Once more, Henry?

The Battlefield franchise has a special place in my gaming library. It is my long standing, go to, multiplayer game. I was hoping that DICE’s new iteration set in WW1 would fit snuggly in my collection. The game was officially released Oct 21st (or 10 gaming hours prior to that via EA Access) with 9 multiplayer maps, new multiplayer gamemodes, one including a pigeon and a different style of single player campaign.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-vAxVh8ins&t=60s

Trains, planes and…….

With each new iteration of Battlefield, EA/DICE boast brand new and shiny innovations, e.g levolution, to market their latest game. Don’t get me wrong, seeing a skyscraper collapse or watching a bay get desecrated by a battleship crashing into it, mid-game, IS amazing. However, after seeing this happen a few hundred (thousand!) times, I have become desensitised to the awe that once gripped me. I think a contributing factor for this is the scripted nature of these events. Another factor being the child in me just wanting MORE all the time! But, this basic need for MORE is satisfied. What makes the BF franchise so appealing to me is all the unscripted “Battlefield Moments” that creates new and exciting experiences every time I play. These “Moments” were so impactful on the people playing the game that the BF community is bursting at the seams with videos online of people celebrating their own gloriously unscripted gameplay shenanigans. Hell, even EA realised that these “Moments” were more impressive than their own scripted ones and piggy-backed the idea in the form of a marketing strategy.

DICE didn’t shy away from wanting to 1up themselves but they did so in keeping with the idea of new and exciting with less of the scripted. So, this time around we have Behemoths to bolster the already established “BF Moments”. These are MP game changers in the form of gigantic airships, armoured trains and seafaring dreadnoughts, all armed to the teeth. Used as a balancing act for gameplay, the losing team will acquire a behemoth which, if used to their strengths, can completely change the tide and focus of a game. Players control all aspects of these death machines from driving/piloting them to manning each of the guns. If a team has good communication when they’re in control of a behemoth then you will need to watch out and really work together to take it out effectively! Watching an airship decimate a mountain side enemy stronghold whilst defending itself against biplanes and AA fire, only to get blown up in an incredible fireball that crashes down the the mountain killing everything in its death roll is spectacular! So spectacular that I witnessed 8 players, including myself, to stop killing each other and watch all this unfold! Most of us didn’t even bother moving from where the airship was going to land on us…

bf1-airship

War. What is it good for?

It is accustomed to most, if not all, BF players that the campaign is there to show off new gameplay mechanics and give players a chance to practise before going online. The campaigns, bar Bad Company, have never been enthralling. The only reason I played through BF4’s more than once because there were guns you could unlock for MP in there. I’m not the only person to be glad that idea was binned for BF1. This time round it is still ticking all those show off boxes but doing it in a more competent way.Some of the new mechanics are just fun to do, bayonet charging isn’t getting old! I also found myself caring for some of the characters and even though the story arcs were as plain as day, it was satisfying to complete them.

DICE allows players to get multiple perspectives from people affected in the war by using War Stories. These are not sequential or episodic, you can play them in any order you like and they play out as mini stories with their own characters and mission styles. Each story is set in a different location across Europe and North Africa and they have their very own feel. It is very different when you are on horseback, sword drawn riding along the Suez to when you are scrambling around town houses being turned into rubble in France.

What helps BF1 standout from the crowd is the immersion of the experience you are undertaking. The detail each level, skybox, vista and map have in their pristine conditions is amazing, then everything goes to hell and war destroys them and they still manage to look incredible. Helping create believable environments and characters and then having them torn down, shot at and blown up can’t be done if it doesn’t sound right. This game definitely gets it right. Every reload, gunshot, ricochet, explosion, gargled scream and death cry all sound simply stunning. The headshot sound cue in MP is excellent too!  

The biggest impact that this campaign had on me didn’t have anything to with gameplay or graphics. There is a clear tone that runs through the core of this game. That tone? War is shit, to put it bluntly. You are quickly made to feel like an extremely small, inconsequential piece of an enormous war machine and you probably won’t survive! Just play the intro and you’ll get the jist! This tone resonated with me and I started think of what it would be like to have to endure this extreme state of living. It then dawned on me that I knew almost next to nothing about WW1 and a lot of my thoughts were misplaced knowledge of WW2 permeated with snippets of Band of Brothers. I have now spent the last month or so reading up and listening to podcasts about WW1 and learning as much as I can about was meant to be the war to end all wars. The complete horror that people had to go through during this war was incredible. Everybody knows that war is shit but I didn’t have any understanding of just how shit this war was! It was basically a big cluster fuck of old “romantic” war traditions being used in a new theatre of war which had the influence of modern technology, like artillery and the machine gun. This mix of old vs new gave birth to horrendous new tactics which caused a catastrophic death toll for both sides. It was true attrition. I’m not saying a game of Conquest has any bearing on this or even touches the surface. What I am saying is that, it’s a big thumbs up for me if a game can motivate me enough to learn extracurricularly about the content. Even if I do only play through the campaign once (I will), at least it has given me a whole lot more.     

Killing Fields

Multiplayer is at the heart of any Battlefield game for me and this iteration does it with bells on! There are some changes that have been made but I would expect nothing less from a new game. It does mean some Battlefield veterans might not feel quite at home as they would like to for the first few games but after the learning curve takes place, you’ll find that groove again and it’ll feel like you’ve never left.

A lot of the changes made help the gameplay and create a more immersive experience. Gunplay is slower and less accurate. Do not let this fool you into thinking that this makes for a slower and more boring experience. If anything, it ramps it up! The immersion created by this is fantastic. First of all guns were less accurate and slower firing back in WW1 so there’s an authenticity element but it really adds to gameplay too. If you’ve got quick reactions and a bit of luck you can get out of hairy situations in a hail of undisciplined spray and pray bullets. Or make hero medic dashes across pockmarked, muddy fields to revive a fallen comrade. Firefights can also last a little longer now allowing for more people to get engaged. You may think this sounds terrible and that it just becomes a choke point of death but DICE have a come up with a solution to this. 3D spotting has gone! This means that your position is not known by the entire enemy team for 90% of the game. That means tactics are a real thing again, stealth is back and there’s always a sense of 360 degree paranoia on the battlefield! You can flank, out-flank, suppress and cover fire all to great effect if used in the right situations. It really gives an authentic feel back to the combat.

st-_quentin_scar_

Carrying on this authenticity theme, I’m grateful for DICE for making me scared of tanks again! I’ve never met a tank in a war situation before but I’d bet all my money on that I would need a new change of underwear if I did. In earlier Battlefield games I would, without hesitation, sprint towards said tank, on my own, confident that I would more than likely survive. This is not a natural reaction when faced with 62 metric tonne killing machine! Even in a game, this is not normal. BF1 has changed this. A balance has been restored. Tanks are a force to be reckoned with and I learnt very quickly that using my old (modern) tactic was not going to work against this new (old) enemy! Tanks are not a hinderance to a lone Support class anymore with too much C4 to carry. They have now become focal points of destruction that require teamwork and tactics both to use and to take them out.

The 9 MP maps are all done out in a spectacular fashion and they are all accompanied by different weather effects. Not only do these meteorological occurrences change the look of the map to drastic effect but it hampers elements of gameplay too. If fog happens to drift over a map then snipers and pilots will have a choice to make as they effectively become useless. It also creates an eerie atmosphere on the ground with shadows of enemies casting on the wall of fog around you. Getting caught off guard by a galloping enemy horse coming out of the fog straight towards you is a scary site!

The line is broken!

For all the positives about this game which allow me to jump in feet first into the immersive gameplay there are a few that drag me out kicking and screaming. I can’t get over the loading screens. I really can’t. I know there has to be give and take in the world of next-gen gameplay and content vs loading times but I do not feel like I’m living in a next-gen world yet! Especially when a UI system struggles to allow you to browse the menus with ease. Even after the recent patch, the delay in pressing a button on the menu to the actual thing happen on the screen is laughable at times! I don’t know if this is down to the architecture that DICE or MS use but I would suggest that one of you lot have a chat with the other!

It wouldn’t be a BF game if there weren’t weird bugs in it! Some of them can be funny, some of them not so much. It’s an annoying state of affairs that AAA titles are allowed out the gate full of bugs but it is good to see that the issues that were flagged after release have been addressed and with the latest patch many of them were improved/fixed. More are out there but hopefully they can be fixed too. 

http://xboxclips.com/Saucy%20Hotdog/9f775976-cde3-43d9-bcd9-7297647927d5/embed

I can tolerate the odd bug as the pay-off moments you are rewarded with by playing this game are some of the most intense and exciting moments I have had in a game.

Is it the behemoth it claims to be?  

The wheel hasn’t been reinvented and the the God particle has not been discovered. But was has happened is that DICE and EA have brought Battlefield back to the forefront of the FPS market by going back in time. WW1 was a big choice of the setting but they have pulled it off and done so admirably. After what some people may call a lull in the franchise after BF3, they should be happy with what BF1 delivers. With a solid campaign and an outstanding, immersive multiplayer experience, that still manages to surprise me each game, Battlefield won!  

BGE-4STAR-BLACK

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