a-look-back-at-battlefield-1

Battlefield 1 is one of my favourite games of this generation. And despite it being roughly 4 years old and getting a sequel (Battlefield V), I still find myself thinking about it, and how much I enjoyed it.

So what better to do than take a look back at it, see why it succeeded and why it’s remembered the way it is?

Declaring War

Cast one’s mind back to May 6th 2016, and you might recall the Battlefield 1 reveal livestream. The game had been leaked prior thanks to a German retail listing, an early ad on the Xbox One Dashboard and a photo of promotional material being posted online.

This didn’t take too much away from the bomb that was going to be dropped and the shockwave it would send out.

The stream itself was the usual affair with these sort of things – developers explaining what to expect and what they set out to do, and someone higher up with the PR talk.

So what was this bomb I mentioned? Well, that would be the Battlefield reveal trailer that was shown. How is a trailer for a new Battlefield a Bomb at a Battlefield event? Let me explain.

Mobilising Forces

First off is the time period the game was set in, the First World War. A conflict over 100 years old, maliciously documented but rarely touched on in video games. The setting would lend itself to more classic gameplay, no jet packs or wall-running while still being able to provide new experiences to players.

Secondly, the setting was also the opposite of what Battlefield’s biggest competitor Call of Duty was doing, with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare being set in the future, much to players’ dismay. People wanted something more grounded in reality, a game set in the modern era or the past. And Battlefield 1 was going to give them the chance at something historical.

Thirdly, the trailer was brilliant. The imagery, the beautiful visuals, the synced up audio, it got you pumped and it sparked interest and intrigue in the time period. This was truly a perfect way to reveal your game, coming out hard and swinging.

The reveal trailer for Battlefield 1 as of the time of writing sits at about 65 million views on YouTube with 2.3 million likes. As opposed to Call of Duty Infinite Warfare’s reveal trailer on Youtube with about 44 million views and 3.8 million dislikes. Yes, dislikes.

The stars were aligning for DICE and its upcoming game. People were clambering to see and hear more, and they would at E3 (well, EA Play technically).

battlefield-1

Your Country Needs You

E3/EA Play 2016 rolls around, and with it came a new trailer for Battlefield 1. But we got a better look at the game during the Battlefield 1 multiplayer livestream. Which pitted two teams of online personalities and celebrities against each other in a game of Conquest.

This was the first true look we got at Battlefield 1 in action, and it showed the epic spectacle the game was shaping up to be.

I still remember seeing the zeppelin behemoth coming down in flames for the first time. It looked like a cutscene, but it wasn’t. It was happening in the middle of a multiplayer match.

There was no smoke and mirrors, this was pure gameplay, and I wanted to get my hands on it.

And even though celebrity inclusion felt mostly forced, who can forget Snoop Dogg on camera smoking IRL while walking into a trench wall in-game?

Gamescom 2016 was next, and it was a similar affair, a new trailer and a livestream. During one of the multiplayer matches that were streamed, the winning team won by one point at the last second.

Over the Top

After playing the open beta for Battlefield 1, when it wasn’t on the receiving end of a DDoS attack, I was left hankering for the full-game.

Then finally on October 27th I got it, played it and ended up playing it a lot throughout the game’s lifecycle. I unlocked nearly every item in the base game, participated in events and made it my personal game of the year. But why was that?

The Single-player

Battlefield 1 went down a different route with its single-player opting to tell multiple smaller stories over one large one in a mode called ‘War-Stories’. It helped convey the massive scale of the First World War and could educate people on different fronts of the conflict. I remember speaking to someone who didn’t know that fighting occurred outside of Europe. But Battlefield 1 exposed them to theatres of the war they didn’t know existed.

Even with Battlefield’s vehicle heavy multiplayer, the vehicle gameplay never really gets utilised much on their single-player offerings. But here we got a chapter focused on a pilot and another centered around a tank crew. It was good to see this and it mixed up the gameplay.

The Prologue

My Favourite part of War-Stories was actually the prologue. Which saw you defend your lines repelling an enemy attack. Then counter-attacking, by leading the charge in a tank. Before switching back to foot infantry during a skirmish in no-man’s land.

The sights of soldiers being wounded, cowering, hopelessly strolling through the fighting awaiting an almost certain fate, the rain pouring down and the yellow mustard gas sticking out in the dark gloomy surroundings painted a picture of despair and horror.

If you died on this mission it wasn’t game over. Instead, you were presented with the name of the person you were playing as and the year they were born, then you switched to someone else. Seeing this made me think about the number of losses and the ages of the men who fought. The prologue was a standout section of War-Stories.

The Graphics

On the visual side of things, Battlefield 1 exceeded with flying colours. It looked beautiful and still does today. It’s no wonder as the FrostBite engine which the game runs on has powered many lookers.

The All-Out War

When playing multiplayer matches in most shooters it feels more like a small shootout as opposed to a larger conflict. But with Battlefield this isn’t the case.

This is down to factors like the map size, player count and vehicle combat. You’re part of a war in Battlefield 1 with both sides absolutely going at it with sizable amounts of infantry and machines designed to destroy.

This is where Behemoths come in, large vehicles such as Armoured Trains, Zeppelins and Dreadnoughts that will join the fight if one team is losing by a significant amount. These Behemoths were a sight to behold and could turn the tide of battle in the right hands.

The Immersion

The all-out war of multiplayer managed to create immersion you won’t find in many other games.

Crushing sounds of explosions, gunfire, gruesome screaming, churning tanks and the howling planes above assist in putting you in the center of the warfare.

Dynamic weather not only looked cool, it could even change how you fought. For example, heavy fog or a sand storm reduces visibility, forcing the fighting to get more up close, while hindering planes that may have been carrying out bombing runs.

The sounds, graphics, intensity and dynamic elements made Battlefield 1 an immersive experience that is still one of the best around.

The Time Period

A time period like the First World War might not sound like the most exciting setting for an FPS. Hell, even EA didn’t green light initial pushes to develop a Battlefield game set in the conflict.

But DICE’s approach to the First World War made it so. Some liberties were taken but it still remained grounded. Because of this, the gameplay still felt like Battlefield. All the while presenting a setting most wouldn’t associate with the typical gameplay of the series.

The First World War felt refreshing, we haven’t had that many games set in it. Aswell, we recently had quite a lot of shooters set in the future. So, in the end, going back over 100 years managed to feel new.

The Operations

Operations was a new game mode in Battlefield 1 and quickly became a fan favourite.

Operations put two teams against each other, one had the task of defending objectives while the other had to take said objectives.

This new mode was more than this though, it was special. You see, the attacking team only had a certain amount of lives, that if lost before the objectives were taken meant losing a round, and 3 lost rounds would end in a defender victory.

If the attacking team took the objectives, however, the defending forces would retreat to another section of the map.

If the defending team lost every objective on the map, they could potentially fall back to another map entirely where fighting would resume.

Operations felt like a mode that was perfect for a First World War game, the pushing forward through no man’s land, getting in your opponent’s trenches forcing them back, it defiantly fit.

Each operation that was playable was based around actual battles that happened. This paired with the points I just made go back to the feeling of all-out war and the immersion factor.

Retreat

Of course, for all the positives there were shortcomings and some parts that could have been done better.

The Progression

Multiplayer progression was your run-of-the-mill Battlefield progression. Play games, earn XP, level up and unlock things. You get the idea. But for some reason there are no unlocks between class level four and level ten.

It made leveling through the classes unrewarding. I don’t see why the unlocks couldn’t have been spaced out better.

Weapon skins were unlocked through RNG Battlepacks, which at launch were earned by randomly getting picked at the end of a match. You had to win a lottery, to open a blind box. The way you received these loot boxes, was improved in a patch at a later date, but it didn’t change the terrible way you had to get the skins out of loot boxes.

If you weren’t lucky enough to roll a vehicle skin in the slot machine, then you had to get all the way to level 10 with a vehicle before you got some skins. Or you could buy the more expensive special editions, great!

Want one of the badass melee weapons, well you better get it 5 times in your Battlepacks before you actually unlock it. Sounds fun, right?

Battlepacks could be purchased with scrap earned in-game, and could not be purchased with real money at launch. But EA couldn’t have that for too long as you could later down the line use actual money.

What was up with the original medal system? Where you had to pick one medal and could only progress on them one at a time. You better hope the game chooses one you like the sound of too, as it selected a few at a time randomly for you to choose between.

Oh, and ribbons weren’t a thing at launch either.

The Customisation

Battlefield 4 had fantastic levels of weapon customisation. You could add and swap all sorts of attachments. Along with a sizeable skin selection for you to choose from. Skins weren’t just for weapons, as your soldiers could rock different camouflages as well.

So when Battlefield 1 lacked similar levels it was a shame. I understand that the time period put restrictions on this sort of thing. Even so, it was still a step-down.

Weapon customisation was bare-bones. You could add or remove your bayonet, alter scope magnification, change skin, swap optics and adjust recoil direction. Weapon attachments that changed the way guns handled, were put in different variations of weapons. Limiting your options to mix and match.

Vehicle weapons and abilities were treated the same way.

The Map Suez

This map was terrible, I even started calling it ‘Suez spawn trap’ because that’s what would happen.

In Conquest the objectives were placed in a straight line, meaning once one team had the majority of objectives it was easy to just hang around, lock down the enemy spawn and wreck them. Any sort of advance could be stopped with ease.

Suez received a change, with the number of objectives reduced. It remedied the issue slightly, but the problems were still present.

In the end, the objective placement on Suez was shaken up completely. With objectives placed in a more traditional manner, resulting in the map playing much better.

The Forgettable Aspects

For a game I remember so much of I must say some of it was forgettable. The main culprit would be the campaign’s gameplay and characters.

Most missions in the campaign play out pretty standard, point and shoot until the enemies are dead. With some average stealth thrown in there for good measure.

I don’t even remember the name of one character apart from Lawrence of Arabia, but he’s a real person.

If only the rest of the campaign could have left as much of an impact as the prologue did. Because ultimately the single-player was forgettable for the most part. Especially compared to the very memorable multiplayer, which will leave you with plenty of stories of your own.

The Shortage of Content

At Battlefield 1’s launch, Test range, Hardcore, Fog of War and custom games were all unavailable.

All of these were added in later, though I fell they should have been in the game at launch.

If you ignored weapon variations, then you would have realised that there weren’t that many guns. Again, the time period could pose an issue with weapons that could be included.

After the DLC packs and updates where released, we had more weapons, so there were definitely weapons out there that could have been the game but weren’t. If we have had them at launch this scarcity of weapons wouldn’t have been such a dilemma.

Why, the unlocks between class level four and ten could have been a thing if we had more weapons.

The Lack of Bolt-Action fighting

For a game set in war with most of its fighting featuring bolt-action rifles, Battlefield 1 had a lot of shootouts using full and semi-autos.

I know why this was done, to keep the gameplay fun and high octane. But I can’t help but think I would have liked to see bolt-action rifles emphasised more.

A game mode eventually made its way into multiplayer, which limited players to using bolt and lever-action rifles. I enjoyed the mode, but completely axing the faster firing weapons which were in the First World War was a shame, as weapons like the Lewis gun are iconic and played a big part in the war.

Maybe they could have had bigger machine guns limit movement significantly and have SMG’s rewarded via performing well in a match.

In the end, I know why Battlefield 1 dealt with this topic the way it did, variety, class uniqueness and fun factor. And Battlefield 1 was a ton of fun.

Reinforcements

As was common with Battlefield games before Battlefield V, there was a season pass which contained four DLC packs.

The first DLC pack called ‘They Shall Not Pass’ and the second ‘In the Name Of The Tsar’, were the best two in my opinion.

They both added new maps, weapons and nations. The first added the French while the second the Russians. Both countries played a big part in the war. Getting to experience the snow-covered Eastern Front, again showed the enormous scale of the war. It wasn’t called the Great War or World War for nothing.

The third DLC pack to release titled ‘Turning Tides’ brought with it maps which had a heavier focus on aquatic and amphibious fighting. This let players take part in the infamous Gallipoli campaign in Operations.

‘Apocalypse’ was the fourth and last piece of DLC for Battlefield 1. Despite including maps set within the blood-soaked fields of the Somme and muddy hell that was Passchendaele, I found this pack the weakest of the four.

The War to End all Wars

Battlefield 1 had a successful life, right from the get-go with its guns blazing reveal.

I know I’m not the only one who thought that it was a fantastic game. Even after its sequel, I would still say it is my most beloved game in the franchise.

It makes the lackluster Battlefield V more of a gut punch. If only it could have done what its predecessor did so well, but in the Second World War, we could have had another top game on our hands.

Battlefield V wasn’t a bad game, I had some good times with it, but compared to Battlefield 1 and even 4, it just didn’t hit the same levels they did.

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