Monday, April 10, 2017

“Battlefield 1” - A Belated Review

The most depressing cover art...
  At this time the “Battlefield 1” announcement trailer is the most liked video game trailer on YouTube. This is indicative of the popularity of the franchise and the rarity of games about World War I. It also showed gamers the comeback of mechanics that have been missing in the storied 12-game franchise since “Battlefield: Bad Company 2”. Battlefield’s formulaic large-scale cooperative-based warfare is as powerful as ever, this time painted against the backdrop of the horrors of “The War to End All Wars.”

It's ok to cry... I won't tell.
Those words are the first thing you see when you start the game, followed with the iconic “It Ended Nothing.” The horrors of the war are especially evident in opening moments of the single-player campaign. You are put in the shoes of one of Harlem Hellfighters, the famous African American unit renowned for their bravery. Your position is being overrun, and no matter how skilled you are in First Person Shooters, you will die. You are supposed to die. This is not a cheap gimmick. The developer DICE wants you to remember, that even though you’re playing a game: “War is hell.” With every death, you are presented with a screen that shows the soldier’s name, the year of their birth and death. At the end of this introduction, the cinematic shows the brutality of trench warfare, with two opposing soldiers dumbfounded by the chaos, bodies, and spent shells surrounding them. They make eye-contact and wearily put their weapons down, recognizing their shared humanity. Few games, besides "Valiant Hearts: The Great War," have tried to show this side of one of the most heinous human conflicts.

The Arditi, while unrealistic, are fun to play as they are the terminators of WWI.
The remainder of the single-player campaign is separated into five “War-stories,” each focusing on a different character reminiscing about the war. There is a much greater focus on the emotional and psychological effects of the war and a great variation in locations, including Middle Eastern deserts, the Alps, France and more. There are some specific standouts: “Avanti Savoia” has you fighting as a member of the Arditi, an Italian mountaineer regiment; “The Runner” puts you in the shoes of an Anzac runner delivering important messages, similar to the Mel Gibson movie “Gallipoli” (1981); and “Nothing is Written” has you fighting as a female Bedouin warrior alongside Lawrence of Arabia against the Ottoman Empire. The bigger focus on a poignant story and characters brings “Battlefield 1” back into the realms of “Battlefield: Bad Company 2”, which many consider the last great single-player “Battlefield” game. It brings back greater destructibility, large open-world environments that allow you to make your own path and characters you actually care about. The single-player mainly serves as an informal five-hour tutorial to prepare you for the multiplayer the series is famous for.

The chaos gets even better when the bugs come out and the blimp fire-dances.
The DICE-brand of multiplayer chaos is alive and well in “Battlefield 1”. The lack of automatic weapons might turn some players off after getting so used to them in all the other “Battlefield” games, but it pays homage to historical accuracy. Some of this is sacrificed for the sake of playability and fun, like the inclusion of Elite Classes, which are ripped straight out of “Star Wars: Battlefront”. This hurts the balance somewhat, as they tend to tip the match to one side. Helping the balance are the game’s excellent maps (Suez still not included), graphics and sound design, and the new Behemoths. Some of the weapons are also experimental and were never actually used in the war and some features, like the ability to switch between bolt-action and semi-automatic mode using the Pedersen device for the M1903 Springfield and full-level map destructibility are omitted for the sake of balancing. Gas masks make their utilitarian debut here, as almost every other game simply uses them for cosmetic purposes. The flamethrower is a terror to behold, spraying realistically, like never before. The inclusion of horses, trains and the newfound operation of tanks and airplanes cements the game in the historical and social significance of The Great War. 

He'll be fine, it's only his body. Tis' but a flesh wound.
The frenetic atmosphere of war is supremely palpable thanks to the smaller details some might not notice: the atmospheric weather system, which can turn a sniper-friendly match into a game of hide and seek; the extreme destruction of buildings and terrain which can turn a pristine town surrounded by beautiful grass hills, only to have it look like a war-torn nightmare by the end. You can even hide in the holes the artillery makes in the ground. This level of detail had me breathlessly staring at my screen with my mouth open during a match when someone was hiding on the upper floor of a windmill and they revealed their position to me because their footsteps on the wooden stairs caused dust to fall towards me. The game also features 3D surround sound, for those with the proper hardware, drawing you further into the chaos. Graphics are as pristine as ever and will look great, even on medium settings, if your PC can’t handle it. There are some framerate issues on the PS4 and Xbox One, but not enough to hurt the game.

RIP cars and passengers. GO TRAIN GO!
The gameplay itself is objective based, just like previous “Battlefield” games. The modes are similar to previous games, with a couple of new additions: Conquest, where fight over the control of several objectives, and deaths also no longer count against the ticket count you need to win; Rush, where you attack or defend telegraphs; War Pigeons, a play on Capture the Flag, where you must defend and hold a pigeon and then release it; Domination, a small scale infantry-focused version of Conquest; Operations, a prolonged many-map version of Rush; and of course, Team Deathmatch. It is evident by the server traffic that Operations has replaced Rush as the mode of choice. It also helps tie the multiplayer into the confines of the reality of the war. Each round has a narrative that tells you the historical importance of the battles, and each map has a different focus. Unlike “Call of Duty”, you cannot carry your team to win and your kill/death ratio will not matter outside of Team Deathmatch. You must organize, work together and through superior tactics dupe and defeat your enemy.

Did you not want to spend $100 on 1 game? That's too bad!
The game was well received by the gaming community and critics alike. However, it is not without faults. The emotional strength and power of the single-player campaign is somewhat undone in the multiplayer. The lack of authentic trench warfare, as well as other inaccuracies, stand out. While these sacrifices are made in the name of fun, it still feels somewhat like a cop-out. The overwhelming amount of detected hackers, at least on PC, also stands out. This may also be because of Fair Fight, DICE’s anti-cheat program is actually doing its job - it shows in chat whenever someone is kicked by the system for cheating. The lack of Hardcore mode, private servers, custom games, France and Russian nations detract from the experience. This is symbolic of what we saw with “Star Wars: Battlefront”. The publisher, “Electronic Arts”, was ranked for two years in a row as the “Worst Company in America,” even worse than Comcast. Their greed forces developers to cut their games in an effort to sell the remaining pieces as pricey downloadable content further down the line. The DLC Premium pass for “Battlefield 1”, just like the one for “Star Wars: Battlefront,” is $50, which is only $10 shy of two full-price games. You essentially have to buy two games to get everything “Battlefield” has to offer you. This is a blatant cash grab on their part. While the release of the new DLC, "They Shall Not Pass," was paired with Premium Friends, which lets you play on the new maps as long as one person in the party has the DLC, it doesn't allow you to use the XP you gain in those matches unless you purchase the DLC. This is a step in the right direction in addressing the split of the community when DLC packs come out, but it's not enough. Most won't want to play unless they're unlocking something, as it feels like there is not progression. This also feels like just a small token pat on the head from EA while they're still trying to get you to buy the DLC. Battlefield games have always had a lot of content post-release and it will probably be worth it in the long-run, but for now casual players should wait until a price drop.

Horses, the other "tank."
“Battlefield 1” is not a perfect game. However, the brilliance of the things it does well meshes together in a way that outshines even the oddest of its glitches. The frenzied pace of its 64-player multiplayer matches is unlike anything else I have ever played. The beauty and exhilaration of each match is the most fun I have had in a video game in years. I would highly recommend “Battlefield 1”, especially if you enjoy First Person Shooters or gaming in general. While it does not place a humongous emphasis on historical accuracy, it pays homage and respects to one of the worst conflicts of the 20th century. The opening text illuminates the fact that “The Great War” happened over 100 years ago. DICE recognizes the historical importance of “Never Forgetting” the horrors that generation inflicted upon themselves and the world. Even after the last survivors died, we are still left with a terrifying legacy, immortalized in the buried trenches, active minefields, and unexploded munitions of “The War to End All Wars.”

And the verdict is

Graphics – 10
Sound – 10
Game-play – 9
Story – 8
Lifeline – 7
Overall – 8.8

To see just how far Battlefield has come, here is the intro to Battlefield 1942

No comments :

Post a Comment