After Battlefield 4’s rocky launch, Battlefield: Hardline’s mediocre reception, and the fact that Call of Duty has jumped the shark so hard it’s literally landed up in space, Battlefield 1 and its back-to-basics World War I approach had a lot riding on it. But damn it, it pulled it off with gusto and vigor.
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he story of Battlefield 1 is reasonably shorter compared to most of its FPS counterparts, splitting the focus between 5 different characters fighting in this horrid war, each with very different War Stories (as they’re called) and settings. You’ll find yourself in thrilling dogfights high above the mountains, taking on massive fortresses and war blimps in one story, playing a covert, stealthy game of espionage and sabotage in a vast desert in the other, trudging through scorched earth, engaging in some tank-on-tank action in another — regardless of which story you choose, they’re all refreshingly different and offer a very unique experience. Especially in the sections where you can stealthily make your way through the surprisingly large maps, meleeing enemies, using lures to break patrols — and thankfully, if you mess up, it doesn’t mean an instant fail, but instead, just means you got to spit out that bubblegum and start kicking some ass.
These War Stories are short, but they pack a powerful punch, with very likable and unique characters in each one. War is absolute hell with unimaginable stakes and although yes, it’s fun to play through these in a video game, the stories many of these historic shooters are based on having some manner of truth behind them and I feel DICE has tastefully recreated and captured that feeling by painting the soldiers in this war as actual people with real lives, loved ones, and their own personal stakes. But more importantly, unlike other shooters where you’re the one-man, unkillable, unstoppable glory hound of war, saving the world with your machismo and gigantic balls of platinum and diamonds alone, Battlefield 1 shows that there are many multifaceted, diverse and unique heroes in any war and the seemingly little they do is just as poignant as Americaman McShooty face who answers the Call of Duty solo. Just a quick side-note: I’d recommend first playing through the campaign because it does a great job of teaching you the game mechanics which transfers to the multiplayer and removes a lot of, “Oooh, I didn’t know I can do that.”
[pullquote]…DICE delivers nearly photorealistic (I cannot stress the “nearly” part enough) renders…[/pullquote]
Visually, Battlefield 1 is the best looking game I’ve played in a long time. The visual aesthetics are whistle inducingly good (you ever just stop to stare at something and let out an involuntary whistle? You’ll do that quite a few times here) whether you’re in the campaign or hitting the multiplayer.
Cutscenes, while not necessarily a valid benchmark in terms of visual fidelity by any means, DICE delivers nearly photorealistic (I cannot stress the “nearly” part enough) renders, with everything looking insultingly good across the board, but it’s the little things like pores, stubble and the tiny ripples of loose clothing in the wind that are truly impressive.
Those damn fine visuals apply to the in-game world as well, which combines with the utterly stunning lighting to create an otherworldly experience. For instance, one War Story has you in a tense dogfight during sunset, and the world was bathed in orange, yellow and gold as you fought for your life among the clouds — which would block the sun and mist out the screen as you flew through them, but once you burst out, you’re bathed in this heavenly glow once again — then you get the missions set at night which you’d think would have less to work with, but no. Riding across the desert sands on horseback, sword in one hand, the moonlight glittering on the sand below is wondrous — magical, even.
Even when the game makes you get down and dirty, literally trudging balls-deep through mud, barbed wire and dead bodies acting as macabre decorations around you, the pale sunlight reflects off the wet surfaces, the smoking carcasses of busted tanks and derelict remnants of structures litter the landscape to give you this gorgeously depressing aesthetic. Speaking of mud and going back to the little things, in multiplayer, if you end up in a muddy area, your gun gets caked in muck and again, it’s the little things which are just plain impressive.
But personally, where the game truly shines with visuals is in the multiplayer (hold on, we’re getting there). Battlefield is known for its level destruction and Battlefield 1 amps it up to about 11.5. In the single player, the destruction is pre-set, however, here, you start off on these picturesque, massive landscapes which are set in the maps from the single player campaign, so you’ll find yourself battling in luscious jungles, seemingly never-ending deserts, war-torn suburbs, scenic country sides and the mountains from Heidi.
[pullquote]”Bruuuuuuuh! This game, tho — bruuuuuuuh!”[/pullquote]
These maps already do have some wear and tear, but as the match progresses and the chaos ensues, buildings are destroyed and the earth itself is blasted to hell, leaving gigantic craters and unlike previous Battlefield games where really only buildings could be damaged (or other games where some fruit and a few boxes are the only un-alive victims of the soldiers… who answered the Call of Duty), the fact that the actual landscape along with the buildings are getting torn up makes it feel like you’re on an actual battlefield. Plus, the dynamic weather effects like fog and sand storms adds a whole new level of, “Bruuuuuuuh! This game, tho — bruuuuuuuh!”
On the audio side both the soundtrack and the game itself sound… It’s just… It’s… It’s as if the heavens themselves split open to reveal the ethereal visage of an angelic choir — the best of the best from Heaven’s Got Talent — singing the Battlefield soundtrack in absolute audio bliss, drowning me in wave after wave of this sublime ear candy, my emotions lost in the ebb and flow of these epic sound waves. Explosions go, “Boom! Boom!” Guns go, “Ratatatataaa!” And pistols go, “Pew! Pew! Pew!” perfectly fine, with DICE just wonderfully capturing the unique sounds of the numerous (now) archaic weaponry of years long by (I’m assuming through time travel?) — but that soundtrack! My god, what a soundtrack.
But let’s talk about why you’re REALLY here… The multiplayer… Well, I got news for you, son… It’s… Pretty… Damn… Pause for effect… Good — nay, better than good. It’s dope, yo. As usual, you’ll have access to four classes, namely:
Assault, which makes use of SMGs, shotguns and anti-vehicle gadgets such as massive anti-tank grenades, dynamite and the single-shot anti-tank rifles (picture a sniper rifle who’s on a diet of steroids and hate).
[pullquote]Explosions go, “Boom! Boom!” Guns go, “Ratatatataaa!” And pistols go, “Pew! Pew! Pew!” perfectly fine[/pullquote]
Medic, which makes use of semi-automatic guns and has healing equipment such as the classic medical crate for healing and a (questionable in terms of hygiene) syringe for revival of downed allies.
Support, which has light machine guns and support-based gadgets for team and vehicles, such as the ammo crate to resupply allies, the wrench to repair (or destroy) vehicles as well as some anti-vehicle gadgets like a magnetic charge which can devastate both vehicles and structures.
Camper Scout, which makes use of sniper rifles and spotting enemies… From a very, very, very safe distance. They have gadgets such as the flare gun, which marks enemies on the mini-map within a certain radius, anti-vehicle K Rounds and a new favourite of mine, the decoy, which is literally a mannequin head on a stick you can plant somewhere that enemies will see as a sniper, thus, once they fire on it, you can counter-snipe from the safety once they expose their position.
Each class has quite a few weapons to unlock, but you’ll need to rank up within those classes to earn more weapons (which you purchase with War bonds, also obtained mainly from ranking up), but higher rank doesn’t necessarily mean better guns, which means you can switch over to experiment with another class without worrying that someone who’s 3 ranks above in the same class will have an advantage. Oh, and don’t expect to find a plethora of customization options. You can adjust the sights, magnification, recoil and add skins, which are unlocked via battle packs — but these aren’t as easy to earn this time around. I’ve only received about 4, and I’ve been playing religiously since I got the game. However, the guns are wholeheartedly unique and it’s fun to switch around trying to find that special bae gun.
[pullquote]Vehicles are of course featured prominently, but seeing as this is 19forever ago, they’re a bit… Clunky. [/pullquote]
New to the series are Elite Classes, which replaces the usual special weapons pickups of the previous games. These kits provide powerful weapons, namely a devastating heavy machine gun, flamethrower and tank hunter sniper rifle and they can change the tide of the battle if used wisely, which is something the MP really focuses on; playing smart is far more beneficial than previous games. For instance, you get access to gas grenades, which can be used to flush out enemies and prevent them from hiding in buildings, but this can be countered by simply equipping a gas mask, however, doing this prevents the person from aiming down the sights, which means you could flush an enemy out and take them out with precision while they fire aimlessly. But even in terms of vehicles, you can disable certain parts of them now, so working in tandem with your team to, say, first cripple a tank by taking out its tracks while someone else takes out its weapons is another example of the game making you play it smart.
Vehicles are of course featured prominently, but seeing as this is 19forever ago, they’re a bit… Clunky. The newest addition is the Calvary, which is a (seemingly immortal) horse which, once mounted, will give you a powerful semi-auto gun, anti-tank grenades, and healing/ammo pouches. Oh, and a big-ass sword. Horses are incredibly durable, so if you master them, you can find yourself the bane of both vehicles and soldiers alike. You also get classic rides, such as your tanks of varying types, which ranges from tiny one-man operations that are fairly easy to use but also to destroy, to your landships, which are massive multi-seat affairs, but they’re slow and hard to control. If you’re going to take to the air, you could use a normal biplane or bombers. Sea vehicles aren’t as prominently featured, I noticed and rarely did anyone use them… Except when a behemoth was summoned…
Behemoths are summoned to battle once a team hits a certain threshold in terms of well they’re playing. These can either be armored trains, murder blimps or monster ships. These multi-seated armored warbeasts are incredibly tough to take down and can completely turn the match around, and it’s paramount you and your team work together to disable their engines and weapons. Or if you’re in one, just enjoy your murderfest.
[pullquote]…DICE took a massive risk which paid off…[/pullquote]
Whether its Conquest (capture the flag on a massive scale), Domination (capture the flag on a much smaller scale), Rush (a rock band — I mean a squad-based plant the bomb/defend the objective), Operations (a hybrid of rush and conquest which takes place over a few rounds) or War Pigeons (send the messenger pigeon with its coordinates to bomb the enemy/shoot the pigeon down… #pigeonmustfall), the multiplayer is exhilarating and feels so fresh and exciting again thanks to the setting, weaponry, vehicles and gadgets. As for any glitches, so far, I’ve been lucky with the only complaint I can mount against the game is the inability to quit the next round until you’re in that round, which gets frustrating if you want a quickie. No, Battlefield wants a cuddle and pillow talk.
Many people had their doubts, but DICE took a massive risk which paid off, delivering a game which is a pure visual spectacle to behold, hear and play. Whether it’s the fascinating single player campaign which dropkicks you right in the feels or the multiplayer which is a refreshing and exhilarating thrill ride — Battlefield 1 is worth ALL the monies.