to unlock all the collectables and codex entries hidden within will be pleased to go back again and again to do so.
Backing up Battlefield 1’s sublime gameplay across all modes are visuals that have to be seen to be believed. The expansive environments are dripping with detail and character, bolstered by great lighting and an impressive draw distance. What’s more, accomplished audio design brings combat to life, with gunfire and explosions sounding full and fearsome. And the icing on the cake is that thanks to adopting a dynamic resolution the framerate stays silky smooth at all times. Technically, Battlefield 1 pushes the bar, constantly impressing scene after scene, battle after battle.
Clearly then, Battlefield 1 is an exceptional shooter that caters for its multiplayer fans first and foremost, but offers a gripping single player campaign to work through too. By going back to World War 1, DICE have been able to make things feel fresh and interesting again. Factor in that it both looks and sounds amazing, runs extremely well, and offers what is possibly the best online experience currently available that is set to only improve in time, and you have a winning formula. If you’re looking to buy only one multiplayer FPS this year, Battlefield 1 is more than worthy of your hard-earned cash – I honestly can’t envisage anything being better.