Battlefield 1 Review- Brutal War in the Trenches

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Posted October 25, 2016 by Thomas James Juretus in Video Games

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Developer: EA DICE

Platforms: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One

At times it can be tough to tell first person shooters apart, as for the past few years the two major shooter franchises, Battlefield and Call of Duty, have been dealing with themes of terrorism and modern warfare. So, while Call of Duty marches gleefully into the future, the developers at EA DICE decided to try a different approach. That approach was to return to an era of warfare that publisher EA has not touched since 1994’s Wings of Glory, that of the First World War. Taking Battlefield 1 back to the trenches was an inspired move, and one that sets the title apart for those who are tired of running up walls or boost jumping with jet packs. It’s a return to a type of warfare that was ugly and not as precise. Weapons could be clumsy, tanks slower, and planes far more fragile. It’s a type of warfare where patience and skill often win out over reckless run and gun tactics. And, as it turns out, a successful step in the right direction for the franchise.

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Battlefield 1 doesn’t just set itself apart by going to an era rarely seen in videogames. It also takes a unique approach to its single-player campaign. Called War Story, the campaign is set up as six different vignettes, tackling different aspects of the war through the eyes of multiple characters. There is no overarching story here, as each vignette is self contained and tells its own story. The stories are brought to life with stunning visuals, very good voice acting, and a great musical score. If there is one fault here it’s that each story is over far too soon, with each one being able to be completed in an hour or so. On one hand, this keeps things moving along to a fresh experience and not having one thing overstay its welcome. On the other hand, some subjects seem to get short changed where perhaps more could have been done. At around six hours, the overall campaign just leaves you with wishing there were more. It would be nice if EA would consider adding stories through DLC at a future date, though generally the Battlefield franchise adds only more multiplayer maps, and not single player content. At least for completists there are some collectibles to find and challenges to be met, so that may be a reason to revisit the six stories for a second playthrough.

The campaign can be done in any order following the prologue, which is titled “Storm of Steel”. This first story brings you up to speed on controls, and focuses on the Harlem Hellfighters in 1918. You are told at the beginning of the story that you are not expected to survive, and you won’t. This enables you to jump into the boots of several characters, each having their name come up with date of birth and death after you get killed. The fighting here feels quite intense, but it would have been nice to get a more fully fleshed out story following just one character instead of many. The prologue is the shortest of the six stories, and while the gameplay satisfies, the story overall just ends too soon. Following the ending you’ll get little factoids on whatever part of the war you played through. These are done after each story, and you’ll also unlock a codex which contains more historical information (these also unlock as you progress through the multiplayer).

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The remaining five stories all follow a main character through various parts of the war. “Through Mud and Blood” follows limo driver Daniel Edwards as he joins a tank crew during the Battle of Cambrai in 1918. It’s a decent tale, even if it hews a little too close to the plot of the movie Fury for my liking. “Friends in High Places” follows the exploits of American pilot Clyde Blackburn, as he engages the enemy in the skies above London. This was the best of the five, with a strong, likeable character and a fantastic climax. “Avanti Savoia” follows Luca Vincenzo Cocchiola, a member of the Italian Arditi unit as they storm a fortress on the Austro-Hungarian border. “The Runner” takes place during the battle of Gallipoli in 1915 and features a mixture of stealth and action. Stealth is of great importance as well in “Nothing is Written”, which follows a female Bedouin guerilla fighter working with T.E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia) in a quest to take out an armored train. Each story gives you access to a variety of weapons as well as vehicles, and even horses. All handle pretty well, though the flight controls can take a bit getting used to. Following the completion of all of the stories you unlock a short film bearing tribute to those who fought in World War 1, which makes for nice viewing.

After the campaign, it’s on to the bread and butter of the franchise, that of Battlefield’s multiplayer. For those who enjoy hopping online to do battle with friends and strangers, the multiplayer in Battlefield 1 shines, providing six modes to play over nine maps at launch. The newest and biggest addition to the multiplayer for the franchise is a mode called Operations. Operations is epic warfare on an epic scale, and carries over different modes and several maps. This is a mode the requires a time commitment, as a round in Operations can last for an hour or more. The lead here can easily go back and forth between sides as each one achieves its various objectives. As it encompasses so much, this may well be where many will spend most of their time.

In addition to Operations, there is Conquest, which has both sides battle for multiple objectives across a large map. Should one side fall behind they will get either an armored train or a zeppelin to come to their aid, and these huge Behemoths can take quite a bit to destroy, making for some thrilling moments. Domination requires team to hold three objectives for the most amount of time. Team Deathmatch is self explanatory. Rush will have your team either attacking or defending several telegraph stations. Defenders can use the telegraph to send enemy coordinates to artillery units, where attackers must plant bombs and prevent opponents from defusing them. Attackers win if all stations are destroyed in the time limit, defenders win if they can keep some stations up and running. The last mode is a bit more unique and one of the more fun modes to play. War Pigeons task teams to find and dispatch messages via carrier pigeon, with the victory going to the team that’s the first to get three messages out. It’s fast paced and frantic, as the pigeon can be stolen from the other team or even shot out of the sky. Opponents need to seek shelter quickly after each pigeon is released, as a barrage of artillery fire comes down on their heads. It’s a great mode that doesn’t take long to play, and takes a good bit of teamwork to accomplish.

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There are eight classes for players to choose from, four of which open as you progress through the multiplayer: Assault, Medic, Support, Scout, Tanker, Pilot, Calvary, and Elite. Each has a beginning set of available weapons to choose from, with more opening up as you level up. Scraps is a form of currency you obtain as you progress and can use to purchase new weapons and attachments. Each squad is made up of five players, and it’s a good idea to vary your squad members if possible. You can switch classes each time you die if you wish, so when beginning you can try out each and see which one fits best your style of gameplay. Teamwork is rewarded greatly, so it’s better to be a team player when it comes to leveling up instead of being the lone hero (save for Team Deathmatch, where killing the most enemies is the primary objective). The nine maps are varied, giving you ruined fortresses to fight through in Ballroom Blitz, city streets in Amiens, and a deep forest with a train wreck at its center in Argonne Forest. Each map is nicely detailed and offers plenty of options in which to set up a defense or to carry out an attack.

Adding to the maps are the destructible environments and dynamic weather. Most structures in the environment can be destroyed, reducing the amount of cover your opponents will have to hide behind. Dynamic weather can play a factor, especially so on the maps set in Arabia, where massive sandstorms can billow up, making it hard to see where the enemy is located. The weather can affect your shots as well, making stealth and melee combat come into play. Vehicles allow for a stronger assault. Tanks have both a driver and in some cases multiple gunners. Planes have both a pilot and a gunner. gunners in both planes and tanks can swap positions to take advantage of better sight lines. Horses can make for swift mobile attacks, letting you charge in quickly to hit targets and make a fast getaway. Planes and tanks do depend on the skill of their pilots/drivers, though hopping in is up to you when you respawn.

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In all, Battlefield 1 takes a familiar formula and applies it well to a unique era of warfare. It presents a nicely done and unique campaign, though it’s over too soon, that gives a varied look at different aspects of the war. The multiplayer emphasizes teamwork, and offers a variety of modes to tackle over its nine maps. These modes range from the epic warfare of Operations to the smaller and fun objective based modes like Rush and War Pigeons. The backdrop of World War 1 offers a unique setting to set this apart from other shooters, giving players access to weapons and vehicles not often seen in videogames. Weapons and vehicles require a bit of skill to use, but the learning curve isn’t so steep as to be too daunting for newcomers to overcome. For those who play online, purchasing this is a no brainer, as the modes are all engaging to play and can provide plenty of gameplay hours to get the most bang for your buck. Those who enjoy the campaign only for shooters may be better off renting or waiting for a steep price drop, due to the campaign’s short length. Despite that short length (around 6 hours or so), the campaign is very well done and well worth your time to play. With all it has to offer, Battlefield 1 is a great entry into the long running franchise, and shooter fans should enjoy hitting the trenches for a thrilling experience.


About the Author

Thomas James Juretus