I’ve never been the biggest Battlefield fan. There. I said it. I never saw the hubub that surrounded the franchise, nor the drive to spend hundreds of hours getting blown to bits and crashing vehicles, all while being spread out across a ridiculously large map.
Ever since the Doom and Quake days, I’ve been a fan of tight, intricate maps. Large, sprawling maps rarely keep my interest, and what’s more: they’re usually minimally rendered to accommodate the glut of players on the screen.
Add to that, learning the maps tend to be an exercise in futility, since I’d often get capped before I could discover trends in each match…and being literally outgunned at every turn gets real old, real quick.
When Battlefield 1 was announced as a throwback to the original, fans went bananas. Does that mean no night-vision, heat tracking, radar marking, jet-striking or spawn camping?
SIGN. ME. UP.
Battlefield 1, like Titanfall 2, somehow manages to deliver a great single-player campaign, as well as an exhilirating multiplayer experience. Now, don’t get me wrong: if you’re looking for offline play only, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere. The stories, delivered as chapter-style vignettes, focus on one particular soldier–or event–and last around 45 minutes, give or take.
The single-player experience, much like the multiplayer experience, focuses heavily on death. The introductory mission has your squad outnumbered by a steadily advancing German front, and as the intro crawl tells you flat out: you’re not gonna survive. Even with that in mind, the futility of your situation becomes apparent as you burn through your rifle ammo, then through your grenades, and lastly your pistol ammo. If you’re lucky enough to make it that far, you’ll eventually be reduced to hitting them with clubs. And then you die.
You’ll die a lot, so it’s best to internalize that before you start.
Some of the stories in the single player are “told” posthumously, and you’re simply playing through the character’s death-arc. All stories (and maps) feature brilliantly realized locations, from Northern Africa to the streets of France. One mission even has you controlling a messenger pigeon, which is…odd.
Even though the single-player campaigns are steeped in actual history, it’s far less of a textbook lesson, than it is an exercise in the human experience…and the grim reality that was the Great War.
Like Titanfall 2 before it, EA has taken to putting core elements of the multiplayer campaign into the single-player campaign, allowing you to cut your teeth and hone your skills in a relatively controlled environment. I highly recommend playing through the full single player campaign before diving into multiplayer, simply because it gives you a solid primer on gameplay and mechanics…especially with the biplane segments. Plus, you’ll eventually get the freedom to experience the narrative the way you want to: either guns blazing or via stealth execution. Or, if you’re anything like me, you’ll start out trying to be stealthius maximus, and eventually go full Rambo. Again, it’s a nice way to explore a variety of play-styles, to find the one that works best for you.
The other reason I recommend playing the campaign first, is that you probably won’t ever go back.
The multiplayer setup is extremely streamlined, and you’ll be dropped into a skirmish in no time. Take heed, those of you spoiled by quick Call of Duty matches, you’re in it for the long haul. And holy shit are some of the games long.
Operations is the holy grail of the multiplayer experience, combining the intensity of Rush and the tactical sweep of Conquest. Like dodgeball, both sides will spawn from the leftmost and rightmost extremes of the map, then meet in the middle to raise the flag in key areas; in order to control an area, you’ll need to clear the space of enemies, take their flag down and raise your own. Like other FPS titles, the takeover goes much quicker with more teammates. Once you’ve secured a location, it will allow for your teammates to spawn there, thus pushing your front a little more into the enemy’s territory. In conquest, if their defenders fail to oust you from the map, they’ll fall back to the next area. And so on, and so on.
Each Operations match will take an hour, and immediately after wrapping up a campaign, you’ll switch to the next theatre with the same teams. It’s a seamless transition that will have you wondering where the time went–I’d lose three hours in the blink of an eye, and if you’re not paying attention, you will too.
The most fun aspect of Operations is the addition of behemoth-class vehicles; basically, once your team (or the enemy’s team) falls behind by enough points, they’ll get a boost in the form of a heavily-armored locomotive, or a massive, gun-laden zepplin. Both allow you to spawn in them and move around the map a little quicker, plus the zepplin allows you to parachute into the fray…which is just plain badass.
Success in Battlefield’s multiplayer matches rely heavily on mastery of it’s class system; you’ll choose from Assault, Medic, Support and Scout. Assault, as you’d imagine is designed for up close encounters, and favor SMGs and shotguns, and their devices lean more towards explosive–handy, if you can remember to keep yourself out of the blast zone. Medics are in constant need, and tend to work best with mid-range, self-loading rifle, and it would behoove you to keep your kit stocked with med packs/health crates and adrenaline shots, useful for reviving fallen buddies in battle (or, if you sneak up on an enemy, you can use it to OD them silently!). Support keeps you dealing in lead, by tossing out ammo crates and packs, and tend to specialize in mortar-based guns and LMGs…perfect for keeping an enemy pinned down; plus you’ll get vehicle explosives AND a wrench, to repair your team’s vehicles on the fly–or take out your enemy’s tanks. Scout class relies almost completely on long range sniper-rifles, and their kit contains some of the best treats: K-bullets (which punch through vehicles and heavy armor), the sniper shield keeps you protected (from the front) while prone, tripwire mines cover your rear, the decoy flashes to draw enemy fire away from you, and the trench scope allows you to tag enemies without using your gun scope. Sniper rifles “flash” when using your scope, letting your enemies know your approximate location, so think like Leon and only use it to deliver the killing blow…then MOVE!
Lastly, if you spawn in a tank, plane or horse/camel, you’ll start the tank/pilot/cavalry class. For leveling purposes, it’s always best to stay in your vehicle, but you may also eject and take on the opposition with a standard carbine rifle and a multi-tool, which allows you to repair the vehicle from the inside. Yes, it repairs quicker while outside, but that’s a rare opportunity in combat. Cavalry classes have a lever-operated rifle, melee scimitar, deployable ammo and health packs, and a light grenade.
Occasionally, you’ll get the chance to play as an Elite soldier class, which wraps you in heavy armor and gives you one of three super-weapons, a flamethrower, an anti-vehicle rifle and a water-cooled mega-machine gun; you’ll be able to take more hits, but move at a slower pace.
I found myself leaning heavily toward the medic class, since multiplayer is pretty much a meat grinder of death; your squad will almost always be in need of health packs/crates and revival shots. It’s the first time I’ve genuinely enjoyed playing a “healer” class…especially since the other classes tend to end up as so much blood on the field. Hell, in a pinch you can always heal yourself, which is nice. Vehicle classes are fun (but constrained), and I always had terrible luck playing as cavalry, mostly because the enemy delighted in exploding my Seabiscuit.
The weapons are another shining part of the Battlefield experience. Like its predecessors, every gun fires a little bit differently, and you’ll need to constantly switch up your loadout depending on your class and your area. Though each weapon is “bare bones” for the most part, you’ll unlock add-ons and customizations which allow you to further tailor the gun to your liking. Variable sights, scopes, clips and bayonets can add (or subtract) to your gun’s handling, and you can unlock custom guns and skins via Battlepacks, which are awarded seemingly at random in each campaign (and can also be purchased via microtransactions).
Again, this is primarily a multiplayer game–don’t let the single-player campaign fool you–and it’s a damn fine one. Even though I’m horrible at it, I always manage to have a fantastic time, mainly due to the massively downgraded weaponry. Make no mistake about it, there’s still something to be said for weapon mastery, it’s nowhere near as maddening as it’s “modern counterparts.”
Plus, I’m sure that I’ve died more playing Battlefield 1 than any other FPS out there…but that’s part of its charm; there’s no real “competitive/MLG” element with it, since the maps are entirely too big. Instead, it’s all the best parts of frantic, explosive combat without worrying about the soul-crushing K:D ratio. I mean, I guess there are people who pride themselves on being amazing, but there are just as many Leeroy Jenkins’ who just love charging into a wall of mustard gas, swinging their sabers willy-nilly. It should be patently obvious which camp I’m in.