Battlefield 1 Review

Dan Webb

I'm going to be completely honest here, when Battlefield 1 was originally announced, I wasn't exactly sold on the idea. Having become wholly reliant on holo-sights and an array of futuristic gadgets over the past few years, I was groaning at the thought of going back to traditional iron sights and pre-21st century technology. For a new age Battlefield fan like myself it was a daunting prospect. It took about an hour of the beta before I knew those reservations were largely misplaced, and probably another five hours or so of the full retail release to realise that my lack of faith in DICE was so wide of the mark. Battlefield 1 signifies a return to the old days of Battlefield where destruction wasn't just some map-changing gimmick. It’s not Battlefield at its best, but it’s a step in that direction, and that delights us.

For starters, Battlefield 1 boasts one of the more impressive story-driven campaigns the series has seen in recent years. Instead of having an over-the-top, not-at-all-relevant, completely-non-Battlefield-centric campaign, Battlefield 1 has the complete opposite. DICE has instead hand-crafted a campaign that not only treats a real piece of history with respect, but it’s done what all Battlefield campaigns should do, and that’s be a primer for the multiplayer.


The Tank Hunter. Good at hunting tanks, unsurprisingly.

Rather than opting for an unrealistic super-soldier story, Battlefield 1 tells smaller, much more compact stories, of various different soldiers from all walks of life, taking place across the globe. It’s, as DICE call them, their ‘War Stories,’ and you know what, they work. With each one focusing on a different discipline, like being a tank driver, a pilot, infantry, a shock trooper, and more, these stories show the trials and tribulations of people that risked it all for king and country. They’re neat little stories. They’re emotional. They’re gripping. They’re all vastly different from one another. They’re bloody great. Oh, and the music and cut-scenes that accompany them, they’re fantastic. My only criticism? It’s bloody short. You can play through all of them in around five hours, which is hugely disappointing. What happened to the 6-8 hours Battlefield campaigns instead of these 4-6 hour ones? Those were the good ol’ days.

Speaking of good ol’ days, with Battlefield 1 it seems like DICE has stripped all the bullshit away and gone back to basics, i.e. being a class-driven objective-based shooter with tons of destructibility, and that becomes hugely apparent in the game’s multiplayer. The meat of the game. The crown jewels. The reason why people buy Battlefield games.

Most importantly, destruction seems to be back in a big way for Battlefield 1. Gone are the cool, but ultimately gimmicky “levolution” events, back comes proper destruction. Well, not Bad Company 2 levels of micro and macro destruction, where you could level a town, but as close as it’s been since then. Granted, some aspects of most of the maps seem to be indestructible, which breaks the immersion a little. So long as the buildings aren’t fancy-schmancy, there’s a good chance you can blow holes in them, meaning instead of running in blind into a building using the original door, you can make your own door with plenty of explosive weapons.

The World War I setting brings with it a ton of era-specific gadgets too, each of which stamp their own brand of authenticity on the experience. You’ll be wading through mustard gas in no time, using Sniper Decoys to draw out your foes and taking down tanks with the AT Rocket Gun. Sure, they’re mostly takes on familiar staples of the shooter genre, but they make BF1 feel unique in a lot of respects.

The same can be said for the weapons too, and even if you don’t like your bolt-action rifles or traditional iron sights, there’s a few options in here that will cater to your playstyle. This, coming from someone who dislikes old-skool iron sights. On top of the more traditional weapons and classes, DICE has also rolled out Elite classes, which exist as pickups dotted throughout their maps. So, if you fancy rolling round the map with a flamethrower, with an anti-tank bolt action rifle or as an armoured sentry, you can most certainly do that too. It’s also probably worth mentioning that they're enormously fun to use.

The new era brings with it a ton of new vehicles too, from bombers and biplanes, to heavy tanks and artillery trucks. There’s a ton of authentic emplacements dotted around the maps too, like field guns and anti-air cannons, making Battlefield 1 feel like a unique and original FPS in a sea of familiar and not-all-too-dissimilar shooters. On top of that there’s cavalry horses – which are brilliant – and of course, the new Behemoths: the Zeppelin airship, the Dreadnought battleship and the beefy armoured train. DICE uses these mega, match-turning Behemoths in one simple way: in the larger modes, if one team is trashing the other team, the losing team is granted a Behemoth to turn the tide of the match. And you know what, it works. They might not necessarily turn the tide of battle, but they almost always allow the losing team to stage some sort of comeback, albeit more often than not, an unconvincing one. They’ve very rarely changed the tide of battle from my experience, but it’s helped even up what was a one-sided battle, if only for a short period of time.

The exception to that rule is in DICE’s new multiplayer mode: Operations. If Conquest and Rush had a baby, that baby would be Operations. This multi-staged epic all-out war encounter has an attacking team trying to capture various segments of a map – in order – to push onto the next map, and towards the end of the operation. Sounds like Rush, but with more maps, right? Well, instead of capturing a point, the points in Operations are more like flags – a la the Conquest aspect – meaning that things never get too crowded on one point like they can in Rush. In short: it’s brilliant, and is most certainly the highlight of the multiplayer aspect.

The real beauty of Battlefield 1 is that there's seemingly a mode for everyone, especially if you don’t have a spare hour or so for the Operations mode. The Battlefield 64-player staples, Conquest and Rush, return, and are as good as ever, and are complemented by the does-anyone-ever-play-this Team Deathmatch, and two newer – and really cool – little modes. First, there’s Domination, which is basically a mini version of Conquest with fewer flags and a quicker capture time. The coolest new addition though is War Pigeons, DICE’s interesting take on capture the flag, where the flag is a pigeon and in order to 'capture' it, you have to hold onto the pigeon for a certain amount of time, before releasing it and protecting it while it flies off. It’s manic and a hell of a lot of fun.

Where a Battlefield game can live or die, however, is in the quality of its maps, and good news, folks, Battlefield 1’s maps are bloody great – and varied too! There are desert maps, a map with a beautiful French chateau in the middle of it, trenches, bunkers, small idyllic – and fully destructible – villages, a mountain map, a forest map, maps with fortresses on them, a map with Italian villas, and even one in the French town of Amiens, fighting in the tight cobbled alleyways. There’s a good mix, all of which are well crafted and hugely diverse – in that one minute you could be in the trenches, surrounded by mud, and the next you’ll be running through the green fields of France. Are there enough? Well, I’ve always said that 10 seems to be the magic number for a new release… and there are 9, so… yeah, it’s probably just enough. For now.

Battlefield 1 isn’t perfect though, and still has a lot of issues that, frankly, shouldn’t really exist in this version of the game. It’s a wee bit buggy. The menu lag from the beta still remains – albeit, nowhere near as bad – as does that annoying prone bug where you won’t be able to fire because the game doesn’t like the rock you’re laying on. Sometimes you spawn without vehicles (or a horse) despite selecting it and the game spawning you with the specific loadout for said vehicle. The fog and sandstorms are just annoying too.


Chaaaaaarge!!

The traversal can also still be a bit dodgy, meaning you’re constantly trying to vault over the same bit of cover or trying to get up onto a specific ledge. Sometime it bugs out when you get revived. Sometimes the game has weird collision detection as to what counts as a hit, even though you’re clearly peppering them with bullets – this has happened on multiple occasions, whether it be with the anti-aircraft gun on the Zeppelin or shooting at a soldier and you can see the bullets clearly hitting them (with blood splats and all!). Sometimes gas grenades kill you through walls. I don’t like that it changes your class specific to whatever vehicle you spawn with or get into. And why can’t you quit out of a game at the end? Why do I have to wait for the next map to load up before I quit?

Niggles aside though, Battlefield 1 is still an excellent game. That excellence doesn’t translate to its achievement list though, which is woeful and devoid of thought. Firstly, there are only 31 achievements, which is never a good sign. Plus they’re boring, which definitely isn’t a good sign. Complete the campaign, get some collectibles, reach this rank in MP with this class, yada yada. Boring. Easy, but boring. Yawn. There’s like two interesting ones. That’s it.

It’s easy to sit here and say Battlefield 1 is a return to form for the franchise, but that does BF3 and 4 a disservice. Still, I’m going to say that anyway, for a few reasons. One, because DICE has made Battlefield a one-of-a-kind shooter again, a shooter that stands out from the pack. A shooter that is as unique – in this day and age of futuristic shooters – as it is fun and addictive. And two, because DICE has finally gone back to its roots in terms of destructibility, and given more freedom and expression to the player. Considering that DICE has nailed the World War I setting in every aspect too, Battlefield 1 really is a shooter worthy of your time.

Battlefield 1

DICE should be praised for taking the risky move and turning back the clock with Battlefield 1, both in terms of the era and the direction for the franchise. Very often these moves can cripple a series, but thankfully for us – and DICE – it’s a move that has revitalised the franchise.

Form widget
90%
Audio
95%

Battlefield 1’s score and sound effects are second to none. Just brilliant.

Visuals
95%

This game is a technical masterpiece and looks stunning in every aspect.

Playability
90%

Aside from a few traversal annoyances, it’s bloody great. Brilliant, in fact, but then again, did you expect anything different?

Delivery
90%

A short, but really enjoyable campaign, coupled with DICE’s award winning multiplayer. What makes it so enjoyable though is the new setting and the new era of gadgets that are introduced.

Achievements
50%

Boring. Super boring. Easy too. Nothing to see here.

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