In our second review of the big four shooters this fall, we take a look at Battlefield One. A game that takes the romantic elements of World War One and layers them in the necessary realistic grit to make the game a poignant reminder that war is not a good thing in any shape or form.
As seems to be the trend with these shooters the single player campaign has received a decent amount of detail. Perhaps due to the stinging criticism of Star Wars Battlefront and the lack of a decent single player element, EA has included a reasonably robust few hours of AI blasting. Starting as one of a group of soldiers from Harlem, you face the impossible task of defending a point from a horde of enemy troops. Despite your best efforts, you eventually run out of bullets and die. Think the ending of Halo Reach and you are about right. Instead of respawning, the game cleverly shows your birth year and then the death year as the screen fades to black only for you to be transported into the body of another soldier at a different point on the map. This simple yet chilling example of how expendable human life was during World War One sticks with you as a player throughout the entire game. No matter if your character does well and kills the enemy or you miss your shot and get killed by a flamethrower the result is the same. You die, nobody remembers and the game moves on to the next soldier. It is something that should be carried on as standard in these historical shooters and generates a feeling similar to the classic ‘No Russian’ level in Modern Warfare 2. You question why you are aiming down the iron sights and mowing down countless enemies. Soon the feeling subsides and you carry on with the game and reach the first one of these ‘War Stories’ proper. The feeling subsides but never leaves you.
The single-player or ‘War Stories’ are five short scenarios that last around an hour or so each. Bringing you up to the new standard campaign length of 5-6 hours. You play one set in a tank, another in a plane. One as an Italian armor plated soldier, one as a naval soldier and the final coup de gras as one of the soldiers who helped Lawrence of Arabia. In all an eclectic group that shows how diversely spread this War was. It wasn’t called the ‘great war’ for nothing. Despite having the enemy carry out the usual wrong doings in these levels that feeling from the first never leaves you and no matter how heroic your actions are the feeling at the end is quite flat. There are no hoorah’s that you find in COD here. Battlefield hits the spot where the old COD’s and Medal Of Honour’s reside. You kill, you have a good competitive game but in the end, you realize war isn’t fun.
The game hammers this point home despite the imaginative and excellent gameplay. The Italian in an armor suit levels, in particular, are harrowing. Your only motivation in this set of levels is to support the advance of your brother. Immediately you forget the ridiculousness of the situation. Here you have a simple soldier who has covered himself in armor and is walking along the battlefields of World War One like The Terminator. Suddenly, because of the tone set by the game, this becomes an entirely plausible and emotional battle despite being akin to the scene from a mid 80’s Arnold Schwarzenegger epic.
In real terms, despite the welcome focus on single-player the real meat of any Battlefield game is the Multiplayer. On this count, the game delivers on all fronts. Each type of match is a brutal unforgiving war that can suffer momentum changes and pivotal moments at multiple points. The real difference between COD and Battlefield games are the feel. COD is a slick no-nonsense shooter where it comes down to who can pull the trigger quickest. While there is scope for this in Battlefield as well, there is a completely more organic feeling to the maps. Battlefield games let you play as a proper Sniper. You have a scope and you have one shot. If you hit the enemy anywhere below the waist you have revealed your position and they will not die. If you hit them in the chest there is a 50/50 chance it will be enough. You have to go for the head. You also have to take the drop of the bullet and the distance into account. In all the risks of playing as a sniper are great. The rewards are equally as great. Because the maps are larger and more spacious than COD you have a big advantage in seeing the enemy at distance. For all the excellent players you will face, shooting them with a scope while you are only a glint of sunlight in their iron scope is a massive advantage.
The range of tactics spread across all the other classes, will you be a pure assault class that can resupply your teammate’s ammo, will you be a medic who can heal or will you be an engineer who can take down enemy vehicles. The choices are familiar to anyone who has played a battlefield game, yet here because of the setting and the somber tone of the campaign it feels important. You are less likely to charge headfirst into the enemy. Every death you suffer feels like the individual death of a soldier. In matches where a bad round sees you dying 20 times, this can be quite depressing.
The different match types all compliment each other well. Conquest is the default choice and leads to various choke points on the map. Position yourself correctly and with a bit of luck, the kills and points will start rolling in. Team deathmatch is a frantic fight for survival where your spawn choice is every bit as important as your twitch shooting. Rush is not as prominent is it was in the glory days of Bad Company, yet is every bit as compelling and finally the new mode Operations. In this mode, matches can last up to an hour with matches taking place over various maps all the while seeing the previous map in the horizon. You can lose one map yet rally and recover on others. If you have the uninterrupted time to play this mode it can be the most rewarding by far. in fact, this is a microcosm of the game in general.
If you have the time to devote Battlefield One will be the only shooter you need this year. It has a token excellent campaign and the deepest most enthralling multiplayer matches available on the console to date.
Get it here Battlefield 1 (PS4)