Following the somewhat controversial launches of Battlefield 4 and Star Wars Battlefront and the all-round disappointment that was Battlefield: Hardline, DICE had a lot to live up to with their next big title.
Having played over 50 hours across Battlefield 1’s Campaign and Multiplayer modes, I can safely say the Swedish developers have not only met their previous standards but have succeeded in creating one of the best FPS experiences in recent memory.
The biggest change comes from the game’s new World War 1 setting.
While DICE takes a number of liberties as to what technology was available at the time, it’s clear a lot of focus was put into making the experience much simpler and cleaner.
After nearly a decade of killstreaks, UAVs and fully-automatic weaponry, Battlefield 1 comes down to simply pointing and shooting.
It gives everything a much more deliberate feel, with genuine frontline advancements instead of the death-at-odd-angles that is characteristic of modern shooters.
That said, clever use of more down-to-earth weaponry like bayonets or anti-tank rifles means there’s still plenty to surprise newcomers.
Stories of the Great War
The campaign introduces these changes brilliantly, acting as an extended tutorial for the mechanics used in multiplayer battles.
Divided into six war stories, these vignettes tend to focus on a single character and group of mechanics, with entire stories spent tank-driving or airplane flying.
The best parts arise when focusing on the traditional FPS segments, which take place on the same large areas as the multiplayer maps.
These allow you take on missions in a miniature sandbox, using a wide range of play styles and weaponry (including the returning stealth mechanic from Battlefield: Hardline) in what feels more like the FarCry series than anything Battlefield has done before.
The AI can be a bit moronic across the board, but make for competent target practice regardless.
The stories themselves are incredibly well done and despite not remaining true to life, it’s clear that a lot of care and effort was put into making the stories feel personal and earnest.
None of them are particularly long or deep but given how tightly woven they come across, they immediately stand above anything the team has done since Bad Company 2.
It’s something that just works in the format and I have no doubt competitors will be using the idea in future titles.
The game’s multiplayer is arguably the least changed aspect of Battlefield 1, with only a handful of new modes to distract you from the usual Rush and Conquest games.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing however, and like the single-player game everything feels incredibly refined and fun to play.
The maps all seem relatively balanced (besides the long sight-lines of the Sinai desert map) and the series’ famed destruction is in full-effect. Two big additions include dynamic weather an new behemoth vehicles.
These vehicles are given to the losing team and can be anything from a monstrous zeppelin to an armoured train depending on the map.
They don’t seem to have the game-changing effect of swinging things in the losing teams favour, but they are immensely satisfying to use and tough to take down.
The dynamic weather is quite literally a game-changer, with everything from fog to sandstorms obscuring sightlines and completely changing the dynamic of a map.
Performance and Multiplayer
It doesn’t hurt that the game is absolutely gorgeous, and I was able to crank out a respectable 60 FPS at Ultra settings even on aging hardware.
The team at DICE have kicked things up a notch in the visual fidelity department, with mud clinging to every piece of equipment and dew-laden leaves shining in the morning sun.
The sound design is also incredible, with the ping of the sniper rifle making you want to immediately duck for cover and the sound of a zeppelin overhead truly giving you cause for alarm.
It should be noted that the PS4 and Xbox One performance is slightly inferior to PC, with bad resolution hiccups and framerate drops on both consoles.
The issues don’t appear to be prohibitive, but if you’re going to be buying Battlefield 1, get it on PC.
For those that were worried multiplayer would be unplayable without local servers, you can rest assured knowing that any disadvantage experienced by high pings was virtually non-existent.
In fact, a group of South Africans I grouped up with consistently finished at the top of the leaderboard. Games were quick to find and join and given the early community praise for the game, this is likely to be the case several months from now.
Battlefield 1 doesn’t do anything remarkable or special, it’s just that it does everything almost flawlessy well.
We’ve played better single-player campaigns and the multiplayer is the same chaotic fun it’s always been, but this is the first AAA-release in a long time that doesn’t have an “if” or “but” disclaimer attached to it.
It’s simply a great game and arguably the best Battlefield in almost a decade, which means we can’t recommend it enough.