Battlefield is one of EA’s biggest franchises and one of the most popular franchises in the first person shooter genre. It’s fair to say that Battlefield Hardline wasn’t as well received as one would have hoped. This year though EA have gone back in history to WW1 to create not just one of the best best Battlefield games made, but a game that should go down as an intanst classic that could impact the genre for years to come.
Right from the moment you get into Battlefield it’s clear that EA have worked hard to create a real sense a scale and the essence of WW1. The opening of Battlefield 1 is an introduction to the War Stories side of the game which is essentially the campaign mode and it managed to affect me like no other FPS has managed to do before.
As the game opens you are told that you are not meant to survive. That is meant completely literally which the first battle being impossible to get through without dying (multiple times). As you enter the battle and are confronted your enemy charging your position you will be overwhelmed from all sides, complete with heavily armoured soldiers with flame throwers. That first poignant moment of death is met with the screen that shows your soldiers name, year of birth and year of death. Each death is met with this screen and it captures the true scale of war. WW1 continues to resonate throughout history and the shocking death toll is a constant reminder that there really are no winners in war. The lengths that EA have gone to in order to convey that message is remarkable and sets the scene for an FPS experience that is not like anything I have encountered before. In fact, whether it’s in the War Stories or in the Multiplayer side of the game there are constant reminders of the hell that was WW1 and the sobering realities that a soldier faced in battle.
War Stories as a campaign is simply put, fantastic and a part of the game that must be played, even if you are generally a Multiplayer gamer. Unlike most FPS games where you just play through the story as one character, War Stories has 6 different stories to play through. Each of these stories places you in control of a different character and focusses on a different part of the war. The one that will resonate most with those of us from Australia and New Zealand is the Gallipoli War Story called The Runner. This story sees you in control of Frederick Bishop, an Australian Soldier who is clearly very well accomplished and well known on the Battlefield. When he is presented with a new charge, who is young and has no idea what he is in for (like so many who went to war), Fred decides to protect this kid and complete the missions himself rather than see another young life sacrificed before their time. There is a fantastic moment in this story that really shows how much trouble EA went to in order to capture the ANZAC spirit. At one point Fred tells the kid that he won’t die because Aussies are so hard to kill and then asks the question “you’re not a Kiwi are ya?”. It’s that small exchange that highlighted to me that this was no ordinary game and that EA understood that each country that went to war had different personalities and rivalries with other countries.
The Runner is a ground based story and like each of the war stories, will have you on the edge of your seat, never entirely sure whether your character and those key people around him, will live or die. Aside from the Gallipoli campaign you’ll be transported to the main WW1 theatres of War. One story is focussed on a woman in the desert who is assisting Lawrence of Arabia and concludes with an epic battle with an Armoured Train. Another is an Italian Soldier out to find his brother who he knows was involved in a major battle but is unaccounted for. A favourite of mine is the aerial based story where you are predominantly in an aircraft and must dogfight your way through the missions taking on the best of Germany. THat particular campaign has a terrifyingly good sequence where after crashing you must carry your injured gunner through German lines and across No Man’s Land. No Man’s Land is incredibly well presented, with barbed wire, massive areas that has been heavily shelled and plenty of corpses on the ground. The environment is a sobering reminder that war is ugly and that the tragic loss of life is unavoidable.
Almost every War Story conveys the sombre reality that war is literally hell on Earth and that the people who went there were doing so on the proviso that they probably weren’t coming home. The grit and sacrifice was second to none and even those that did come home remained affected. Battlefield 1’s ability to convey that message and deliver entertaining stories that cause reflection outside of the game is second to none. Many times I stopped playing just to reflect on the story to that had been told and the way it managed to play on my emotions.
Outside of War Stories and where most players will be hanging out is in the multiplayer side of Battlefield 1 and even there the massive scale and futility of war rings on home.
Conquest is the signature mode for the Battlefield Franchise an it is back in all it’s glory, WW1 is the perfect setting for such an immense mode of huge scale. 64 players can compete in conquest, capturing and holding objectives. Your standard Assault, Support, Medic and Scout Classes are all here, as are the Tanks, Planes and even Horses for some sweet sword wielding cavalry action. Each class type is as you would expect except that the weaponry is of course based on the weapons used in WW1. Back then there were no seriously powerful scopes for weapons and loading was a lot slower and EA have made sure this is replicating in game. Skill is required as you get your target in your sights and you need to be wary of when you choose to reload and what type of weapon you are using because each has different timeframes on the reload.
Aside from Conquest you’ll find Deathmatches (a personal favourite), Domination and Rush plus two new modes, War Pigeons and Operations. War Pigeons is definitely an era-based mode. Back in WW1 communications were limited and getting messages out was often done by Pigeon or Dogs. In this mode a Pigeon coop is placed somewhere on the map and you must find it before your opposition, doing so will get the Pigeon back to your artillery so they can obliterate the opposition with the really heavy fire. Operations mode is like an extension of War Stories where it focusses on key campaigns from WW1 with the objective or taking positions and forcing your enemy back from strongholds, another great mode that is specific to war.
The multiplayer maps themselves are very well thought out, from the vast open expanses of the Sinai Desert to the confines of Amiens, a city devastated by the war complete with blown out buildings, to the tense Argonne Forest and more each map has it’s own unique qualities that add to the sobering reality of war. Playing Deathmatch in Argonne Forest there is one part of the map that is essentially a death alley, it’s an alley surrounded by rocks either side where finding a good spot can mean being able to mow down an entire squad as they attempt to come through it. Upon taking down a squad of four in the forests death alley, after giving myself a pat on the back all of a sudden my mind was cast back to the thought that this is exactly the sort of thing that happened to real people in WW1, people who ran forth on orders to certain death. It’s little moments like that that continue to highlight the sobering reality that was WW1.
The graphical presentation should not be underestimated in delivering this reality of war. The presentation of the theatres is fantastic. In War Stories, particularly during cutscenes the characters appear very lifelike, right down to the fibres and dirt on their clothes. You get the sense that these are people that have and are fighting in an active war. Even the detail on vehicles like tanks is astounding, take a look at a tank going through mud and pay attention to the small details like mud caking up around the tracks.
I played on PS4 and then PS4 Pro. Both are extremely slick presentations with PS4 Pro adding to the experience. Framerates are noticeably smoother on the PS4 Pro and it’s hard to know if it’s just placebo or not but the graphics did appear to be upscaled better on the PS4 Pro over the PS4.
EA have delivered an impressive experience with Battlefield 1. WW1 is an event of unimaginable horror with immense loss of life. EA have managed to capture the experience like no other game before it and deliver a flawless FPS game. By going back in time, EA have been able to do what they do best in Battlefield, which just goes to show that sometimes we need to go back in order to go forward.
- Captures WW1 brilliantly
- Immense Scale
- War Stories Campaign
- Fantastic Multiplayer