Battlefield 1 takes on an entirely different theme compared to the previous couple of titles, but it’s still business as usual under the hood.
The tone is immediately different to the previous Battlefield titles. Gone are the heavily distorted bass beats and the shades of blue mixed with angry orange. It’s all calm and sombre now: soft piano mixed in with a forlorn string section and muted earth tones. I guess dubstep isn’t all that suitable when we’re talking about a real conflict that happened with millions and millions of deaths.
It doesn’t end there. Even when you’re waiting for the game to load, the flavour text feeds you little factoids, telling you of all the lives that were lost during the conflict, the sacrifices made by soldiers long since passed. You’re no longer some jarhead, itching to get some – you’re playing a real part of history now. Are we meant to feel some sort of guilt for doing so? Probably, especially when it comes to honouring the memory of Pvt. xXxCUNT_PUNCHER_96xXx.
The game’s single-player campaign paints the picture of the Great War, telling stories from several different characters’ perspectives. However, it ends up contradicting itself. The campaign opens with a hopeless battle in a grey wasteland, telling you that “you are not expected to survive” as each character your control inevitably dies from the onslaught. But this sobering sequence is followed by a handful of sub-campaigns where each character you play is a one-man (or one-woman) army, and soon you’re infiltrating bases solo, stealth-killing folks without a second thought. Such a senseless loss of life, indeed.
The meat and potatoes is in the multiplayer, though, and the grand sense of scale fits in perfectly with World War 1. Thankfully, it’s not all mud and trenches – the presentation is pleasingly varied, featuring picturesque mountain regions, mud-drenched hellish open battlefields, claustrophobic twisting forest paths, and the deserts of the Middle East. Cycling through a server’s map rotation never feels too samey, and true to Battlefield style, each game hardly ever plays out the same way twice.
The World War 1 backdrop fuels plenty of Battlefield moments. New features like elite units, mustard gas mechanics, and mounted units all add a bit of extra panic. Behemoths, such as airships and armoured trains, provide a means of tipping the scales back in the losing team’s favour, and their destruction is suitably over the top, with plenty of Michael Bay explosions. Operations mode is a series of matches pitting attacker against defender set against the backdrop of different and completely forgettable stories, but there are plenty of other game modes available.
I’ll admit that it took me a while to warm up to Battlefield 1. The weapon selection is just a smaller pool of guns with different configurations. However, I grew to appreciate the narrow range of weapons, like a restaurant that offers a small yet competent menu. Feeling out your preferred loadout takes a bit of trial and error, while some weapons are in dire need of a rework. The usual Battlefield bugs are abound, and can frustrate even the most Zen gamer, but it’s a damned sight better than Battlefield 4‘s launch. Battlepacks are back and primarily offer weapon skins, which don’t interest me at all, since noone except me can see that my gun is shaded slightly browner than usual.
Overall, Battlefield 1 is a fine addition to the series, and veterans will be more than comfortable. For new players, the lack of hand-holding will be intimidating – war is hell, after all – but take it slow, give it time, and you too might cop some hacking accusations in the text chat.
Reviewed for PC. Available from Amazon.