“You are not expected to survive.”
These are the last words the game prompts you with as you are thrown into frontline combat in the “war to end all wars.” Battlefield 1‘s World War I setting, in congruence to its excellent story telling, perfectly represent what war actually is. While past military shooters glorify combat as you cut down through enemy lines as an incredibly durable war hero, only to gain some reputable medal right before the credits roll, you are instead treated to stories that show what it means to be a soldier on the frontlines. These war stories are personal tales based off true events that show the grotesque reality of war; a reality that is hardly showcased in gaming. The combination of powerful storytelling, setting, great gameplay mechanics, and fun multiplayer not only make this one of the best shooters this year, but also one of the best in the generation.
Battlefield 1‘s campaign mode consists of six different war stories; the introductory story acts as a tutorial to acquaint you with the game’s mechanics. Each story spotlights a soldier’s personal tale from the Great War and the struggle they confronted as they fought their way to survive or perish; some of which showcase different vehicles used in World War I. The decision to take an episodic approach instead of telling a conventional singular and cohesive story benefits this particular game’s setting. Each tale is told as if you’re sitting next to your grandpa as he recalls his wartime experiences. The stories feel personal. While some become stories of grandeur—one of which ends with two soldiers fist fighting as a zeppelin blows up in the background—most feel very grounded and very real. Each war story took about an hour and some change to complete, lending to the most interesting and cohesive stories the series has probably ever seen.
The World War I setting brings me back to when the premier military shooter was Medal of Honor: Frontline. While the Medal of Honor and Call of Duty‘s initial titles were set in World War II, the now 100 year old weapons and gear gave me nostalgic feelings for the military shooters of old. The lack of exosuits, wall jumping, and digital camo was a breath of fresh air that the military shooter genre greatly needed.
Due to the age of the weapons, combat is certainly slower but I wouldn’t say it’s sluggish. The responsive shooting mechanics and (semi) 60 frames per second gameplay is still present with some caveats due to the game’s time period. Every weapon takes a few moments to reload rather than the two seconds it takes to reload some weapons in previous Battlefield titles. Additionally, the amount of time it takes to shoot an entire round has certainly increased. Overall, Battlefield 1 is a slower-paced shooter than what we are used to, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring or dull. It’s just a different take on a shooter that most of us know and love.
While the gameplay is generally smooth, Battlefield 1 has its blunders. While it does try to keep a steady 60 frames per second, the amount of frames dip substantially when any explosion occurs. I also found that exiting the campaign or multiplayer mode will occasionally result in a static black loading screen that requires you to reboot the game. While these inconveniences are minimal, they certainly affect the experience as a whole.
EA’s Frostbite engine is known for producing some of the most gorgeous games of all time, and Battlefield 1 is no exception. While the scenery is plagued with death and destruction, the war-torn environments and smokey skies have never looked more beautiful. Character models and animations look as realistic as any video game can make. The gun models look akin to their real life counterparts. Watching buildings crumble, whether its from a shot from a tank or shots from your gun, is a sight to behold. The sounds from your weapons are believable enough to be considered authentic. All of these factors bring a sense of immersion to the experience. While some factors may be historically inaccurate, it certainly feels authentic to the time period. From a presentation standpoint, Battlefield 1 is an alluring and mesmerizing affair.
The large scale multiplayer battles the Battlefield franchise is known for is back in Battlefield 1. Despite the inherently slow-paced combat due to the game’s weaponry, it doesn’t hinder the amount of fun and satisfaction you will consume in this iteration’s multiplayer modes. The nine maps featured are well designed with a decent variety of open land and cityscapes. Unlike previous Battlefield games, there isn’t a single map I found to be too big. Sure, running across the map takes a fairly long period of time, but due to the checkpoint placement, I felt like there was always action between each checkpoint.
While there are plenty of game modes in multiplayer, including the new War Pigeons mode, none of them stand out as much as Conquest does. After playing a round of each mode, I felt myself always going back to Conquest. The other modes aren’t awful by any means, they just aren’t on the same scope as Conquest is. The other modes seem supplementary, which is fine since you will find yourself playing a tremendous amount of Conquest.
Like its campaign mode, Battlefield 1‘s multiplayer struggles to keep a steady 60 frames per second when an explosion occurs or a barrage of firepower flies in your direction. Due to the slow-paced nature of the matches, it doesn’t cripple you entirely; it’s more an aesthetic and performance problem rather than a gameplay problem.
Additionally, I encountered a few minor bugs and one major one while playing a couple matches of Conquest. Specifically when I was revived by a medic. When a medic revived me, I was incapable of shooting my weapon as my screen shook uncontrollably. However, the problem was fixed once I switched my weapon. That solution was resolved during my fourth encounter with the problem, so the first three times were incredibly perplexing and aggravating.
Battlefield 1 is an exceptional military shooter from both a campaign and multiplayer perspective. The campaign’s war stories are the most emotional, personal, and grounded set of tales that not only the series has seen, but also the military shooter genre in general. Whether their a despicable con artist or an honorable tank driver, you feel sorry for the situation they’re in. They are stories about the defeated, the victorious, the ones who survived, and the ones that died. The mission variety allows each story to be unique as it showcases different gameplay elements like tank and aerial combat. While there are some historical inaccuracies, everything in the game, from the guns to the environments, at the very least seem authentic. All of these factors—its setting, the old weaponry, and the game’s mechanics—all culminate in an extremely enjoyable multiplayer with hours of replayability. Battlefield 1 is not only the best military shooter of the year so far, it is the best in the current console generation.