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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


PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Battlefield 1'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 20, 2016 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

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.

Pre-order Battlefield 1

It's no secret that modern warfare has changed how combat is handled. Soldiers on the ground are frequently replaced by long-range drones, air strikes and other forms of combat that are far more effective but less cinematic. This certainly has translated to video games, where attempts to modernize while keeping traditional shooter gameplay can feel like sci-fi more than anything else. Perhaps that is why Battlefield 1 is going back to the franchise's roots. Rather than continuing with modern shooter gameplay, it's taking a trip back to World War I, where close-range combat and low-tech fighting was the name of the game. Our hands-on with Battlefield 1 included time with two game modes: Conquest and Domination.

As an alternative take on World War I, Battlefield 1 focuses on a grittier and less futuristic type of violence than the recent Battlefield titles. Trenches and chemical weapons are both a big part of the combat. Trenches are important, since they allow you to move around without being as vulnerable to long-distance sniping and brutal strafing runs. You'll need to don your gas mask if you're entering an area filled with dangerous gas. Planes are incredibly powerful forces, but a careful shot in the air allows you to badly damage or shoot one down. Perhaps the coolest feature is the bayonet charge, where your character sprints forward and charges an enemy for an instant kill. Of course, you're screaming while doing this and have a cooldown afterward, so it's a high-risk/high-reward maneuver.

This is also true for vehicles. Rather than modern super-vehicles, you have armored cars and tanks that are brutally powerful offensively but rather weak on the defense. Planes play a very big part in combat, and dogfights are sure to remain a big part of the Battlefield experience. In the demo, we saw a giant war balloon that could rain down fire on the battlefield and could only be taken down by concentrated fire from enemy planes. On the other hand, it couldn't defend itself that well and needed its own fighters for support. When compared to previous games, it seems that controlling vehicles will be a big part of Battlefield 1.

There are four basic classes, each with advantages and disadvantages: Assault, Medic, Scout and Support. Assault is the combat-oriented class and can use grenades to take out heavily armored vehicles. The Medic can heal and revive allies. The Scout is good at providing information and sniping, and Support can resupply ammunition. Each class can be customized with different equipment and perks, but we didn't get to see much of them in our demo. Weapons could be swapped, but most classes had a strong starting point. There's sure to be more critical customization in the final game, but even in the demo, we could see that you needed a strong balance of classes to succeed.

The core combat mode we played was Conquest, and it should feel familiar to Battlefield players. Players are members of two armies fighting over a war-torn scrap of land. Players can team up into squads, which allow instant respawning on a squad member but can also respawn at a random location or back at the base. Armored cars, tanks and planes are available to take into battle, turning the ground fights into multi-front affairs. The main objective is to capture various points across the map. Points need to be held to succeed, turning the battle into a large affair comprised of various smaller squads trying to take or hold points.

The other game mode we tried was Domination, which can be a quick pick-up-and-play mode. Rather than the large, open environments in Conquest, Domination is smaller and more constrained. It focuses on three points in a small urban setting, and there are none of the larger vehicles or weapons. It's a much faster-paced game mode, with two or three rounds ending in the same time as one round of Conquest. It also seems far more geared for solo running and gunning. One or two players (or a single squad) can take and hold multiple points, so high-skill players can have a much larger impact on the game.

From what we've seen in our demo, Battlefield 1 doesn't reinvent the Battlefield wheel, but it's a lot of fun to play. The mechanics and technology make more sense for a World War I game than a modern shooter. The emphasis on teamwork and skill overcoming superior firepower, not to mention the intimidating but flawed vehicles and weapons, mean there's a lot more room for balanced gameplay. If the full campaign can live up to the demo, it may be one of the best Battlefield games to date. Players can get their hands on Battlefield 1 this October for PS4, Xbox One and PC.

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