As someone who fell in love with the original Battlefield Bad Company, I haven’t had the best of times with some of DICE’s more recent games in the series. Battlefield 3’s campaign left the whole thing feeling pretty lifeless and its sequel did little to stir my growing indifference towards the franchise. Alongside a complete change in scenery, Battlefield 1 feels as though it’s genuinely pushing the series back on track, even if only by a little.
Bar the thematic overhaul, multiplayer is still centred around massive objective-based encounters and team play. Being able to jump into a squad and cooperatively work towards a common goal without the need for verbal communication gives Battlefield 1 a superb tactical edge over its contemporaries. Although online multiplayer continues to dominate part of my daily routine, I haven’t strapped on a headset and talked shop with random teammates since the glory days of Uncharted 2.
The more time I’ve spent with the open beta, the more I’ve come to appreciate many of the design changes over previous instalments. One thing that irked me about Battlefield 4 and Hardline was the mass of information crammed onto the screen at one time. Even when shrunk down to the smallest setting, icons and name tags would constantly get in the way, disrupting the action.
Although it needs to convey a similar amount of information, Battlefield 1 seems to have found a happier balance. Not only that, DICE has managed to work in some nice added features such as cavalry units, vehicle-specific classes, and versatile player loadouts.
Tanks and armoured vehicles have always been a core part of the Battlefield experience, though often feel overpowered and overused. Instead of simply stripping them out entirely, each infantry class now has something in their arsenal to help take down these units, whether it’s the assault’s ridiculously styled grenades or the sniper’s armour piercing rounds. However, there’s no universal solution to a tank assault and you have to work together and use your abilities smartly to take one out.
One thing that hasn’t changed – and quite rightly shouldn’t have – are the modes themselves. Although there’s bound to be a more fleshed out selection in the full game, Conquest and Rush are signature scenarios for this much-loved franchise. As such they’ve been left unmolested and now find themselves encased in a series of WWI-themed stages.
Destructible terrain has played an equally important role in recent Battlefield and here it returns once again. Whether demolishing a sniper’s nest or making an impromptu tank trail through a building, walls and structures fall apart in a familiar fashion, deforming the battlefield and altering how open or closed the fight is.
Once I had experienced most of the new bells and whistles, I felt myself sagging into that same old groove. Battlefield 1 is an excitingly gorgeous shooter though one that still has some problems. Strange spawning patterns and a paradoxical focus on somewhat more authentic gunplay – though not overly realistic – make it hard to adjust to, especially if you’ve been gorging yourself on Titanfall, Call of Duty, and Overwatch.
Still, walking away from the beta, I feel as though my batteries and enthusiasm for the series have been recharged. If DICE has a similarly impressive campaign in tow then there may be some real competition for the other hot shooter about to deploy.