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Battlefield 1

October 26, 2016

Battlefield 1 (PS4)
untitledWhat’s Good:
-Superb audio/visual design
-Thoughtful yet gamey single player narrative
-Weather and behemoths are great
-Operations mode is a fun alternative to Rush
-Solid and satisfying gameplay mechanics

What’s Bad:
-Limited number of multiplayer maps
-Underwhelming multiplayer progression

What I thought: “A new era for Battlefield.”
 

Tales of The Great War
Speaking as an American, World War 1 is a topic that barely got touched upon back in school. While of course it’s something I knew about, the specifics weren’t gone into whatsoever.
So, the idea of learning more about such a huge global conflict through an entry in a long-running video game series which I’ve been a fan of for some time was one I was way into.
The only fear was execution, as the previous Battlefield campaigns have been poorly aping the over the top bombast of the Call of Duty series in recent years, and approaching such a monumentous period in human history with the flair of a summer blockbuster would be tasteless to say the least.

It pleases me to say, then, that Battlefield 1’s campaign not only offers a window into an unfortunate time in our history, but does so with restraint; and in passing, offers a number of solid smaller narratives which from a gameplay perspective, allows for an admirable amount of variety, and from a narrative one, provides multiple angles from which to see the tragedy and destruction this war brought to the world.
The single player campaign opens bleakly and effectively, and shortly afterward thrusts you first into the shoes of the new pilot for a tank crew.
His story is one of five (excluding the introductory scene), and you are able to play through them in whichever order you please. Each offers its own cast of characters and its own smaller narrative, as well as its own flavor of gameplay. The Through Mud and Blood campaign of course has you piloting a tank as well as protecting it on foot, while the Friends in High Places segment is based around flight, and so forth.

It is a game based on a real war, approached with a respectful tone, but at the end of the day it’s still a video game. Where the narrative finds its footing, the on-foot gunplay sometimes stumbles and falls on its face, mostly due to the game’s doofy AI. Tanks will drive into walls, enemies will stand out in the open, and the corpses of fallen soldiers will fidget and glitch about. While the scenarios the game offers are perfectly functional and entertaining to play through, they can often be at odds with the somber tone the stories present thanks to some good old fashioned Battlefield jank.
Overall however, while the previous two Battlefield campaigns have provided a low bar to rise above, Battlefield 1 has managed to soar triumphantly above it.
 

Braving the Front Lines
The single player campaign is a welcome addition, but the reason people come to Battlefield is for the multiplayer, and contrary to some fears I had coming out of the game’s beta, the multiplayer portion of Battlefield 1 is just as soundly put together, if not more so, than previous entries.

Conquest is the go-to, and they didn’t attempt to fix what wasn’t broken here. Teams still vie for a handful of objectives, and if one team is getting hammered relentlessly, a hulking Behemoth will the fray on their side (more on these later).
Joining the second staple, Rush, are a few smaller scale gametypes, Team Deathmatch (why is this here?), Domination and the new War Pigeons. In the latter of the three, both teams fight for possession of a pigeon, which needs to be held for a period of time to send off coordinates for an artillery strike. Once one team sends off three, the game ends in their favor.
War Pigeons plays similarly to Obliteration from Battlefield 4, but since it takes place on the TDM/Domination maps, which are smaller segments of the proper, full-sized maps, it lacks the intensity of that mode. For what it is, it’s fine, but it makes me wish Obliteration were in this game, for it was perhaps my favorite mode in BF4.

Then there are Operations.
These set up a scenario based on true WW1 battles, and has an attacking team attempt to push the defenders back, capturing areas of the map similar to Conquest. Once all capture areas are held at the same time, the defending team falls back and a new set of objectives are set.
If the attacking team manages to capture all objectives on a map, then the battle will progress to another map entirely.
Depending on whether the outcome of the battle is the same as what happened in actual WW1, you are given a narration explaining what the teams’ efforts meant to the overall conflict.

This is a very good mode, if currently a bit biased in favor of the defending team, and offers a combination of what maps both Conquest and Rush so fun, from tight squad-based infantry combat to the chaos wrought on by vehicles, it offers everything you’d come to expect out of a Battlefield game while adding in a narrative hook based on actual events to pique your interest.
The battlefields in question are wildly diverse both by layout and visuals, and while there are multiple “desert maps” and multiple “more urban maps”, each feels distinct, and save for perhaps Suez, which is in my opinion the weakest map of the limited number available, no two matches so far have felt as though they’ve played out the same way twice.
There have been several notable instances of very poor spawns, but this is of course a military shooter, and some degree of spawning just to instantly be shot down before you get your bearings comes with the territory.
Also worth noting are the weather effects. Perhaps rain, perhaps fog, perhaps a blinding sandstorm; inclement weather looks and sounds wonderful, and can greatly alter the way in which a map is played. The impassable open terrain of Sinai Desert may become welcome domain for shotguns and SMGs, while the fog of Monte Grappa might reduce enemies afar to mere lurking silhouettes. Weather might stick around for the duration of a match, or it may wait to roll in or out midway, further changing the narrative of the given battle. It’s unpredictable and it’s terrific.
 

Of Battalions and Behemoths
On the surface, Battlefield 1 looks much like its predecessors. A large number of soldiers tussling over set objectives with vehicles tossed in to add to further add to the chaos, but after a small amount of time playing, it becomes clear that while Battlefield 1 is 100% recognizable as the next entry in the familiar series, there have been myriad refinements made to the various soldier loadouts and gameplay mechanics that together make Battlefield 1 feel unique when compared to its older brethren.

As players firing their weapons no longer appear on the minimap, spotting becomes all the more important. You can (generally) no longer spawn on a squadmate while they are in combat. The movement, aiming and performance of the weapons all put more emphasis on positioning, and much like with the previous games in the series, bullet drop and often times fast moving targets require an understanding for bullet velocity, which makes it all the more satisfying when you land that finely led shot.

Assault is now the SMG/Shotgun class, and is provided the best means to deal with vehicles or cooped up players at a distance thanks to their rocket gun. Their weapons can wipe the floor with most any other class at close range thanks to the fire rate of their SMGs and the stopping power of their Shotguns, making them the idea class for closs quarters even when vehicles aren’t around.

The Medic class is the one I’ve taken a liking to the most, as it seems built for doing what damage you can from medium to long distances while you ensure your team lives on.
The medical syringe replaces the paddles from past games, and now no longer requires to be charged in order to bring a dead player back to full health. When you’ve fallen, the interface shows nearby Medics, but whether the player in question is willing to play their class and pick you up is another story entirely.

I was worried about Support, coming out of the beta, since the only neat tools they were given happened to be the tripwire bombs which have since been given instead to the Scout class. Support is a versatile class in Battlefield 1 though, being provided a breadth of medium ranged LMGs to deal with infantry, as well as my personal favorite loadout item overall, the Limpet Charge. These sticky explosives can only be utilized at close range, but their blast is devastating; crumpling buildings, taking out infantry and disabling tank turrets in one fiery explosion.
No one will ever turn down an ammo pack, either.

Scouts, thanks to the game’s toned down minimap, are more vital now for spotting enemy players than they have ever been, and they come equipped with one of the most effective means to do so in the form of spotting flares. These don’t last forever though, and you get only two per spawn, so a healthy number of resupplies by Support class players is welcome.
Sniper rifles are the most effective standard kit weapons at taking out infantry, with shots even to the chest at specific ranges being one-hit kills; and if not, will leave the poor fellow at the other side of the scope so low on health that any small arms fire will easily finish them off.

Sentry Kits, including flamethrowers and heavy machine guns, also spawn onto the map in designated spots every so often, and while picking one of these up will make you a terror-inducing armored killing machine, your health regeneration is severely reduced (if it exists at all), and a small amount of focused fire taken by multiple players at once will drop you in no time at all.

As expressed previously on the Soapbox, Battlefield 4’s vehicles were my bane. Poorly thought out vehicle perks and loadouts could often leave them nigh unstoppable, and it wasn’t a rare sight to see a player sit in a jet through the duration of an extended match, simply because they were able to hit their counter measures and leave the border of the map until the cooldown was refreshed to continue the cycle again.
It, if anything, made me a crack shot with an RPG.
It pleases me greatly then, to say that vehicles in Battlefield 1 are much more approachable by infantry.
Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying of course, it isn’t uncommon for a player to rack up an absurd number of kills if left unchecked in a tank or plane, but this time around the vehicles don’t seem to run the match to the extent at which they did in previous games.

Every soldier kit has some form of anti-vehicle weapon or item, be it the aforementioned Limpet Charges for Support, K Bullets for Recon, or Rifle Grenades for Medics, no longer is facing an unsuspected vehicle met with “well my class is useless against this, so I guess my only option is to run away”, and it is instead a matter of “did I bring the right thing to deal with this situation?”
Gun emplacements also litter the battlefield, and many of these when utilized well can wreck not only the cars and tanks, but player controlled Behemoths as well.

These Behemoths are a force to be reckoned with, and if left to go about their business without being taken down by the opposing team, can turn the tide of an otherwise unwinnable match.
There are three in the game currently. The zeppelin, the armored train, and the warship, and where each does its job well of bombarding the battlefield with artillery fire and a mass of explosions, their positioning upon the various battlefields is handled differently for each, and each requires a slightly different approach when going about taking one down.

They’ve struck a great balance with these vehicles. Typically I’m one of the first to malign any sort of buff given to a losing team in a shooter. If you’re winning a match, it seems insulting to give the losing team something which might ultimately win the game for them, but while the Behemoths are undeniably powerful, they aren’t unstoppable, and I’ve seen both cases where one seemed to turn the tide and win the match for a team when their enemies failed to take it down, as well as matches where the Behemoths spawn in, do their thing for a few minutes and are promptly destroyed, offering up a massive, breathtaking plume of fire and smoke in their wake.
 

But One Battle Amid the War
DICE is seemingly hit or miss with their multiplayer progression systems.
Battlefield 4 for example, had extremely long legs thanks to the manner in which you unlocked new weapons, as well as attachments and camo patterns to slap onto said weapons.
Star Wars Battlefront though, offered very little, and after a couple of hours with that game, you generally had all of the weapons and loadout options you ever wanted to use.
Battlefield 1 treads the line between the two, with what I would call a bias toward the Battlefront model.

Battlepacks return as your carrot, but how enticing are they?

Battlepacks offering skins return as your carrot, but how enticing are they?

Weapons are locked not only behind individual class level, but they must then be bought with in-game currency earned through leveling up both classes and your overall player level.
The weapon lists are large, but this is only until you look closely to realize that most of the options on those lists are simply variants of the same weapon, which come outfitted with different sights or attachments among other things.
Battlepacks return from previous games, but now exclusively contain weapon skins with the small chance at what they’re calling Puzzle Pieces (which unlock a unique melee weapon once you collect all five pieces) and XP boosts, although in my 30 hours spent with the game’s multiplayer, I have seen two legendary skins (the same one twice), but none of the previously mentioned boosts or weapon pieces.

Medals return as well, though these are treated like timed challenges which reward XP and dog tags upon completion, with new medals being cycled in or out each week.
This change has proven fun enough, as it persuades you to play modes or classes you might otherwise not bother with to get that juicy XP bonus.

Codex entries are good, but history books and Wiki pages are better.

Codex entries are good. History books and Wiki pages are better.

Outside of the cosmetic stuff and the somewhat disappointing weapon selection, the thing left to unlock are codex entries.
These offer no gameplay benefit whatsoever, but give insight into the various weapons, factions and tactics of the war. They’re interesting to read through for sure, but I wish they could have been presented in a way that wasn’t just “Hey maybe read this outside of matches some time.”
 

A progression system isn’t what makes a game of course, but rather the gameplay it offers and how long one might play that game before they feel as though they’ve seen all there is to offer.
Battlefield has always been a sandbox, and as with any sandbox multiplayer game, the opportunity for new things to happen that you’ve never seen before is high, and will very likely carry onward for the next few years as the game is supported through DLC and updates, and because of this I feel confident that much like Battlefield 4 before it, Battlefield 1 will be a shooter I will be returning to ad nauseum. Perhaps not to grind out at a leveling treadmill, but to interact with some of the most satisfying shooting mechanics and some of the most well-thought out refinements I’ve seen from a shooter sequel in some time.
Any absurd antics which happen in the meantime, well, that’s just the cherry.

From → Games, Uncategorized

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  1. Spitz’s Year End Wrap Up 2016 | Spitz's Soapbox

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