Game Review: Battlefield 1 (Xbox One)

It took my eyes a few seconds to adjust in the change of light as I entered the dark room in front of me. I creaked the door open with a patrol closing in on my position. I had just killed their commanding officers and stolen some intel. I was losing precious time and needed to send those orders via the locked up pigeon on the other end of the stronghold. I surveyed the area and tagged the four guards that stood between myself and the bird, and one of them was just outside. I tossed out a lure, a spent bullet shell I found on the ground, it did the trick. He entered the room as I hid behind the door. I ran at him with my hatchet held high and brought it down hard, piercing his chest. His body hadn’t even hit the ground yet as another guard spotted me.

I panicked and fired off a shot, forgetting that I didn’t have my silenced pistol equipped. The shot was loud, sudden and thankfully, precise; headshot. The two remaining guards charged at me, with one staying just a bit behind cover. I lobbed a grenade at the building’s front, I could see him just barely through the broken wall he crouched behind. He must have heard the metal sound of the grenade hitting against the building and ran, or at least he attempted to. The front of house, and him, disappeared in a flash of light, smoke and debris.

One guard was left and he managed to peg me with a few rounds to my left side. I darted for the nearest door to take cover. I leaned to my right and saw him approaching. I threw a lure just past him, he turned and looked towards where it landed. As he was distracted I ran at him, with my hatchet claiming another victim. With the base cleared I approached the caged pigeon so I could finally send out the orders.

Battlefield is back with a new approach to its single player campaign. Where the last few Battlefield games have usually told one connecting storyline, through one central hero, Battlefield 1 delivers us five wonderfully crafted short stories. Each of these stories is a tale of desperation, sacrifice, strength and of hope.

Battlefield 1 is a shining example of when a team is passionate about their ideas, it can truly affect the quality brought to a game. When DICE originally pitched their idea to EA Studio boss, Patrick Söderlund, he absolutely rejected the idea.

“It wasn’t the most obvious choice. When the team presented to me the idea of World War 1 I absolutely rejected it. I said ‘World War 1 is a trench war, it can’t be fun to play’.”

It was then that a proof of concept was made and shown off and it was then that Söderlund changed his mind and admitted that the team was on to something.

“The team continued and persisted in the fact that this can be fun, and showed up with a very short demo that convinced me at least that this was the right path. The good news is whenever you take creative risks and it works, you actually can get to substantial success.”

When the original reveal trailer hit YouTube, it generated over 31 million views, the most for any trailer in EA history, and is the most liked trailer (at the time) on YouTube.

The Scope of which Battlefield 1’s campaign attempts to cover is massive, with many of the stories taking place all over the world. You’ll battle in the Arabian desert, France, the Italian Alps and other gorgeous locations. Each of the five stories are self-contained and only connected by one theme: War. There is a lot of emotional weight behind a few of the stories with one in particular making me gasp as its finale.

My personal favorite of the five stories is “Nothing is Written” where you play as the mysterious Arab rebel, Zara. In this mission you team up with, and I am not kidding, Lawrence of Arabia. This romantic and controversial character is very present in this story and engaging in every scene he is in. You are tasked with discovering the location of an armored battle train. The level design, both for gameplay as well as its looks, is a very fresh experience in games like this. There is also a lot of freedom in the mission I describe at this review’s start, taking out the Officers to gather orders to fly off via pigeon’s. Then there is “Friend’s in High Places” where you play as a con-artist who steals an aeroplane (the more British term for airplane) under an assumed name and unintentionally get caught up in the Great War. The other three stories will see you behind the controls of an almost indestructible tank, holding a fort so your wounded can make it back to the ship, and strapping into a set of sentry armor to track down a friend whom you presume may be dead.

Each campaign chapter will see you tackle a variety of in-game challenges in the way of collecting Field Manuals, and Codex Entries. Field Manuals are hidden in brown containers throughout each of the five chapters and also are a requirement of most Codex Entries. These are tasks you must perform while in that mission like getting ten headshots, completing a level without using your melee attack or getting a few kills with a specific gun. Some Codex Entries are easy enough to get without much trouble, but some require you to tackle the mission in a very different method of play than you may be used to.

Battlefield 1, regardless of your platform is a gorgeous game, but of course it is, DICE is behind this title. The Swedish developer is known for its visuals and they for-the-most-part deliver a solid visual game. Each of the locations you’ll visit offers something new, giving Battlefield 1 some of the most variety in any war shooter you’ll find. Each of the characters you’ll interact with are beautifully detailed and offer the perfect amount of visual emotion to convey these heavy themes. Usually in first-person games, you rarely ever see your hero, usually they will be faceless and mute. Battlefield 1 makes sure that you know who you are playing as, but allows those characters to be forefront in many of the in-game cutscenes, adding a considerable dramatic weight to their performance.

I do have a small gripe with some of the level design; however, as many assets are reused to a huge degree. During the mission “The Runner” where you’ll run back and forth between objectives, visit the homes that are there along your path. Each building has a stack of firewood that is 100% identical to each and every other one. Most homes also share the exact same layout, having the same furniture and the same decorations just outside their doors. This copy and pasted effect is very noticeable and can make exploring for the Field Manuals a bit confusing, wondering if you’ve already searched that home. This campaign story is not the only one with repeating homes, as many others suffer the same environmental repetition.

Another gripe I have, while minimal, but must be said. I found that while the story chapters were engaging and an absolute blast to play, I did find a few of them a bit short. The entirety of all five stories can be beat on the normal difficulty in around 6-8 hours, and that’s taking some time to explore. While I am not usually one to gripe about game length, some stories seemed to get really good around the time they were just about over.

Voice acting is usually a celebrity affair with games like Call of Duty, trying to cram in as many recognizable voices and then having them shout orders at the top of their lungs. While Battlefield has that shouting in a few missions, the voice cast here are relative unknowns. You have Peter O’Brien who plays Fredrick Bishop in the mission “The Runner”, whom is not only the voice, but the face of the character as well. Even “Friend’s in High Places” secondary character Wilson, played by Michael Jibson, is there both vocally and visually. My favorite character, Zara shares the same visual treatment as everyone else, voiced by Agni Scott whom is mostly known for a few TV shows as well as playing the role of Camilla in the new Bridget Jones’s Baby movie. It seems that almost anyone that had a voice in the game also visually represents their characters, and that is pretty cool.

One thing that made the “Nothing is Written” story so involving was the music. In fact, every chapter has some of the best music of this gaming genre. The White Stripes “Seven Nation Army” was used in the trailers and it brought the 2003 song back to the top of the charts. Even the song during the credits, “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” is a song that you don’t think would have a place in a modern big budget videogame but it totally fits in with this game’s emotion presence and themes.

Multiplayer is a main reason a lot of people play this game, and another reason the whole Battlefield vs Call of Duty conversation gets started. I’ve played both multiplayer offerings of both this and the upcoming Call of Duty, and to say they even share even the slightest resemblance is reaching. Battlefield 1 is a war effort shooter, giving you large open areas with up to 64 players, 32 on each side, to recreate large-scale battles.

At release there are just a few modes to jump into to get your large-scale war fix:

  • Conquest: Massive all-out-war: Hold the majority of flags and eliminate enemy troops to win.
  • Domination: Intense infantry-focused action. Hold the majority of flags and eliminate enemy troops to win.
  • Rush: The attackers need to destroy the telegraphs to progress through enemy territory. The defenders can use their telegraphs to call in powerful artillery strikes on enemies that have been spotted.
  • Team Deathmatch: The side with the most kills will be victorious.
  • War Pigeons: Find messenger pigeons and send messages to your supporting artillery to take out the enemy.

There are also Operations, which are new to the Battlefield series. Be part of a larger scale war, spanning over several maps. Attack or defend on multiple fronts. You can also use Quickmatch to just jump into a random mode, or use the Server Browser to fine tune your search with filters to find that perfect match in a mode of your choosing.

You’ll tackle each of this modes across 9 maps, that range anywhere from the Argonne Forest, St. Quentin Scar to the Suez. Across these maps you will play as up to four core classes; Assault, Medic, Support and Scout. Each will have their own weapon types and if you play your role correctly, it can be the difference between winning and losing. Medic’s can drop health packs while Support can drop ammo when you need it most. Vehicles also bring with it converting your active class into either a pilot or a tanker, should you get behind the control of the large metal beasts.

During matches you’ll be able to pick up items that will change your class into what Battlefield 1 calls, Elite Classes. These are pickup items that transform your current class into something else. The Flame Trooper is wrapped in fire-resistant gear, a gas mask and armed with a flamethrower. The Sentry moves like a human tank, wielding a water-cooled automatic machine gun. Finally, the Tank Hunter is fitted with the 1918 Tankgewehr, an impressively fun weapon. You are able to bring down complete destruction of enemy vehicles even at a great distance.

As you compete in these modes you will rank up and earn currency used to buy new weapons and make your solider even more formidable in battle, or in support. You will also earn Battlepacks, which net you weapon skins and other customization items. These skins comes in three different rarities: Special, Distinguished, and Legendary. You can also receive a rare bonus item, either a XP boost or a puzzle piece to a unique melee weapon. Collecting all the pieces will unlock it and allow you to bring it into the game.

There are two modified versions of The Battlepack – Enhanced and Superior Battlepacks. These two modified Battlepacks can only be purchased with scraps, one of the in-game currencies. Scraps are earned by salvaging weapon skins or bonus items you don’t want or need. The other currency you can earn to unlock new weapons and items is War Bonds and these are earned by simply ranking up.

Battlefield 1 is a risk-taker, a game that almost didn’t get made. The stories told within are beautifully crafted and so varied in their design. DICE and EA have changed the trend away from futuristic war shooters and brought the fight back to WW1, an event not often featured in videogames. I enjoyed each story, its characters and felt that each of them was a very complete experience. The weapons are fun, varied, and the melee kills are brutal. The multiplayer is a large scale affair that doesn’t disappoint, offering a wide range of modes and weapons in 64 player battles.

What Battlefield 1 does so well is it gives the players a great deal of choice on how to accomplish each of the objectives that come your way, even in Multiplayer. I remember being outgunned by another tank in “Through Mud and Blood” and taking the long way around to get a better shot. It hadn’t occurred to me to just push through the houses and get to an even better vantage point, so that’s what I did the next time. The tank just flew through the buildings as if they weren’t even there, even driving over a few enemy soldiers in the process. To say I didn’t have a grin on my face during the whole ordeal would be a big fat lie. I applaud the use of freedom in Battlefield 1 in the same way I applaud its method of telling stories in the way they have here. I cannot recall the stories from any of the previous Battlefield games released so far, but each of the five stories here are memorable and worth remembering.

Here is that reveal trailer I mention in my review, now up to almost 48 million views, enjoy.


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