While other first-person shooters continue to push into the near-future and beyond, developer DICE has taken a step back with its “Battlefield” franchise. Back in time, that is.
Set during the first World War, “Battlefield 1” stands out from the crowd by offering a more grounded shooting experience that draws heavily from the source material with era-specific weapons, vehicles and settings. Indeed, playing “Battlefield 1” is an adrenaline-fueled history lesson that manages to pay reverence to the tens of thousands who fought and died during that brutal conflict while still providing an intense gaming experience.
This is especially true during the campaign, which plays out in a series of stand-alone missions centered around specific characters and their respective stories. Each of these bite-sized adventures also help serve as an introduction to the skills you’ll need to be successful in the game’s multiplayer modes. Whether you’re taking on the role of a hotshot fighter pilot, driving a tank through the German lines or facing insurmountable odds as a member of the Harlem Hellfighters, the single-player portion of “Battlefield 1” is both a learning tool and a painful reminder of the horrors of war.
While the campaign certainly deserves your attention, the real star here is the vast multiplayer suite.
All of the classic Battlefield modes return — Conquest, Rush and Team Deathmatch — and each is every bit as fun and intense as I remembered. My favorite new mode is Operations, which strings together multiple maps and game modes to help recreate actual conflict scenarios from the war. A dramatic narration at the beginning of the round provides even greater context to the events about to unfold. I’ve spent the majority of my time playing Conquest, but Operations is a cool addition for the historical aspect, alone.
Regardless of which mode you play, the gameplay at the heart of “Battlefield 1” is the best FPS I’ve experienced since the original “Modern Warfare.” I’m constantly amazed at how exceptionally balanced all the moving parts manage to be — there is a strategy and counter-strategy for every character class and vehicle you’ll find. I love the old-school weapons and new emphasis on close-quarters combat. But what really sets “Battlefield 1” apart is how, much like its predecessors, players can be viable, contributing members of a team without having to be wizards with a controller. As someone who spends much of his time as cannon fodder, this gives me a chance to feel like I’m helping my team succeed even though I rarely finish with a positive kill-death ratio.
The maps offer plenty of variety and are simply stunning to view. Whether its charging through the lush Argonne Forest or racing across the barren Sinai Desert on horseback, the maps of “Battlefield 1” provide opportunities for every type of play style and character class. Most impressive is the amount of destruction afforded within these virtual war zones as buildings crumble, trees splinter and walls get reduced to rubble in natural ways. After the scripted destruction featured in “Battlefield 4,” this is a welcome return for the series. Diddo for the dynamic weather effects, which can help turn the tide of battle on certain maps.
“Battlefield 1” has turned back the clock to move the FPS genre forward. With its powerful campaign and unrivaled multiplayer, “Battlefield 1” is a refreshing change of pace from the current crop of modern shooters and one of 2016’s best games.
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Available for: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC ($59.99)
Rating: M for mature