Battlefield 1 Review: War Stories
Ryan Bloom / Nov 18th, 2016 No Comments
The First World War was one of the deadliest conflicts in history. Close-up combat in the trenches led to millions of casualties across the world. Weapons were primitive, technology was almost non-existent, and warfare was brutal.
This may sound like a terrifying setting for a hit first-person shooter, but maybe that’s why it works so well for Battlefield 1. Players get a true sense of what it felt like to be a seemingly meaningless pawn in the Great War, but unlike the soldiers whose lives were constantly at risk, gamers can stop to take in the fantastic set pieces and gorgeous views.
Battlefield 1 is cinematic in its campaign and strategic in its multiplayer. It is human, yet unrealistic. The game’s ability to balance these characteristics in a historic setting mostly unexplored in gaming makes it the best Battlefield title in recent years.
Rather than telling one cohesive story, the Battlefield 1 campaign is smartly broken up into five chapters that each follow a different individual. It starts with a powerful prologue featuring the Harlem Hellfighters, an African-American infantry. Death is forced on players as they jump from soldier to soldier. This isn’t as fun as it is emotional.
Unfortunately, the game gets less diverse and more action-oriented as you progress through the five stories. Much of the game’s campaign feels over the top. Facing nearly impossible odds, the protagonists continue to succeed even where their comrades meet their death. However, this approach creates some awe-inspiring war scenes normally reserved for film.
Players are too often asked to use stealth tactics to sneak across enemy lines alone, and this fails to show the scope of World War I. When you are thrown onto the battleground, you are the driver of a tank or pilot of an airplane. Battlefield is famous for vehicular combat, and even these archaic war machines handle smoothly. Levels are smartly designed to use these vehicles to their full potential while also mixing in some boots-on-the-ground combat.
The plot doesn’t attempt to explain the complex political arguments that resulted in a global conflict. It’s never really about good versus evil. It’s about life versus death and soldiers dealing with the extreme hardships of war. These human stories are much more interesting than a broad plot attempting to fit in the entire war. Most of these characters are motivated by something deeper and immediate, and some even show growth during your brief time with them.
After playing through the prologue, I desperately wanted to learn more about the Harlem Hellfighters, but Battlefield 1’s approach to the campaign is a unique way to introduce several elements of war and give players an opportunity to use different styles of era-specific weapons.
Command and Conquer
Although the campaign focuses less on the big battles of war, that is the main focus of Battlefield 1’s multiplayer. The large-scale warfare is an exciting change of pace from the character-driven single-player experience, and the World War I setting helps balance out the gameplay.
Going back in time has the most significant impact on the weapons of Battlefield. Using crude weapons with creative innovations, such as a scope that is really just a magnifying glass, puts the war into perspective. These guns are not as powerful as modern weapons, and this affects gameplay. A sniper who doesn’t nail a perfect headshot may take two bullets to take down an enemy, and this gives players a chance to evade death.
Perhaps most entertaining is watching gas grenades explode and incapacitate multiple opponents and incendiary bombs engulf enemies in spectacular flames. Multiplayer is visceral and satisfying.
Tanks, planes and horses spawn less often than vehicles in past Battlefield games, but that is because they are harder to take down without the advantage of modern tech. Vehicles can cause huge destruction and change the tides of war when driven carefully. However, the focus in multiplayer is on classic man-to-man combat.
Levels are designed beautifully to accommodate the objective-based game modes. Playlists like Rush and Conquest encourage teams to make an all-out effort to push forward into enemy territory and complete tasks. There are well-designed urban settings that cater to close-quarter playstyles and vast open maps where nature is the only refuge. Things have a tendency to get clustered and confusing as matches continue on, but the journey to get to that point is extremely fulfilling.
Battlefield 1 does a tremendous job taking on a delicate subject. The Great War was complex and devastating. Battlefield’s campaign shows sympathy toward the source material by telling compelling individual stories of war that aren’t bogged down by confusing politics. This isn’t an optimistic story about the triumph of goodness; it is a touching plot with more focused ramifications.
The five war stories are hurt by an overabundance of stealth, but this sets up some incredibly filmic scenes. Fantastic war-torn settings and authentic sounds paint a vibrant picture of World War I.
Battlefield is once again at its best during huge multiplayer battles. Well-designed levels, era-accurate weaponry and smart game modes create balanced, intense matches that are loads of fun.
Battlefield 1 was reviewed on Xbox One using a code for the game provided by the publisher.
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