Back from the Great War on shore leave, Kenneth?
Annual Battlefield games, much like Call of Duty, are no surprise. They give the Call of Duty series a run for its money in terms of DLC (they not only have a season pass, but a “club” system), and in any given year, they could produce a package that’s a step down from the status quo.
Hardline definitely had that feeling, but Battlefield 1 is a return to form.
Battlefield 1 (PC [reviewed], PS4, Xbox One)
Developer: EA DICE
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Released: October 21, 2016
I haven’t had this much fun with a Battlefield game since playing 1942 in my cousin’s basement with a LAN setup. While 4 came close several years back it was a real glitchfest (particularly on consoles), and the relative smoothness of 1 is working in its favor.
As Zack previously mentioned in his initial assessment, the campaign is surprisingly good. Not only is it a globetrotting affair with multiple perspectives (five, actually. Clocking in around 10 hours total), but you can go to any of them you want right away. Given the completely linear and locked focus of a lot of FPS stories, I’m totally down with this, and the same goes for the more open maps of the campaign itself that aren’t just “follow this tunnel until you fight this forced pack of enemies” (the first Tomb Raider reboot and BioShock: Infinite were bad at this). I didn’t connect emotionally with it as much as some did (they could have went a step further with the intro sequence, or just copied a lot of the fantastic Valiant Hearts wholesale), but it attempts to show the horrors of war better than most games.
It’s all stylized enough to make it feel like Battlefield 1 is its own bright orange neon beast, and not just “another World War II game that feels like it has older tech.” The flowing anime capes, the character poses — it’s all done in an attempt to differentiate itself from the market, and it works. While I haven’t bought into the idea of successfully transposing “trench warfare,” it does add a new dimension to the maps, and the design team doesn’t go overboard in doing so as there’s still plenty of diversity, augmented by cool vehicles (horses, dreadnought ships, zeppelins) and picturesque capture points (castles, beachfront points).
And circling back to that 1942 point earlier, multiplayer is a blast due to the retreat from that Hollywood run-and-gun feel. It reminds me of the olden days of tactical shooting, even in 64-player matches on gigantic maps. Real struggles for control points are back, as is the rush of defending one against a horde of other players on your own. By the time I had spent nearly a week with it, it was hard to believe that there are only nine maps on offer at launch because in each match I felt like I was discovering new parts of them.
While the class system (scout, assault, medic, support) is still rote and gamey, as is the entire loadout system in general (I dislike the sluggish unlock pace of everything), it does allow you to pick a general idea of the style you want to play as, and weapons have weight and punch to them. If you’re curious about balance, I didn’t find anything particularly awry unless you’re the type of person who thinks “snipers” are overpowered. Speaking of keeping things on a smaller scale, there’s five modes: Operations, Conquest, Rush, Team Deathmatch, and War Pigeons.
You’ve seen it all before (even Pigeons, oddly enough, as it’s basically a modified Oddball from Halo), but I appreciate the pared-down approach because the core Conquest concept of capturing points is still king. Even more so here, as Operations is a juiced-up version with matches that last roughly 45 minutes. The one big weak link though is the destruction system, which I feel was a tad overhyped and underplayed in-game. You can generally cause mischief with high-impact weapons and some vehicles, but destruction doesn’t feel as tactical as say, Rainbow Six Siege.
I was getting flashbacks of the ’90s and early 2000s PC era, where player-versus-player matches would rage on throughout the day until one team was finally crowned (anyone remember vanilla World of Warcraft Alterac Valley?), and sure enough after just one go, Operations became my instant go-to. It brings back the 40- or 64-player focus in a big way, and features two roles — attacker and defender — to give the mode a little more purpose. I had a chance to try it out on consoles too, and I honestly feel like this is the first time they’ve gotten that large-scale system right on current-generation platforms (Battlefield 4 pooched it with the aforementioned glitches).
I didn’t see myself playing through (and enjoying) Battlefield 1‘s campaign even just weeks prior to this assessment, but here we are. It somehow manages to be a good amalgam of the staple formula DICE has relied on for years, with a bit of anime (flashes of Metal Gear Solid V and flowing shonen capes) sprinkled in for good measure. I’m really not looking forward to spending $50 on the DLC to get more maps, but for now, I’ll be coasting along in Operations for the next few months.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]