War is hell, and many of the games set in modern times that dominate the first-person shooter landscape have lost sight of that.
By moving the latest entry in Electronic Arts’ popular FPS franchise back in time — 100 years back — “Battlefield 1” raises the stakes of its single-player campaign, attaching them to World War I.
From the moment “BF1” begins, players experience life and death on the front line first hand. You’ll control several soldiers, all destined for KIA status, and each death is followed by the soldier’s name and life span. I don’t know if the names are real, but wondering about that did prompt contemplation about an ancestor who perished in the Great War. Few shooters can do that.
The solo campaign is broken up into six stories spanning the globe, each with two to four missions. There’s great variety here, including stealth-preferred sections and vehicular combat. Some stories are gritty, while a few are more Hollywood-esque. There’s bound to be something for everyone.
The entire single-player experience isn’t long — maybe four to seven hours on normal difficulty — and most FPS players would be better off bumping the difficulty up to hard. Any replay value likely comes from going back for hidden field manuals or completing challenges to unlocking codex entries with info on WWI.
But really, the entire solo component is prep work for the crown jewel of “BF1”, and that’s online multiplayer.
The move back to the 1910s does little to diminish the variety of weapons or vehicles available. “BF1” boasts four infantry classes, several armored ground vehicles, three types of airplanes and a horse. Yes, equestrian combat was a thing at the same time as tanks. Knowledge is power.
Core “Battlefield” modes like Conquest, Team Deathmatch and Rush are back, but the best fun can be found in the new Operations. These matches resemble Rush with its attacker-defender dynamic but mixes the capture points of Conquest and can take place over multiple maps, depending upon which Operation was selected.
Operations is the only “BF1” online mode with a narrative to it, adding to the stakes at hand. Boosts such as armored trains and blimps are granted to teams who need help catching up, helping to maintain a balance.
The other new online mode, War Pigeons, is a bit like capture the flag but with messenger pigeons that can be shot from the sky.
Between the superb online component and short-and-sweet story mode, “Battlefield 1” is the most diverse shooter on the market.