Back in 2007, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare almost single-handedly redefined the first person shooter, tackling war in a post-9/11 setting where before the genre primarily dealt with WW2. From that point onwards, rival shooters Medal of Honour and Battlefield would follow suit, borrowing from the Call of Duty formula yet never surpassing it.
Almost 10 years later and EA have finally produced a game that surpasses the most recent Call of Duty installments, all by stepping away from attempting to impersonate and creating something new.
Set in WW1, Battlefield 1 is a harrowing experience, one that is well crafted and conveys a meaningful message through six short but brilliant single-player campaigns. Each part acts as a separate story, telling of different soldiers’ experiences around the world fighting for the allies. One sees you play as Danny Edwards, a former British chauffeur who becomes a tank driver, while another pits you as pilot Clyde Blackburn, an unreliable narrator who retells how he miraculously saved the day.
What’s noticeable is how uniquely human each story feels: these are regular men and women fighting for their country, risking their lives. This, of course, creates its own problem: the game is based on your characters killing numerous unnamed soldiers, yet the developers want to show how each person had their own family and friends. It’s one of the many moral quandaries of war, not least of all when you realise how young many of these men were, and something the developers seemingly want you to contemplate throughout.
However, while these messages are obvious, they are not overbearing or completely in your face. This is, after all, a video game, one that is computer generated and created as a form of escapism. Perhaps the easiest way to leave behind the moral ambiguities of war is through the multiplayer.
Where the campaign smoothly introduces you to the game’s different mechanics by having each character command a different play style - whether playing in heavy armour or controlling a tank - the multiplayer is fast-paced and exhilarating, leaving little room for contemplation. Instead, it’s a dog-eat-dog world where players must fend for their lives in miserable trenches and abandoned french towns.
Compared to the recent spate of super-soldier based weaponry, taking things back to basics through the WW1 setting feels refreshing. Gone are people bouncing off walls: instead, the battle feels raw, unfiltered, and no one of the four classes feels overpowered. The most notable addition to Battlefield’s repertoire of multiplayer modes is Operations in which you reenact actual WW1 campaigns, one team acting as defenders while the other attackers. There’s a narrative to these missions that adds to the immersive experience, making a great addition to the game’s online multiplayer.
As an entire package, Battlefield 1 is the most complete game in the series since Bad Company 2, something of a surprise considering the third and fourth were less impressive. No doubt, the game is one of this gerneration's greatest shooters.
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