If you like shooters, you’ve been in for a treat over the past few weeks. A series of high-quality releases has probably been doing some damage to your wallet, which will inevitably have to take cover to regenerate its health. We’ve seen no less than three big-name FPS titles drop lately; we’ve already talked about Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Titanfall 2, so now we’re going to check out Battlefield 1.
Battlefield 1’s plan to stand out from the shooter crowd is, of course, its setting. The other two big-budget blasters this season, Titanfall 2 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, both went with a sci-fi angle. Battlefield takes the opposite tack, going backwards in time to World War 1. We’re back in the era of questionably accurate firearms, horseback combat and combat maces.
It’s unquestionably different; if you aren’t familiar with military history much of the ordinance you’ll use in Battlefield 1 might feel bizarre or anachronistic, for instance, and that’s not saying that the game is necessarily period-accurate as well. Weapons generally feel crude compared to the slick, tuned guns we’re used to – they feel more powerful, they’re certainly less accurate at a distance and they take longer to reload.
What can be said for this setting, though, is that it suits the meat-grinder mentality of modern low-time-to-kill shooters like few others. This is the period when young men would charge out of trenches and die in hordes to gain even an inch of ground for their country. It was a horrifying time, and Battlefield 1 capitalizes on that concept.
Even the campaign’s introduction highlights the horrors of war. “What follows is frontline combat,” states Battlefield 1. “You are not expected to survive.” The game’s not kidding – you probably won’t survive. The enemy is too numerous, their weapons too powerful, your ammunition far too scarce. At one point I found myself charging forward to grab a fallen ally’s gun just because I was out of ammo to fight back. It’s an experience I haven’t had in many shooters before, and it helps Battlefield 1 feel unique.
The rest of the campaign is divided into short vignettes called War Stories that follow a particular character for two or three chapters, generally focusing on the same war-is-Hell concept that we don’t see much of in other shooter franchises. These vary in length and scope, with my personal favorite being the Italian campaign where you control a heavily-armored special forces badass taking down masses of enemy troops…right up until the tables are turned and you’re fighting for your life against a superior enemy force. One campaign even focuses on air combat; again, B1’s historical accuracy is questionable at best given the advanced mobility of your plane, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great time.
Multiplayer is the real reason anybody’s buying Battlefield 1, of course, and it’s in the same fine form we saw in Battlefield 4, which should be a relief to players who weren’t enamored with Battlefield: Hardline. Conquest is the standard Battlefield mode, the sort of gameplay you’re used to from this series: large-scale point-contest combat between armies of players on land and in the air. Other modes include the smaller-scale Domination, the much-larger-scale Operations that takes place over several maps, and even a capture-the-pigeon mode.
I can’t say I’m as fond of Battlefield’s flavor of low-TTK combat as I am of CoD or Titanfall 2’s varieties. Battlefield’s enormous, open maps and endless chaos led me to spend a lot of time decomposing. I got better with time, but I still found myself dying in situations that felt inescapable more often than I’d have liked; if I’m shot in CoD or Titanfall 2, I can pretty easily tell where I didn’t turn at the right moment or when I stepped into a killzone, but that feels less prominent here. That’s more of a personal preference, though, and certainly I think Battlefield’s 1 sudden lethality is a more accurate representation of real-world combat.
Both single-player and multiplayer benefit from Battlefield 1’s incredibly gorgeous graphics. If you’re playing on PC you’re going to have an amazing time, even on relatively lower-spec hardware. Running a Titan X Pascal like I am, meanwhile, made the game eye-bleedingly beautiful at pretty much all times, including an unshakeable framerate. Out of the three big-name shooters to release this season, Battlefield 1 might look the best, though the competition is close so it’s hard to say definitively.
The somber War Stories and the chaotic multiplayer combat combined with the unique setting make Battlefield 1 an easy recommendation for shooter fans. It’s certainly worth a look for long-time Battlefield aficionados, but even newbies can find something to love here. Something must be said for three high-budget FPS games being released around the same time that are all worth playing. After a pretty rough year, 2016 looks like it might be heading back on track as it nears the finish line.