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E3 2016 – Battlefield 1 Hands-On Preview – Multifaceted War

EA is taking the Battlefield series back approximately a century, to World War I with Battlefield 1, as revealed back in May (though it was leaked a little early). We got our grubby hands on the new entry while at EA’s separate E3 event dubbed EA PLAY, and have our impressions ready.

Terrifying Conflict

Some would say that World War I was a “scarier” war, if such a thing could be said about global conflicts. The Geneva Protocol had not yet been established, and humans had just developed weapons that were capable of destruction on a scale not yet seen in modern life. Naturally, Battlefield 1 has a look and feel that sells you on the belief that you’re in the middle of something larger. There’s constant movement in the skies, and distant gunfire can be heard, even when things are relatively calm in your immediate surroundings. When in the thick of combat, you’ll hear other players’ characters shouting out things as they happen, or scream in agony as the situation quickly devolves around you.

Although the weapons on offer are technically less sophisticated than those in Battlefield 1942 and more contemporarily-set games, there are still plenty of efficient weapons at your disposal. There’s bolt-action rifles, semi and automatic weapons, artillery, and even flamethrowers. A new type of grenade, mustard gas, is especially powerful. This can earn many unexpected kills, as this is a new mechanic that will take players some time to recognize and respond to. However, it is difficult to say just how effective this new grenade will be in the future, because combating it is as simple as pressing a button to equip your gas mask. It may come in handy to eliminate wounded enemies, since it might do just enough damage to kill them before they are able to equip their mask.

Vehicular Assault

Battlefield’s signature differentiator against other first-person shooters is the inclusion of multiple types of vehicles, and Battlefield 1 contains a healthy amount of varied vehicles. From what we saw, there are light and heavy troop transport trucks, light and heavy tanks, and multiple aerial vehicles. The light and heavy trucks are mostly for moving squads together, though players other than the driver can fire and defend the vehicle. The light tank is fast and nimble, at the expense of firepower and armor; the heavy tank is, predictably, a slower-moving but heavy-firing and heavily armored war machine, which, in capable hands, can single-handedly clear out an area of enemies in little time.

In the air, there are a few variations on planes, but the most distinct we were able to play was the bomber. This plane’s main weapon was a slow-firing release of a cache of ordnance directly below the aircraft. This meant that the time between when you pressing the fire button and impact was actually several seconds. Compounding the differences between this and other aircraft, the bomber is a slow-reacting plane, whereby turning it is composed of wide turns and deliberate movement. There is a slot for another player to man a machine gun up top, which can help to stave off attacks because the bomber is otherwise unprotected against fast-moving assault vehicles and players on the ground. We also saw Zeppelins, but did not experience flight in those unique aircraft.

Strategic Destruction

Buildings are destructible, as was introduced to the series in Battlefield: Bad Company. See an enemy under an archway? Try taking the support out around the archway, and the building might just fall on the enemy, killing them indirectly. You can get a bit more clever and walk up a stairway, and then destroy it, blocking one path for the enemy to come and attack you. This will likely be a useful tactic for scout players, who will need to ensure that they are relatively secure in their posts as they need time to line up distance shots with their sniper rifles.

Battlefield 1 feels like a breath of fresh air in a franchise that has recently been feeling a bit familiar. A visit in the World War I setting gives ample new material from which to base the scenarios that we can see. Zeppelins, for example, represent an exciting new take on air combat in many ways. If DICE can deliver a solid shooter set in this era, then this will likely be the beginning of a long line of World War I shooters which are intense, varied, and fun.

Stay tuned for more Battlefield 1 multiplayer footage, as well as our interview with DICE.