Battlefield 1 Review – Out With the New, In With the Old (PS4)
Taking bold steps in a new direction, Battlefield 1 sets its sights on World War I, targeting a period which boasts unique opportunities for all-out virtual warfare across land, air and sea.
Upon booting the game and playing through a short, yet incredibly sweet, prologue sequence, players are greeted with a new user interface. This acts as a way to bring the latest news, videos, statistics, and other community posts straight to the console. This middleman menu dynamically changes based on game completion and multiplayer performance, displaying content relevant to each individual. I can’t be sure how the material on offer differs between players, but for me it shows a bunch of “tips and tricks” videos, which I’m trying not to find offensive. Seriously though, it’s a neat touch, and provides a clear look at what’s going on in the Battlefield community.
Brave New Campaign
Selecting the single-player campaign will open up five “War Stories” to be completed in any order. These hour-long episodes put players into the shoes of different soldiers stationed in various parts of the world, each fighting their own unique battle. Characters are quickly introduced, and are just as swiftly disposed of, but still serve their purpose well. I wouldn’t say I grew emotionally attached to any of them, but they are all entertaining, and the light-hearted humor is welcome amidst the devastating war being waged. The plotlines of these stories are unfortunately pretty predictable and don’t do much for the overall experience. Though I must say that they are an improvement over anything else that Battlefield has done before, so there’s that. Do note that some cutscenes are unskippable, as discovered on my second playthrough, though this is likely due to loading occurring in the background.
What makes the single-player campaign worth playing is the gameplay on offer. It’s clear that developer DICE wanted to include as much of what makes Battlefield’s multiplayer so great into the single-player, as large, open maps play host to huge-scale battles. These levels are also used in the multiplayer portion, albeit tweaked for balance, so don’t be surprised if you’re hit with déjà vu.
Whether I was driving a tank as a Brit, piloting a prototype plane as an American, or donning a suit of armor as an Italian — no matter where the battle was taking place or who I was playing as — it was absolutely epic. Even the stealth sections are fun to tackle, with weapon caches bestowing players who choose to investigate with more powerful guns and equipment. And if everything hits the fan and you’re discovered, there’s no failure state; instead you switch to your non-suppressed rifle and start blasting a new route through the enemy.
The prologue and five War Stories took me six hours to complete on the standard difficulty, after which an epilogue cinematic was unlocked. Missions aren’t too challenging, so long as you take your time. Enemy AI isn’t the best, with them often employing stupid tactics or just standing still waiting to be shot. With that said, players who attempt to rush through levels will quickly find themselves overrun with these idiots and, like zombies, they will take you down. Those hoping to find some replayability in Battlefield 1’s campaign will be happy to hear that there are hidden collectibles to pick up, and challenges to complete. The more you accomplish, the more information about World War I you’ll uncover. It’s a neat touch.
Prettiness vs. Performance
The Frostbite engine reaches new heights in Battlefield 1, providing visuals that better the beautiful Star Wars Battlefront and a good enough frame-rate that stays close to 60fps, the majority of the time. Though single-player remains very smooth, when the action gets intense in multiplayer with a large number of players battling it out, stutters do become noticeable. The game remains playable, of course, and when everything is considered — 64-player engagements, the impressive destruction of entire buildings, a dynamic weather system, and other physics magic — I suppose it’s impressive that the PS4 can even manage above 30fps. Though it has to be said that I’d happily trade in some of the pretty effects for better stability. As for the audio, it is stellar. From the quiet clinks of bullet casings hitting the floor, to the deafening bombardment of missiles raining down, Battlefield 1 sounds insane and it does wonders for immersion.
During the alpha and beta stages, I grew worried at the number of bugs and glitches experienced by myself and fellow players. Sure, they were sometimes funny, with horses flying off into the sky and equipment bouncing around on the player models, but getting stuck while mantling and not being able to actually level up had me wondering what on earth the final product was going to be like. After playing plenty of the final build, I can say that things have improved dramatically, with only a handful of issues remaining. Most of these problems are “legacy bugs” that have stuck with the franchise and its engine of choice for countless years now. For example, you can sometimes reload your weapon without triggering the animation. There’s also an odd bug surrounding the revive function, which leaves resuscitated players unable to fire their weapon.
This Is Battlefield
Before diving into the multiplayer’s core, I’d advise checking out the various option menus. While you may dabble with this during the single-player, enabling a few settings here and there, it’s in the multiplayer where these options become most effective. The amount of customization available here is ridiculous. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when dipping into the “Advanced” section, but having the ability to fiddle with sensitivities for specific scope magnifications, for example, is very much appreciated. The stand-out addition for me is the FOV slider, with which players can adjust their field of view. Seeing this on console makes me extremely happy, and has set the bar high for other first-person shooters.
If I had to describe Battlefield 1‘s multiplayer in one word, it would be “refined.” Rather than cramming as many features into the multiplayer as humanly possible, DICE has included what works well and nothing more. At launch, there’s six modes: Conquest, Domination, Rush, Team Deathmatch, Operations and War Pigeons. The last two are the new game types, and wow they are fun! I feel like Operations will be the new go-to mode for the majority, and War Pigeons’ chaotic gameplay will become a favorite for many as well. DICE will also be exploring new ways to play in the Custom Games section, which will introduce different mechanics to help shake things up on the battlefield. An example that I played was “Fog of War,” which causes a thick mist to cover the map, making it difficult to see which players are friendlies and which are enemies. Weapons are also limited to just pistols, which is an interesting twist. These Custom Games will be added at a later date.
As for the maps, there are nine: Ballroom Blitz, Argonne Forest, Fao Fortress, Suez, St. Quentin Scar, Sinai Desert, Amiens, Monte Grappa and Empire’s Edge. My personal highlights have to be Amiens and Argonne Forest, though all are brilliant when paired with the right mode. Like in previous Battlefield games, the map alters to suit the selected game type, meaning there are several alternate layouts of each. A new map called “Giant’s Shadow” will be added in December via free DLC, which will boost the count up to ten.
Refinements have also been made to weapon customization. There are now only six primary weapons per class, with up to three variants of each. Each variant offers a set of attachments which cannot be adjusted. There are some additional tweaks that can be made, like the type of sight and whether it comes attached with a bayonet, but that’s about it. Honestly, after Battlefield 4, I’m ecstatic to see that DICE has reeled it in a bit, focusing on quality over quantity.
Less is more also applies to the gadgets and grenades. Sure, there’s still obnoxious equipment like the Tripwire Bomb that rewards players for simply hitting a button and walking away, but overall the annoyances are minimal. Loadouts can be saved, allowing for quick switching between roles within a class, which is very useful during objective modes when you have mere seconds to switch setups and get back into the fight.
Anyone who has played a Battlefield game before will recognize the four classes available in Battlefield 1: Assault, Support, Medic and Scout. Since the beta, the Medic has been fixed to more easily see players in need, and the Support class now comes equipped with a Limpet Charge, to offer greater assistance against vehicles. I’ve had good fun playing as all four classes, and they are more balanced than ever. No longer will players run rampant with both the most powerful weapons in the game and most useful gadgets. However, and I feel bad saying this as I’ve had such fun with it, but I do think that the Scout is a little too effective. While other classes will struggle to hit anything at longer ranges, the Scout dominates. Obviously, this should be the case, but the Scout can also be effective in close quarters. The old trick of zooming in quick to hit an enemy in the chest, before switching to a pistol, can work wonders for a decent enough player. I’d like to see Scouts face more pressure at closer ranges. Perhaps an increase to the weapon swap time would be a sufficient nerf?
Moving on from the potentially unbalanced class, to the intentionally overpowered Elite Classes. The Flame Trooper, Sentry, and Tank Hunter classes are souped-up soldiers, offering a buff to the player who is first to the drop location. Elites are like the Heroes in Battlefront, but much easier to take down, with a bayonet charge capable of killing any of them in a single hit. They’re fantastic fun to play as, and not super annoying to deal with. In other words, they are perfect. There are also Tanker, Pilot, and Calvary classes which become available when entering a fresh ride from the spawn screen. When inside their corresponding vehicle or atop a mount, these classes offer an advantage. Acting as infantry, however, they face restrictions. This helps prevent vehicle abandonment, which was always an issue in previous Battlefield titles.
Battlefield 1‘s WWI setting allows players access to planes, tanks, boats, bikes, and cars of the era. These all handle extremely well, and offer a significant advantage if the enemy refuses to counter. Wise opponents will act quickly, however, using gadgets and stationary artillery to focus fire on particularly pesky machines. There are horses, too, which handle less brilliantly, but are still a lot of fun to ride. Then there are the huge Behemoths, which appear in Operations and Conquest to aid a losing team. The Armored Train, Airship, and Battleship grant multiple soldiers powerful guns in an attempt to turn the tide of battle. I won’t lie, it’s kind of annoying how the losing team gets a buff like this, but I suppose it makes the most sense when trying to make matches as exciting as possible.
The Future Is Bright(ish)
Battlefield 1‘s multiplayer component is an impressive one. Recovering from the awful Battlefield 4 launch was never going to be easy, and yet here we have DICE pushing out a much more refined and stable release. Sure, I have my complaints — like the crazy lock-on melee attacks, bayonet charges stopping suddenly and leaving me for dead, the inability to take health and ammo from teammates like in Battlefield Hardline, both stab and charge bound to the same button, no custom server options available at launch, flickering symbols on the spawn screen, and no way to change loadout outside of games — but these are by no means game breaking, and with the support that Battlefield 4 has seen over these past few years, I’d say that Battlefield 1 is starting strong and is only going to get better.
When talking about a multiplayer shooter, it’s important to consider what’s going to happen further down the line. The future of Battlefield 1 seems to have been laid out pretty clearly, with a “Premium Pass” already available to purchase. This includes early access to all expansions, the chance to play as the French and Russian armies, 16 new multiplayer maps, new Operations and game modes, as well as not-yet-revealed Elite Classes and 20 additional weapons. As Battlefield is a giant franchise with a lot of fans, it will likely get away with splitting the community into groups of those who do and do not buy the season pass. There are also Battlepacks, which unlock cosmetic skins that can be applied to weapons. These are currently only available via end-of-match drops and by spending in-game currency, but I have a sneaking suspicion that real-world money will also be accepted for them soon enough.
Battlefield 1 shows progress for the franchise in single-player storytelling, evolving from an experience that many would skip over in favor of more multiplayer action, into something that everyone should play through at least once. Though there’s only a short amount of time spent with each set of characters, they carry the story well. What truly sells it for me, however, are the epic moments contained within every chapter.
Of course, multiplayer is the real home of these epic moments, with “Only in Battlefield” highlights making Battlefield 1‘s player versus player modes unique and fun to play. Though the “1” in its name may officially stand for the Great War, it could also represent the rebirth of a franchise that took a bit of a beating with Battlefield 4, went down an awkward path with Hardline, before finally rising as the Battlefield title that simply all shooter fans must buy.
Review code for Battlefield 1 provided by publisher. Accommodation and transport to review event was paid for by EA. Game was additionally tested at launch on PlayStation 4 using public servers. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.