Remember when military games were the biggest ticket in the game industry? Lately, shooters have offered a more casual gaming experience with the rise of the battle royale genre ─ games like Fortnite and Apex Legends have become the trending standard. Thankfully, amidst the saturation of war-shooters and the battle royale games of today, Battlefield 1 feels like a unique and worthwhile experience.
2016 saw a shift in the first-person shooter genre. Shooters no longer relied on the war theaters of old. Overwatch offered a colorful yet competitive superhero-themed experience. The Doom reboot turned up the violence and brutality to give players a nostalgic, arcade experience. Even staples like Call of Duty and Halo took cues from newcomers like Titanfall, turning futuristic virtual combat into a fast-paced ballet of parkour and action.
Meanwhile, Battlefield 1 does the opposite. Not only does it strive to recreate the horrors of combat, but it goes back in time to explore World War I, something rarely adapted in the medium.
Battlefield 1 flaunts a gritty atmosphere with gorgeous visuals and sound design that still hold up today. The World War I setting helps the aesthetic shine, too. There isn’t any future technology here. Instead, the historic weaponry and muddy trenches lend a sense of realism to the game’s combat that isn’t found in similar titles of the time.
In-game models scream as they charge and call out to each other in terror. Battles are filled with photorealistic smoke and particle effects. Fire, sparks, and dirt kicking up from the ground keeps firefights feeling intense. These features, alongside Battlefield’s trademark destructible environments and grand orchestral scores, make battles feel immersive and dynamic.
If you somehow aren’t captivated by the atmosphere, there is plenty more that Battlefield 1 executes just as well. While the gameplay doesn’t stray too far from the series’ previous installments, the controls feel noticeably more fluid. The series has always felt cumbersome to control. Running speeds are slow, guns have realistic kickback, and traversal feels as awkward as it would if you were a soldier carrying tons of heavy gear.
Unlike previous installments though, guns are easier to control, traversal feels smoother and less clunky, all while simulating the same weight of previous games. It feels like a sweet spot between the fluidity of the Call of Duty series while retaining the Battlefield roots.
While multiplayer contains the meat of the game, there is actually a single-player component. Even more surprising, the single-player mode isn’t that bad! Although there is no campaign to speak of ─something many modern FPS games sorely lack ─ Battlefield 1 makes do with “War Stories” instead.
These are short vignettes that tell stories in different theaters of World War I. They’re fairly brief, but they’re compelling enough and help showcase the games core modes of combat. Vignettes actually act as a nice compromise for studios and publishers unwilling to create full-length story modes.
It’s a shame that Battlefield 1 didn’t inspire more of these, as opposed to games with no single-player features at all.
Battlefield 1’s multiplayer is exactly what you would expect from the series. Battles are epic, lengthy, and take place over gigantic (and varied) landscapes. From the valleys of Italy, to the forests of France, to the dunes of the Sinai Desert, the game has players globetrotting around the theaters of World War I.
Each map feels distinct and houses environments conducive to different play-styles. The base game only holds 12 maps, but they’re so large and malleable that you won’t tire of them quickly.
Customizable classes return from previous games, with Assault, Medic, Support, and Scout all featuring their own distinct upgrades and weapons. The progression system isn’t anything special ─ worthwhile upgrades are few and are between, and players will likely find themselves latching on to their most effective gear for huge spans of playtime. Thankfully though, the stellar gameplay is engaging enough to overlook the slow progression.
Although most players will spend hours playing Battlefield’s classic Conquest mode, there are some additional game types. Most notably, War Pigeons is Battlefield’s team-based take on Halo’s Juggernaut mode. Teams must capture a carrier pigeon, which will send a message to allied artillery if players can safely write their message.
Also, Battlefield 1’s Operations mode is particularly thrilling, where teams fight in a tug-of-war over an entire set of matches. These can be time-consuming sessions, but they’re extremely immersive.
However, the game isn’t flawless. Battlefield 1 does feature the dreaded loot box; however, they only provide cosmetic rewards and don’t affect the balance of combat. Let’s be clear ─ loot boxes in full-priced games are inexcusable. At least Battlefield 1 has the courtesy to prevent them from being intrusive.
Battlefield 1 also features absurdly long loading times ─ though the game is three years old, and DICE’s online shooters still have the same problem today. Sure, there is plenty for the game to load, but waiting nearly 10 minutes to enter a match that is moments from finishing is a buzzkill. So much time has passed since Battlefield 1’s release that most of the glaring bugs have been patched out.
No game is perfect and Battlefield 1 wasn’t upon release ─ look online for some hilarious glitch compilations, because there are plenty. But today the game runs smoother than it ever did. It’s hardly the only online shooter on the market and it already has a sequel.
However, if you’ve never picked Battlefield 1 up, it is easily one of the best entries in the series since Bad Company 2. Battlefield 1 is not groundbreaking and it doesn’t try to be, but it has aged well enough to stand up against any shooter in 2019.