It took only a few minutes of play to realise the biggest difference between EA’s Battlefield 1 and your run-of-the-mill first-person shooter. Whereas warfare in the last handful of Call of Duty games has been portrayed as an awesome and exciting spectacle, The Great War, as bought to life in Battlefield 1 is nothing of the sort.
World War One was a turning point in armed conflict, newly invented technology, like aeroplanes, tanks and machine guns made in the first modern war, with the casualties to match. From 1914 to 1918 over 11 million military personal lost their lives during the conflict, along with 7 million civilians.
It was also the first conflict where New Zealand and Australian soldiers fought under their own flag. The conflict cemented a kinship between the two nations, an Anzac mateship that still defines both countries today.
It is only fitting that one of Battlefield 1’s single-player war stories recall the events of that fateful morning of 25 April 1915.
Storming the beach at Gallipoli in Battlefield 1’s War Story single-player episode, “The Runner”, was perhaps not as poignant for me as it would be for someone brought up in New Zealand or Australia. But as a Brit that’s lived in this part of the world for over a decade, I’m well aware of the reverence held for those brave Anzacs that fought, and died, on that distant foreign shore.
The Runner represents just one of six war stories that focus on the personal stories of the men and women fighting in The Great War from the trenches of France to the Arabian desert. Featuring the voice and likeness of Aussie actor Peter O’Brien as Anzac veteran of the Second Boar War, Frederick Bishop, The Runner starts with Bishop on the tenuous beachhead making a run to capture the fortifications on the clifftop.
As I ran across the Turkish beach dodging bullets from unknown assailants, I was shock at how confusing it was, with mortar fire kicking up dirt and smoke obstructing my view. Running up over the rocks to the Ottoman trenches I had no idea where I was heading or where the fire was coming from. I can only imagine how frightening it must have been for those brave Anzacs.
Having an episodic single-player campaign makes sense and allows players to experience WW1 across the theatres of conflict. Each war story episode is very different with tank combat, air combat (in bi-planes), even some very Metal Gear V-inspired stealth desert stealth missions.
Going back to WW1-period weaponry takes some adjustment, and requires a little more finesse than the run-and-gun tactics that you can get away with in modern combat scenarios. If you find yourself face-to-face with multiple enemies, you are not likely to survive the encounter.
The Battlefield games are renowned for their vehicles, and they look and handle great in this latest outing. The British Mark V looks absolutely fantastic. And let’s not forget you can ride horses! Yep, in the Lawrence of Arabia-inspired desert-based war story and in the multiplayer map of the same, Sinai Desert, you can ride into battle astride a beautifully animated Arabian steed.
The game uses DICE’s top-class Frostbite Engine, which is optimised beyond belief, delivering full-on destructible buildings and incredibly realistic lighting. The sunrise over Gallipoli is beautiful, a stark contrast to the conflict below.
Whilst I was able to run through all the single-player campaign, which is the best Battlefield single-player experience yet, the lack of local players on the PC servers made things a little difficult for multiplayer. Making use of the excellent EA Access trial on Xbox One, supplemented by some decent local games on PC, I can say that the multiplayer side of things will not disappoint.
Multiplayer Battlefield fans will be pleased to see Conquest making a return. Large maps and 64 players all trying to capture the objectives, is a hallmark of the series. Similarly, with the more up-close-and-personal Domination. Rush, as before, splits the two teams into attackers and defenders, fighting to destroy or protect telegraph posts. Team Deathmatch rounds off the returning modes.
New for Battlefield 1 are Operations and War Pigeons. Fought across multiple maps, Operations matches offer a campaign-style persistence to the battlefield as you push through. War pigeons is a variation on capture the flag and had both teams after a pigeon coop placed somewhere in the map. The team that gets the pigeon to a safe location can use it to send a message calling for artillery support.
EA and DICE took a chance with Battlefield 1, one that I think has paid off. We have a robust game that at once tells a poignant tale and provides us with polished gameplay. Taking the game back to its historic roots was a good call and one that fans are going to really enjoy.
Battlefield 1 will be in shops on 21 October for Windows PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.