Gritty, brutal and chaotic, Battlefield 1 is shaping up to be a killer title. The question is – can it conquer the hype around the world, or will it fall flat like Wilhelm’s conquest?
Let’s address what everyone’s talking about first. Graphically, Battlefield 1 is a behemoth. From raw texture detail to atmospheric subtleties, war has never looked so good. Whilst flashier features like improved fire and explosion effects are immediately palpable, it’s the little things Battlefield 1 does that seals the deal for me. Things like ash resting on furniture, or the harrowing last breath of an infantryman on the end of a bayonet – they all allude to what I think makes Battlefield 1 look fantastic perhaps even more so than the graphical upgrades – authenticity.
It comes in a few forms. The vehicles and the weapons are all quintessential apparatus from the Great War, with zeppelins and biplanes taking centre-stage. Weapons are mostly rudimentary, with unreliable low-capacity automatics from the early 20th century composing the majority of the assault arsenal. On top of all that, the overall aesthetic does a great job of capturing the Great War atmosphere. War games are often criticised for their dull colour pallet, but when it comes to the downtrodden Western Front, it’s more than appropriate. Battlefield 1‘s marketing material has flashy music and cool editing, but I’d argue that the actual game does little to romanticise war in the same fashion. It’s gritty and dirty. The infantry are constantly befouled with smoke and mud, the environments are harsh, and the colour direction offers an overall visual display that echoes recoloured footage of the war itself.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. The Middle-Eastern Theatre sees players duke it out in Arabia under blue skies and a scorching hot sun, whilst the alps offer a natural mountainous spectacle. Battlefield 1 looks to achieve what I thought was missing from Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4, which was a good diversity of environments. In memory, many of the maps from those games mesh together as a grey blur, and even the stand-out battlefields were more memorable for their chaotic geometry than their actual aesthetic. With Battlefield 1 closing in on a strong variety of Great War locales, it looks like we’ll be getting a more varied picture with this game.
So how does this all affect the gameplay? When it comes to Battlefield 1 those expecting a radically different game ought not to get too carried away. This is still Battlefield, but it’s made a fresh experience by the environments and new arsenal at your disposal. The rudimentary nature of First World War combat has made the classes a bit more defined from one another, as weapons cannot be used in as versatile a manner as in Battlefield 3 or 4. Assault units will have to get more close and personal, whilst also making fine use of their scarce ammo pool. Magazines are thin, and automatic rifles aren’t a great option in long-distance combat. Meanwhile, support units wield heavy machine guns that can be used to damage aircraft, light vehicles and lay on suppressing fire to distant units. Snipers obviously carry the advantage of a reliable damage output at long distance, whilst engineers excel in keeping friendly vehicles stable and enemy vehicles very unstable. There are two new classes as well, named Pilot and Tanker, both of which enable better use of their respective apparatus.
All in all, I’m impressed with Battlefield 1. In my eyes, it’s by far the most intriguing Battlefield to date, which is partly down to both the lack of World War games this generation and the lack of First World War games in general. It seems DICE have kept the successful Battlefield formula, but tactfully used their historical authenticity to make welcome gameplay adjustments. There are a lot of exciting games mounting a siege on your wallet this year, but I get the feeling this one will be worth it.
Battlefield 1 will be available October 21st 2016 this year for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.