Battlefield 1 review: The best WW1 shooter


I’ll be honest, it came as a bit of shock when DICE told us its latest Battlefield was going to be focused on World War One. After all, it’s a conflict fought over a century ago and one best known for its trench-based stalemate warfare. I, among others, didn’t think battles from 100 years ago would have enough depth or action to keep players engaged. I think it’s high time to admit I was wrong.

Battlefield 1 is easily the best and most lovingly-crafted FPS I’ve played in recent years. A far cry from Battlefield 4, Battlefield 1 ditches the fancy modern tech of its forebears and strips everything back to basics. If you’re looking for cheesy lock-on rockets or high-tech helicopters, you’ll have to look elsewhere, as this game is solely focused on your soldier and his gun.

Battlefield 1 isn’t all bolt-action rifles and trench foot, though. There’s plenty of weaponry and gadgets on offer in Battlefield 1, from automatic machine guns to early SMGs and even a rocket gun you’ll have to place on a ledge or the ground before you can shoot it. There’s so much to choose from, with each class of weapon and gadget distinct from the last.

You won’t just be stuck fighting in the muddy trenches of France, either. It was a global war after all, and the campaign reflects this. Instead of giving you one long story to battle through, Battlefield 1’s campaign is divided into five separate ‘War Stories’, all focusing on different aspects of the war.

Battlefield 1 review

This paves the way for some truly gorgeous locations to play around in here, and you’ll visit the Arabian desert, the coast of Turkey and the skies of London to name just a few locations before it’s all over. The campaign’s a little short at around five hours or so, but it’s easily a step-up from the bland single-player experiences of both Battlefield 4 and Battlefield Hardline. I was a little worried about the source material going in, and sure, it’s still got its unbelievable, Hollywood-esque action sequences, but for the most part DICE seems to have paid due respect to the real conflicts its stories are focusing on.

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Each section’s largely a tutorial for what to expect in the multiplayer: there’s an awesome set of tank levels, dogfighting in an ancient biplane above London and a brief bout of marching about in a suit of armour lugging a massive machine gun up some Italian mountains.

However, it can still be a little hit and miss at times. For instance, the opening tutorial level is absolutely superb, with its fast-paced combat focusing on different soldiers on the frontline. Get killed as that bloke, and you’re given his name, birth and death and you’ll take control of the next. It’s wonderfully touching, and a perfect way to set up the stories that follow.

On the other hand, some of the forced stealth sections are incredibly uninspiring. The game is filled with them, most prominently in the Lawrence of Arabia missions, but the poor enemy AI really lets it down. Pair that with your bottomless supply of shell casings to distract enemies with and it just comes across as a bit silly and tacked-on, with an experience pretty much copied and pasted from Battlefield Hardline’s campaign. I would have liked to have seen at least a couple of levels devoted to the Central Powers too, as it would have been nice to see the war from the perspective of Austria-Hungary, Germany and the like.

That aside, Battlefield 1 is still absolutely gorgeous and it’s well worth playing through the campaign when you pick it up. Explosions and bullet traces are phenomenal, frequently filling your screen with near-deafening audio cracks and bright flashes of light. Get caught up in one too many explosions, or have to duck down into muddy cover and your gun will be filthy once you emerge. You’ll always be reminded of the horrors of war too, with distant blood-curdling screams and soldiers flailing around in agony. It’s the little visual and audio touches like these that make Battlefield 1’s campaign one of a kind.

Battlefield 1 review

Of course, just like with any modern FPS game, a large part of Battlefield 1’s appeal will come down to the quality of its multiplayer. DICE is already well-known for its epic 64-player shoot-outs, and Battlefield 1 is no different. I’ll be updating this review once I’ve had a bit more time on the live public servers, but from what I’ve played so far, it’s clear that no other game comes close to giving you this much choice and freedom to make your own calls on the battlefield. It’s a fantastic experience, filled with awesome unscripted moments, and there’s something for everyone, too. Do you fancy yourself as a flying ace, or would you rather cause chaos on the ground in a massive armoured tank?

Having sunk just under 500 hours into Battlefield 4 since its release three years ago, Battlefield 1 comes as an incredibly refreshing experience, and I can see myself sinking even more hours into its World War One battles in the near future. It’s a testament to the benefits of straying off the beaten path and taking the road less travelled. DICE took a gamble moving its popular first-person shooter back to the First World War and it’s really paid off. As one of the most enjoyable and stand-out shooters I’ve played this year, this is an absolute must-buy for all FPS fans.

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