Battlefield 1: The Great War through the Eyes of DICE

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“Battlefield 1” hits on themes that are rare in the modern-day shooter genre; although the time period is set during WWI, the game plays more like a hybrid between WWI, WWII, and the modern era.

DICE and EA’s take on “The War to End All Wars” will leave you breathless. In the very first mission, the player is thrust immediately onto the western front where a battle rages between the German Empire and Great Britain, a battle that will decide the outcome of the entire war; The Battle of the Somme. In real life, more than 300,000 people died and more than a million were wounded on that half-mile strip of land in northern France. The developers of Battlefield 1 were not afraid of showing the player the raw carnage that the age of mechanized warfare had wrought.

The campaign is organized into short stories that are dubbed “War Stories” in the menu. The stories consist of first person dialogue by a soldier and it includes a small cutscene in-between gameplay. The stories themselves are quite moving, as they highlight the horrors of the war through the soldiers’ eyes, as well as hitting on the themes of selflessness and sacrifice. The campaign is rather short, coming in around at only a small 6 hours of content, with the game’s real highlight being online multiplayer.

One minute, you’re lying in bed on a Sunday morning, fresh, ready to awaken and begin the day. The next, you find yourself on the cold, dark earth. Ear shattering explosions erupt around you as artillery shells land mere feet away. You’re picked up from the mud and dirt by an unfamiliar face; a soldier. He’s yelling something, but your ears are ringing, nothing can be heard. Men are savagely fighting one another inches from your face, stabbing one another with bayonets, beating each other with bricks, blood flowing over the earth like a river.

However, the main focus of Battlefield has always been its multiplayer experience, and DICE manages to pull off a satisfying and exciting flurry of game modes that will keep you coming back for more. The addictive nature of Battlefield’s multiplayer is notorious and it certainly does not let up in Battlefield 1. Classic game modes such as Conquest, Rush, and Team Deathmatch are back and better than ever as players have the option take control of authentic WWI tanks, aircraft, and new “behemoth” vehicles that aim to change up the course of a battle ranging from Zeppelins to dreadnoughts. A new game mode dubbed “Operations” combines the elements of Conquest and Rush into one, creating a large-scale and action-packed game mode that currently offers the highest level of chaos of any of the game modes by far. Additionally, Operations offers historical context before and after each battle with hypothetical scenarios, adding in a bit of storytelling flair to this outstanding addition of a game mode.

Operations mode puts players on a team on one of two warring sides during several pivotal battles during the war. One side attacks and attempts to capture flags and push the enemy back through different zones. Once a zone is captured, the spawn point is shifted to that zone and new flags spawn ahead of the previous zone. The other side, the defending side, has to prevent the attackers from taking their zones.

The attacking side has a certain number of “tickets,” representing 1 death. Every time an attacker dies, the ticket count is reduced by 1 and the goal is to get that count to 0 before the attackers take over all of the flags within a zone. The attackers only have 3 chances to capture all the zones.

If they hit 0 tickets in a round, they have one less chance and are reinforced with a Behemoth, which is a large vehicle manned by several players that can do substantial damage.

The game plays differently than DICE’s previous “Battlefield” game, “Battlefield 4” (it is important to note that DICE did not develop “Battlefield Hardline,” which is technically the previous game in the series). The class system has been reworked, which mixes up things for players who have become accustomed to the standard four classes.

The biggest change was the splitting of the Assault and Medic classes (which had previously been combined and called the Assault class) and the removal of the Engineer class. DICE gave the anti-tank weapons from the Engineer class to the Assault class. The Support class got the repair tool. The game also saw the addition of four new specialty classes, which can only be used under certain circumstances.

As compared to “Battlefield 4,” in which the player spawned into a vehicle with a chosen class. In this installment, a specialty class is given depending on if the player spawns into a vehicle. Tanker class is given if the player spawns into a tank, the Pilot class if spawned into an aircraft, and the Calvary class if spawned onto or climb onto a horse. Additionally, at certain times during matches, the player gets the chance to pick up an Elite class loadout in a crate located on the map. These include a heavy machine gun, a flamethrower, or an anti-tank rifle.

Battlepacks were also overhauled. Instead of dropping much-needed attachments, they only drop weapon skins now. DICE developers felt that it was unfair for players to need to buy or earn Battlepacks at an extremely slow rate in order to get the chance at getting a weapon attachment they wanted to use. Although there is a section in the “Store” tab to buy Battlepacks via micro-transactions, it is currently disabled and there is no word of when it will come. Meanwhile, players have a random chance at earning one at the end of a match and DICE has confirmed that there is an algorithm in place to ensure that all players have a change to obtain Battlepacks. Additionally, if a player doesn’t like the skin they got, or if it is a duplicate, they can “scrap” it and use the scrapped skins that they’ve saved up to buy a new Battlepack.

Currently there are nine maps to play on, with future purchasable content coming from the developers who promise to add additional maps, game modes, weapons, and vehicles. So far, each map share some features in common. For instance, houses, fences, and even entire hill-sides can be destroyed, showcasing DICE’S commitment to make a realistic war-simulation game. Special weapons can also be picked up by looking for them on certain maps such as a flamethrower, a heavy machine gun with a suit of steel armor, and an extremely powerful anti-tank rifle. Additionally, each map has special anti-air and anti-tank gun emplacements that are designed to support the rest of the team by destroying troublesome hostile aircraft and vehicles.

As was mentioned earlier, “Battlefield 1” feels more like a hybrid game than a WWI shooter. For the time period, there seems to be a lot of automatic weapons, which were still mostly in the experimental phase during the war and were not widely used. In fact, some of the guns feel more fitting of a WWII game.

From a graphical standpoint, the game is impressive in its aesthetics and textures, from the earth beneath the player’s feet to the clouds and sky above them. Explosions often send dirt and debris flying around in a highly realistic fashion, along with the fog, storms, and sandstorms. These weather effects look impressive and do not lower the frame rate, shaking up game play in tightly contested matches.  Although a few bugs currently exist in the game, they do not at all detract from the overall experience and can be quickly dealt with or avoided when confronted with them.

While DICE nailed the environment of the battlefields to make it feel like WWI, the guns and gameplay just made it feel like a badly mixed cocktail of three different subgenres of First Person Shooter (FPS) games. When approached about this, DICE commented that they weren’t in the market to make a historically accurate representation of WWI, but rather were in the market to make a very fun game that would appeal to a wide audience. If one were to overlook this somewhat minor detail, Battlefield 1 still widely exceeds all expectations.

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