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Battlefield 1

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: DICE
Release Date: Oct. 21, 2016

About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.


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PS4 Review - 'Battlefield 1'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on Nov. 23, 2016 @ 1:30 a.m. PST

Only in Battlefield 1 will you bring a horse to a tank fight and squad-up with your allies in epic multiplayer battles with up to 64 players.

Buy Battlefield 1

I wish that naming the game Battlefield 1 meant that DICE had considered greater tweaks to the Battlefield formula and not just referred to a World War I setting. The game does a great job of marrying the classic formula with the new theme, which features a decidedly unmodern and sometimes unfamiliar style of warfare. Many tweaks have been made to give the title a technical facelift, but for better or worse, Battlefield 1 doesn't feel much different from previous games in the series.

It's worth noting that Battlefield 1 does a fantastic job of driving home the World War I theme. The planes are propeller-driven and relatively slow when compared to Battlefield 1942'sWWII-era aircraft. The tanks are metal monsters clearly built before any nation had a firm grasp of what a tank would eventually become, other than the then-current need of traversing trenches and flinging shells in every direction. Infantry combat is punctuated by the use of mustard gas, which means you either leave the area or put on a gas mask (and are unable to aim down the sights). Additionally, you know it's a different kind of Battlefield when your squadmate is cut down by a dude wielding a sword on horseback.

It's not just the bigger, thematic changes that make the game different, but there are a lot of smaller touches that show another layer of polish. Aircraft take location-specific damage that affects their handling or completely knocks out the engine. Anti-air missiles don't exist yet, but flak certainly does and can easily tear a plane to shreds. For the first time, you can actively choose to repair your aircraft in mid-flight by holding down a button to fill a circular progress bar.

While the bar fills up, all other controls don't work, and if you stop repairing for any reason or take any damage, you must start over. Finishing one repair job only restores a fraction of the plane's health; a full repair takes multiple completions. This makes it a well-balanced mechanic, since a plane cannot repair while in combat, and you fly in a predictable line while being repaired, so enemy aircraft or ground-based flak could hit you.

Ground vehicles (minus the horse) operate in a similar capacity. After taking damage, the driver can choose to repair, and while doing so, the vehicle must remain stationary and take no damage. Unlike the aircraft, there is no location-specific damage other than tanks passively taking more damage from the sides and the rear. I suppose it's too much to ask from a Battlefield game to be able to blow off a tank's track, and it makes tank combat feel like the same battle of attrition that it's always been.

The biggest change, both mechanically and in terms of sheer size, is the inclusion of flyable zeppelins on some maps. If one team is losing badly, they get an equalizer as they near the end of a match; on maps with train tracks, it's a giant armored train, and on other maps, it's the zeppelin. The train can go back and forth on the tracks, and its massive turrets are operated by players to rain down hell at impressive ranges. More impressive is the giant, hydrogen-filled gasbag that suddenly dominates a large portion of the sky.

Once the zeppelin enters the fray and until it goes down, the dynamic of the map changes completely. Ground forces need to take cover from its ground turrets that can rake areas clear of enemy forces, and aircraft need to fret over the multiple anti-aircraft machine guns. After taking enough damage, the zeppelin bursts into flame and come crashing down, which decimates any buildings or players unlucky enough to be under it. Its wreckage also creates a dynamic new form of cover on the map. Sprinting from a building as it gets flattened by the wreckage of a burning zeppelin ranks right up there with the series' best moments.

Maps can feature different times of day for different matches, which has an obvious but relatively minor impact on the gameplay. Bigger changes come with weather conditions, such as rain making it tougher to spot movement in the distance or fog making it more difficult to spot anything outside of melee range. Even more impactful are the sandstorms on the desert maps; they not only have the visibility limitations of fog but also make it dangerous to fly a plane. The weather system does a good job of making each match feel distinct, as weather can change at any point in a match — and sometimes, it won't change at all.

Battlefield 1's on-foot combat doesn't seem to hit the right marks. On the one hand, the game thankfully avoids trench warfare in the most literal sense. Trenches still exist and you'll often use them for cover, but you won't feel that leaving one results in a swift death. It's in the other mechanics where the game falters, such as being unable to do anything with your loadout outside of a match. Even then, loadout items are locked behind the double-whammy of needing to level up a class to unlock them before spending in-game currency to purchase them for actual use. These "war bucks" are ambiguous in how you gain them other than doing so by generally playing the game, and they seem like a needless hurdle in the unlock system or the residual of a monetization scheme that didn't make the cut.

The real issue is that the gameplay doesn't feel a ton different than Battlefield 4, which didn't stray too far from what was established in Battlefield 3. Other than the impressive weather and well-executed WWI theme, you play the game in almost the exact same way, using the same tactics, and for the same objectives as in any other game. That's not to say there's much wrong with the established formula; there's a reason that the Battlefield series is as popular as it is, but the title is missing a gameplay element or feature that would set itself apart within the series. You might be using a bolt-action weapon from a trench, but for better or worse, it doesn't feel that different from any other game in the series.

Unfortunately, another area where the game stumbles in familiar fashion is in its single-player elements. An admirable amount of thought went into the overarching design, which is evident in the campaign being split into five sub-campaigns that are all available from the start and can be played in any order. Each one features a different playable character in a different theater of the war, from the swashbuckling fighter ace to the British tank driver. Each serves to showcase a different aspect of the game, and in this regard, the campaign is quite interesting.

It's within the actual missions where that interest falls apart. The fighter ace faces a ridiculous number of fragile, unintelligent enemy fighters to the point that even an iron-clad suspension of disbelief is going to bail on you. Other campaigns suffer similar flaws; you're essentially always the one soldier who always survives the impossible odds while facing impressive numbers of dramatically unimpressive enemies.

The genuinely sad part is that the game is set up to be something completely different; the opening makes you play as different soldiers who all end up dying, showcasing the realistic and woeful brutality of that war and punctuating each death with a black screen. It sets up the game as a smart and depressing portrayal of war, which is different from most modern games that feature war but have a campaign mode that ends up being another theme-park shooter where you single-handedly mow down enemies.

In any case, the game is an absolute juggernaut when it comes to visuals and audio. The impressive sound effects and overall sounds of war have always been an expected part of a Battlefield title, but the visual effects have been taken up a notch. Buildings still crumble when hit with tank shells, and the maps are as detailed as ever, but picking out distant infantry running through a sandstorm elevates the look of the series. The treat of watching a zeppelin burst into a massive inferno and fall to earth is enough to make just about every player pause and look skyward like a metaphorical turkey in the rain.

The blessing and curse of Battlefield 1 is that it is another well-polished entry in a series that clearly follows a sacred gameplay formula. Fans who have enjoyed the series thus far will find the same enjoyment in this latest entry, and aspects of World War I have clearly been carefully curated and incorporated into the game. However, it does feel that the series is playing things too safe. As good as the multiplayer is, I'm hopeful that future entries will take more risk. In the meantime, Battlefield 1 is another great offering that follows the series' enjoyable gameplay template.

Score: 8.7/10

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