Over the years first-person shooters have frequented the battles and events of the World Wars. Can DICE really bring anything new to the events that take place during World War I?
The short answer is yes.
DICE have expertly produced a masterpiece that not only portrays the grit, emotion and loss of life during World War I, but also manages not to glamorise or shy away from the horror of one of the most devastating wars to hit the world.
Things kick off with a stark message about The Great War, as you step into the boots of various soldiers – each one eventually falling in battle. The campaign then settles on telling the stories of five individuals – all set in different areas of conflict and all with different combat styles – it works brilliantly.
Rather than a gimmick-ridden story about a super soldier on a quest to topple the Central Powers, you follow the lives of several normal soldiers. It’s gritty, harrowing and will leave you with a mix of emotions – exhilaration from the set pieces and feeling humbled by what these men and women had to endure.
The stories themselves are extremely well told; holding back on Hollywood moments and refusing to steer away from the bleak background they are set against. My days of sitting in A-Level history came flooding back. DICE capturing what I had learnt and visualised in my head. I even shed a tear or two as some of the stories came to their chilling conclusion. It’s a phenomenal experience, but remember, this isn’t a fictitious war.
Some games set against the background of a historic war drag out a convoluted story and often overstay their welcome. Battlefield 1 is like a rich meal – there wasn’t too much food but I was full and contented by the time the end credits rolled. The game is beautifully presented too. Light glimmers and shines across the wet mud of the trenches. Mist rolls around hills and rain soaks your clothes and splatters against your weapons, all of which have been expertly crafted to look like the originals. I almost felt guilty to be enjoying the campaign.
Gameplay wise there’s nothing fantastically new, it’s just been better implemented. Stealth sections aren’t arduous or half-baked and DICE have integrated multiplayer elements into the campaign without jeopardising the gameplay. There’s a good variety in missions too. Each story plays distinctly different while giving that same level of freedom that Battlefield Bad Company enjoyed.
For a change, the weapon kits of multiplayer need no investment of time to be able to unlock the best gear and attachments. All kits are ready for you to customise as you see fit – within the constraints of the era – there are numerous other weapons that remain locked until you level up enough or save enough warbonds, but they don’t give too much of an edge so you won’t have to fear being dominated by high level players with superior weaponry or an ace pilot armed to the teeth because they’ve had enough time in the air to be able to kit their plane out with every weapon available.
The stand out multiplayer mode is Operations. Taking place over several maps, this mode retells several key military operations. The attackers have three battalions (three tries) to capture the whole map, which is a combination of rush and domination. Fail to take all positions in a sector and you start that current area again with the next battalion.
War Pigeons is also a neat mode. Capturing and holding the pigeon long enough so that artillery coordinates can be written onto a message and sent. If the enemy team is quick enough, they can even shoot the pigeon down.
That’s great variance in the maps too – each has several areas – from artillery encampments and bunkers, to small homesteads and rocky outcrops. My favourite touch though is the ability to lock doors preventing the enemy from entering – unless they blow the hinges off with dynamite.
It’s clear that DICE have learnt a lot from the many hours that fans have poured into Star Wars Battlefront – Battlefield 1 takes a lot from its gameplay and builds upon the intense battles of Bad Company 2 making it sit proudly on top of the pile as the best Battlefield to date.
Battlefield 1 is an incredible triumph, bringing the events of World War I to life without shying away from the tragedy of all those lives lost during the conflict. It’s bleak, beautiful, harrowing and thoughtful, and remarkably it’s still entertaining.