This game is a joke. A bad one at that, and the only problem is that the developers were completely unaware of it.
World War I is a setting which has been rarely explored in video games. Save for the odd exception, developers seemed to favour players gunning down Nazi stormtroopers over the Kaiser’s forces, which was a great shame. This was, after all, an era of great change, developing tactics and the first steps into an era of mechanised warfare. The problem is that the developer squandered this, ignoring not only how the war itself developed but even the hostile, horrific nature of trench warfare. While no one was expecting Verdun, especially given the Battlefield series’ broader appeal, most were hoping for at least a determined stab at authenticity in a few places. Let’s just say that DICE’s creation fell short of what we were expecting.
Let’s start with the campaign, which sees you playing as a bunch of super soldiers who would put John Matrix to shame. For all the times the cutscenes try to impress upon the player some sense of PTSD or regret, the second you get into the gameplay you’re capable of mowing down troops by the hundreds. Not only that but historical accuracy quickly goes out the window, with DICE mashing together any experimental or odd weapon they can and distributing it throughout an entire army.
In one particular case, a German mission sees you sprinting uphill, kitted out like Iron Man and firing a heavy machinegun from the hip, mowing down hundreds of troops with ease. Then, just to top this, you promptly jump onto a flak gun, blow up a full wing of enemy bombers on your lonesome and walk away unscathed from a collision with a crashing aircraft. If the game promptly cut to Ultramarines deep-striking onto the trenches, or William "B.J." Blazkowicz fighting Mecha Hitler the only reaction it would get is “Ah, now this all makes sense!”
Even once you drop the campaign and delve into the multiplayer aspects, things don’t get much better. Everyone and anyone in the game is armed with experimental semi-automatic weapons they can wield with ease, and explosions are rife throughout the game. There is no effort put into class co-ordination or even trench fighting, merely an all-out rush-brawl by both sides. Vehicles are so dominant that there are often only one or two major tanks per side, and visibility is such an issue that snipers rule supreme over any map. While it is still competently made, and there is a solid backbone for a fun game here, it’s jarring how little is actually done to reflect the ways of war from this era.
Even the more rustic nature of the technology is all but ignored, as guns are near recoilless and there’s barely a bolt action rifle to be found. Worse still though, the few times it does get into the World War I spirit of things, it actually hurts the game. While DICE were fine widely distributing so many experimental guns that it breaks any semblance of immersion, there are no options for real weapons customisation. The more engaging or entertaining stuff found in the likes of Battlefield 4 is nowhere to be seen, and you will be hard pressed to find anything of value beyond he occasional scope.
Now, this said, the game does have a few genuinely great moments which does save it despite all of this. For starters, the engine itself is top notch, and graphically the game is absolutely beautiful to behold. The attention to detail across the various maps is astounding, and how they shift over the course of a battle is one of the highlights of the entire experience. While it’s certainly nothing like early 20th century combat, many of the room by room firefights are definitely entertaining as well. The problem is, however, that they’re no more so than prior Battlefield games with few improvements. At its core, this is merely a modern military shooter with a 1918 coat of paint. All it unfortunately keeps coming down to is pointing at the last game in the series and saying “yeah, it’s like that but worse.”
If you are merely after an entertaining FPS experience and lack any real investment in this era, you might want to give this one a look. Switch off your brain and shoot a few hundred Ottoman Empire forces by all means, but if you were awaiting a faithful World War I combat experience, give this one a miss.
BATTLEFIELD 1 / DEVELOPER: EA DICE / PUBLISHER: ELECTRONIC ARTS / PLATFORMS: MICROSOFT WINDOWS, XBOX ONE, PLAYSTATION 4 / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW