Instead of pursuing modern conflicts or potential futuristic combat, Battlefield 1 takes players back in time to the First World War. Also known as the Great War, it took place over four long years between 1914-1918. In total 32 countries were involved, over 17 million people lost their lives and 20 million more were wounded.
Battlefield 1 tries to give you a taste of the horrors of the war by splitting the campaign up into six different War Stories. The first of these I found incredibly poignant. It acts as a short prologue and puts you in the combat boots of a Harlem Hellfighter. What makes the opening so effective is that it puts you in a series of impossible situations and you have no choice but to fight to the death. Each time you die the name of your solider and their years of birth and death are shown in a moment of quiet.
The other five War Stories are split up into multiple short missions set around the world. There’s a nice variety to these missions including driving a tank, piloting a plane, infantry combat and more. It’s a thoughtful campaign that tells each story well and will last most players around seven hours on a first playthrough.
The campaign isn’t as scripted as previous games and the missions provide you with a lot of freedom. One mission has you scouting out small towns in the desert before tracking down the commanders in each. Another has you sneaking around looking for spark plugs for your broken tank.
Watch the Battlefield 1 launch trailer below:
Many missions allow you to scout the area with binoculars in order to tag enemies. You can then put together a plan of action which for me usually started with stealth and finished with a bloodbath. The stealth option can be very rewarding when your plan goes well. Creeping about distracting enemies and killing them with melee attacks can be rather thrilling.
When it goes wrong you really have to think on the spot and adapt quickly or it’s back to the last checkpoint to try again. I found a couple of the checkpoints quite frustrating as dying required replaying quite a chunk of the mission. The guns blazing approach can be tough as once alerted to your presence the enemies are relentless.
Battlefield 1 is not a game where you find endless ammo packs strewn about the landscape. Instead you’re expected to grab and make do with whatever weapons your fallen enemies drop and take advantage of equipment or vehicles. Players who take the time to explore and really look around are often rewarded with powerful weapon caches. As you can only carry two weapons you need to make a decision what to take based on the situation.
The huge number of weapons on offer really influence how each mission goes. Do you snipe enemies from afar or cut them down in close-quarters-combat? Do you take a vehicle or risk it on foot? The maps are also large enough that multiple playthroughs will result in completely different experiences which really adds to the replayability.
The campaign has three difficulty levels to choose from. I chose the normal difficulty for my first playthrough and found it about right. There are plenty of reasons to replay the campaign including achievements to unlock and collectibles to find. There are 66 Field Manuals to discover of which I found around a third on my first playthrough.
New to the series are Codex entries which are unlocked by completing challenges in the campaign and multiplayer. There are nearly 200 to unlock across five different categories. Getting all the collectibles is going to require a significant time investment.
The multiplayer in Battlefield 1 builds upon the work from previous games. It feels instantly familiar and is as addictive as ever. Popular modes such as Team Deathmatch, Conquest, Domination and Rush return along with two new additions Operations and War Pigeons.
Operations see teams face off across several maps and are the biggest multiplayer mode to date. In War Pigeons, teams must race to find pigeons and then keep hold of them long enough to release them. It’s a fantastic and frantic mode as the teams fight over the pigeons.
Check out some screenshots from Battlefield 1 in our gallery below:
At launch there are 9 maps to choose from inspired by the campaign. They are the biggest and most detailed maps of the series. On modes that support 64 players there’s never a dull moment and they really capture the chaos of war.
The First World War saw the introduction of huge amounts of new weapons and technology. Many weapons are a little slower than in previous games but they are just as deadly. Of all the additions the new lethal gas grenades make a huge impact and force players to quickly don their gas masks.
Vehicles are also present in a big way and the game includes cars, bikes, boats, planes, tanks and other armoured vehicles. Battlefield 1 also introduces Behemoth vehicles which are the largest ever included. Look out for the Airship, Train and Battleship to turn the tide of battle.
Players have a choice of four main classes which are Assault, Medic, Support and Scout (sniper). There are also vehicle classes of Pilot, Tanker and Cavalry. Each class must be ranked up individually by playing that role which takes a lot of time. As you progress you unlock new abilities and weapons. As well as unlocks, ranking up also gains you War Bonds which can be spent on unlocking more items.
There are also new elite classes that spawn on the battlefield. These include Flame Trooper, Sentry and Tank Hunter classes. Equipping these turns you into an almost unstoppable force and players need to team up to defeat you or run in fear.
Like its predecessors, Battlefield 1 will continue to grow over time with DLC. The first pack is called Giant’s Shadow and will be available for free in December. It will focus on The Battle of the Selle from 1918 where fighting took place in open country.
Players who take the Battlefield 1 Premium Pass will also get four expansion packs. The first is due in March 2017 and is to be called They Shall Not Pass. The Premium Pass gains players two-week early access to each expansion, 16 new multiplayer maps and new armies, modes, elite classes, weapons and vehicles.
Battlefield 1 takes some risks but manages to deliver one of the best campaigns of the series. The multiplayer is wonderful and I can see myself playing it for hundreds of hours before the next Battlefield game arrives. Absolutely essential for Battlefield fans.
Battlefield 1 was reviewed using a retail copy supplied by EA.
Developer: EA DICE Publisher: EA Release Date: October 21, 2016 Reviewed On: Xbox One Also Available On: PS4, PC