Battlefield 1 is the sequel to the highly-successful Battlefield 4, because of course it is. Numbers never seem to have been the strong point of many video game developers. Capcom, for a pointed example, took forever to count to three, preferring to put NINE games between Street Fighter II and Street Fighter III (although there was a paltry four games between Street Fighter IV and Street Fighter V, but I digress). Battlefield, as most of you probably know, is a first-person shooter, and this time, Battlefield 1 takes us back to the Great War: World War I. The year is 1918, and everything has gone to hell.
Battlefield 1 presents us not with a single, cohesive, single-player campaign, but rather a vignette of stories from around the War. World War I was a bleak and terrible time in history, and Battlefield 1 really goes out of its way to point this out. The opening scene is grittily visceral, and you’re told from the outset that you’re not expected to survive. With each death, you’re presented with a name (of a real person who died in that war, I’m told), and then you pick up from the next person in a different role, only to die again soon after. It’s still nothing in the actuality of war, but it’s brutal, it’s bloody, and it hits hard, giving us an inkling of what battle may have been like.
And then it’s over, and you’re given a choice of stories to follow, from a tank driver in the battle of Cambrai, to a pilot in the skies above Europe, to an Arab combatant under the leadership of British officer T.E. Lawrence (also known as Lawrence of Arabia–watch the movie if you’re into your history). Each story is fairly self-contained and seldom crosses over into the others, mostly due to the fact that they take place in completely different geographic regions from Italy to Britain to the sands of Arabia. Each story serves two purposes: it gives you an insight into how different the many aspects of the war were, and it gives you a chance to play with the various player roles in the game from sniper to runner to combatant. I just want to go on record as saying I’d play the hell out of a game starring T.E. Lawrence. We need more true-to-history games.
Of course, if you’re playing Battlefield 1, you’re likely less interested in the campaign and want to know what the multiplayer is all about. The answer is this: a lot like Star Wars Battlefront (which we reviewed here). If you’re familiar with the multiplayer modes in Battlefield 4, you’ll be comfortable with Battlefield 1. There are some new modes for you to enjoy here, and the big one is Operations, a massive, furious, sixty-four player brawl across the map to determine control. It’s a lot like Battlefront’s Supremacy mode, and sees you taking the role of either the attackers or defenders trying to attain specific goals. Out of all the modes, I think this one best encapsulates the maniacal insanity of war. It’s crazy, bullets are flying from everywhere, and until you figure out what’s what, you’re likely to be useless to your squad. Most of the other modes are the standard assortment of deathmatch and capture the flag modes, but the other interesting one is War Pigeons, in which you must work tightly with your squad to locate the messenger pigeons on the map, and then wait while a message is written to HQ. Successfully writing this message and releasing the pigeon drops an artillery barrage on the enemy team and scores your team a point. This mode is fast and frantic, but can be a bit of a pain if you don’t have a headset, since you really do need to communicate to play this effectively.
Overall, Battlefield 1 is an excellent purchase, and surprisingly, the single player campaign is actually worth playing (even though you can complete it within around five or six hours). The game’s multiplayer modes are, as usual, fun to play and good for when you want to hunker down to some good, clean killing. Naturally, if you enjoyed prior Battlefield games, this one is either already on your list or in your possession. If you enjoyed Star Wars Battlefront, you’ll probably find that this game gives you some new experiences to play with, even if flying a World War 1 plane is eerily similar to piloting an X-Wing. And of course, if you have a team of friends to play with, it’s even better, driving home that squad-based play that the game is known for.