by Johnathan Irwin
reviewed on PC
The War To End All Wars
Hindsight is always 20/20. Even retracing all the pieces that fell into place to start World War I, it still blows my mind just how quickly the assassination of one man erupted Europe into a hellfire that scorched the continent not just for one war, but two. It was a chapter of history that showed both the best and worst of what humanity had to offer. The War To End All Wars, as we know now in 2016, was far from that.
So why is it that World War I is so often avoided in the FPS genre? We've had countless WWII games, dozens of Vietnam games, and several set in fictional conflicts. But to date, I had to dig deep to find traces of a handful and only two of those I could name before I started my search. The first is Verdun, which I reviewed last year, and now Battlefield 1. Leaving modern warfare behind, and going back even further than the series origin of Battlefield 1942, where does Battlefield 1 stack up in the long running series?
Each Life, A Story
With the exception of the Bad Company games, Battlefield has never had much focus on story. When the mainline games introduced attempts at more visceral, less humorous campaigns in Battlefield 3, it became clear pretty quickly that these were tacked-on time killers that - while enjoyable - really only served a purpose for achievement hunting and did not necessarily reflect the essence of a Battlefield game.
With Battlefield 1, DICE wanted to break the mold in both setting and what it means to have a story in an FPS game. They also wanted to reignite the feeling gamers got while playing the Bad Company titles, with largely open levels with freedom of movement rather than the hallways and alleys with small open segments from Battlefield 3, 4, and Hardline. While I enjoyed the campaign far more than the aforementioned mainline titles, it still comes up shy in both delivery and length. But those are my two main complaints with an otherwise, individually gripping campaign.
I say individually gripping because the setup of the campaign does not follow a single character, but rather several from different backgrounds and nationalities. Across 6 "War Stories" that are comprised of 17 missions, you'll switch through 6 different perspectives. The perspective of the narrating soldier, and 5 individual heroes of the war. Some of these War Stories are memorable such as "Through Mud and Blood" which follows a tank crew on a journey very reminiscent of "Fury" and also houses one of the most oddly peaceful moments ever in a game. Then there is "Avanti Savoia!" Which is both brief and forgettable, wasting what could've been a great opportunity to really show off Italy's own legends of the war, the Arditi who often get lost in the teachings and tales of the era.
The campaign has definitely stepped its game up from the last three entries, but it has yet to nail the consistency that made Bad Company and its predecessor so loved. I can appreciate what DICE did by showing the war from so many perspectives, on so many fronts, but perhaps narrowing it down to two would've been better. "BUT JOHNATHAN! NO ONE PLAYS BATTLEFIELD FOR THE CAMPAIGN!", I can almost hear the readers yelling. I hear you loud and clear, and so now we're onto what these games are all about. War Stories of our own.
Hell On Earth
"GO GO GO! SUPPORT TAKE THAT HOUSE, COVER THE BRIDGE! THE REST OF YOU, ON ME!", yelled our squad leader as we fought tooth and nail through the streets of Aimes. Objective C, a highly contested bridge on the eastern side of the map looked to be nearing our grasp. With cover from above, and a well-coordinated effort, we managed to take the bridge by force as one by one the enemy fell, stragglers retreating into nearby alleys and buildings waiting for squad respawns. Our victory proved to be short-lived as an enemy Landship forced its way out of an alley, knocking building debris to the ground as it barely fit through the tight corridor. As it turned in our direction and the crew inside opened fire, a panic broke out and ranks broke as players from both our squad and others were trying desperately to get off the bridge.
In the fray, a daring effort. I charged forward while the crew was distracted trying to pick off people fleeing the bridge and shooting across from the buildings on the other side. I ducked behind debris and waited until I had my shot. As the landship rolled passed, I snuck out behind and lined the road with anti-tank mines. A single grenade tricked the driver into turning the machine around, and it worked. The pursuit it gave ended with a loud bang as the treads rolled directly over the trap I'd laid. There were no survivors.
This is one of many opportunities that Battlefield 1 sets players up to feel like heroes. While each player takes on a soldier, it is important to work as a single body but also realize that when you have a shot, you need to take it. Each match is another tale to unfold. Winning or losing, I always found myself having a blast every step of the way. It should be noted I'm a purist, in the sense that most of my time online will overwhelmingly be spent in Conquest; the proper way to play any Battlefield. But a new addition to the game, Behemoths, turns that thrilling mode into an entirely different beast. The losing team, will often be the recipient of either a dreadnought war vessel, an artillery train, or a massive bombardment zeppelin. These put the losers back into the fight with a renewed vigor, and the winning team cannot afford to ignore them less they want to be decimated to a pulp. It's both exciting, and horrifying to see a massive ship off the coast bombarding your allies.
The online modes available are Conquest, Domination, Rush, Team Deathmatch, and War Pigeons, as well as an online campaign mode called Operations. In the latter, each side is trying to win a campaign over the course of a couple of matches of what is essentially glorified Rush. The odd addition that probably captured your eye in there is War Pigeons. It's similar to capture the flag, except you're fighting over a messenger pigeon to deliver a message to an artillery unit with orders to shell the living hell out of your enemy. Conquest and Rush should be more than enough to keep series veterans alive, the other modes still very much feel like they're there just to appease the crowds suited to small gunfights rather than large scale unpredictable battles.
One minor complaint I have is that customization was scaled back quite a bit on weapons. Now that's not as much the fault of the game as it is the time period, but I just want to get that out in the open that I do miss it quite a bit. But if that's my only complaint about the multiplayer, then great job to DICE because that means you've won me over almost entirely with your maps, weapon selection, and gameplay.
War Never Changes
Since picking the game up, I've already sunk over 40 hours into it and I don't see that stopping any time soon. We are back to what Battlefield is all about, and it's never been better as far as the multiplayer is concerned. It is the stuff dreams are made of, the very thing that Battlefield 1942 strived to be all those years ago but was limited by hardware at the time. It may not be the single player experience some people may be looking for, but for the multiplayer massive-scale shooter fan, this belongs in your library of games. It has crawled through the mud, bludgeoned previous entries, and taken its rightful place as my favorite Battlefield game to date.
Some gripping segments in single player, epic scale multiplayer
More forgettable single player segments, limited weapon customization