Battlefield, some of my favourite online moments have been courtesy of this franchise. From Bad Company to today the games have always offered a deep and enjoyable online experience. Wide open maps giving arenas that support full Air, Land and Sea combat. They are also a world of difference away from the twitchy headshot brigade that live for other popular shooters.
Battlefield 1 couldn’t be more different given the last two titles from Dice, both of which Hardline and Star Wars Battlefront each had a good run with the press, but really failed to grab me in the way that Battlefield 4 did. The setting for Battlefield 1 is the first World War, a choice which at first glance could be forgiven for being a dull one. It is however very far from being dull, the setting offers much in the way of somber historical nods and plenty in classic Battlefield gameplay.
Squad! Squad with me!
The presentation has the native menu system that Battlefront gave us last year, slick and visual it is also personalised to you, your preferences and the time of day. There’s something about a personal greeting from a game that makes it feel, well, better and the crisp interface is really nice design choice.
The game has one of the better campaign modes of recent Battlefield years, its not over long and is essentially training for that online game. Giving you a full overview of weapons both basic and the ones you’ll want to earn. Along with a grasp of the different modes like Conquest, use of artillery, Horses, Tanks and Planes.
The lessons are wrapped up in individual stories that convey the horror and waste of the period, the opening sequence puts you in a successive run of characters, getting a brief mention of their name before you jump into another soldier’s boots and try to survive a little longer. The missions can all be tackled in whatever order you prefer which is nice, especially if you are of the mind to go back and seek out the collectibles.
The Gallipoli story The Runner is a poignant and touching escapade, even though the protagonist is somewhat a Bruce Willis Die Hard style survivor. My favourite on the other hand is the tank sequence, taking the role of a tank driver with brief runs outside of the tank employing stealth and raising havoc, before facing off against an overwhelming number of enemy tanks in a battle weary railyard. Its a sequence that needs strategy and awareness, but offers plenty in satisfaction once its over.
The legs of Battlefield are as ever in the strength of the multiplayer. Conquest, Rush and Domination are back along with Deathmatch, which really tends to take a backseat. The game structure is pretty much like for like on previous games, the strategy may have changed due to the different weapons on offer and the tweaks to classes that will force players to run their class differently to previous games. That said, the weapons and equipment are true Battlefield Rock, Paper, Scissors – every Ying has a Yang and the way to make progress is field a mixed squad with strength in its depth.
In games where tickets (lives) are crucial there’s nothing like being revived by a friendly Medic and going on to mow down more of the enemy team or being saved by a timely headshot from the habitual Scout keeping an overwatch on your progress. One of the great aspect of Battlefield team games is how the squad mechanics work, its easy to be scoring points on orders or support activities, but its also nice to see a group of strangers work well together and that’s generally without communication. If you get the Battlefield feeling, you’ll know what to do when and your team will stick by you for doing it.
The maps are varied and drawn from various fronts throughout the history of the war, visually they are quite stunning some are rich and vibrant while others are harshly barren, scorched trenches and battered pillboxes. They are generally areas that have been used in the campaign and that’s ok, regardless of which aspect of the game you tackle first, objectives for Rush and Conquest are thoughtfully placed although there were one or two occasions where I felt a map was just a touch too same to ground I’d raced across in Battlefront last year.
Level progression opens up unlocks for Soldier Classes, this can feel like slow progress, but as you become more proficient playing the objectives the points will come. Weapons still need to be unlocked to be selectable and earning in game currency (Warbonds) will help with that, there are also Battlepacks randomly awarded at the end of a round. These contain weapon skins or parts to collect a weapon, they sit alongside Medals which you have to select to be working on and its a stage by stage resolution. You can’t satisfy all the criteria at once for that extra XP, you have to perform each task individually and they reset regularly, so be careful not to lose your hard earned attempts.
Overall Battlefield 1 sits at the top of the pile for a deep and enjoyable online shooter, the scale of the maps and the authenticity of the weapons and vehicles may be questionable, but they are perfectly playable. Other arena shooters are for short burst scraps, Battlefield offers long term depth, games where strategy and fantastic moments of achievement stack up on each other turning minutes into hours and hours into late nights.
Get out there and do some good soldiers.