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The war to end all wars

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    Battlefield 1

    Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding

    The war to end all wars

    DICE’s recent Battlefield efforts have been passable, but have failed to live up to the franchise’s heights. After being somewhat disappointed by Battlefield 3 and 4, I wasn’t going into Battlefield 1 with high expectations. However, after spending a substantial amount of time with the game, I am happy to report that Battlefield 1 blew me away, and it certainly should be in contention to be named one of the best shooters of 2016, and one of the best games in the Battlefield series.

    Gameplay – Multiplayer

    The bread and butter of the Battlefield experience has always been multiplayer. In fact, there are games in the series where there is only multiplayer, and so it is typically presented as the primary game mode. That doesn’t change in Battlefield 1, and people are likely to spend most of their time with the game playing through its huge multiplayer maps.

    What players will find in Battlefield 1 is a more streamlined presentation of the multiplayer that has been presented in the past. The classes have been boiled down to four distinct ones, with a few vehicle variations thrown in the mix as well. The default loadouts are enough for success, though players are encouraged to customize what weapons they bring into battle.

    In past Battlefield games, I thought sometimes the maps were too large, even with 64 players. Battlefield 1 divides the maps into bite-sized sections that ensure players are constantly in a firefight, taking an objective, sniping enemies from afar, or trying their best to complete some of their weekly challenges. Players are rarely ever out of the action, which makes each match especially thrilling.

    There are other elements that make the matches thrilling as well. The map design is impeccable, with DICE taking what it learned from Star Wars Battlefront in terms of making the maps busy and full of interesting details, and applying that knowledge to Battlefield 1. The maps are very memorable, highly detailed, and also highly destructible, bringing back a level of destructibility to the franchise that hasn’t been seen since Bad Company 2.

    The game makes vehicles much easier to control than in the past, and the suite of World War I vehicles are a blast to use. Players can easily spawn right into vehicles when the option is available, which results in a wider variety of players being able to use vehicles than were able to in the past. Allowing players to switch between different classes, vehicles, and more in a single match ensures that there is constant variety in Battlefield 1’s multiplayer matches.

    I do have a couple of gripes with the multiplayer, however. First off, the progression system is severely lacking. It takes an absurd amount of XP to level up a class, and the rewards for doing so are not very exciting. Unlocking new weapons is fine, but even then that doesn’t happen fast enough to really push forward the grind.

    The battlepacks – which are now microtransactions at the time of this writing – are partly to blame for Battlefield 1’s lackluster progression. The randomization of it just doesn’t lend itself well to a satisfying progression loop.

    Something else I found annoying about Battlefield 1’s multiplayer was the inability to customize my classes without jumping into matchmaking. This just seems like a weird oversight; to customize one’s soldier or any of the classes, the game literally requires players to be sitting around waiting for a battle to start. I’m not sure why this is, but it somewhat discourages taking time to fully customize a loadout and make a soldier that really resonates with the player’s chosen style of play.

    Even with a couple of annoyances, Battlefield 1’s multiplayer is still heads and shoulders above the competition in a number of ways. It offers a gritty, engaging multiplayer component that does well in its small and larger maps. There’s enough variety here to appease any FPS fan for many hours, and that’s for certain.

    Gameplay – War Stories

    While Battlefield 1 will largely be remembered for its multiplayer, it also has an admirable single player campaign as well. Called War Stories, the campaign in Battlefield 1 is split up into small, distinct plots involving unique characters and different areas of World War I.

    Sometimes the campaign feels like a cheap way to introduce players to the multiplayer mechanics, but something has to be said for its unrelenting action. The campaign is just one thrilling section after another, and while some of the stealth bits drag, the high octane thrills more than make up for the slower parts of the game.

    The stories are all very entertaining, with well-written characters that do a good job of bringing the World War I era to life. While some of their exploits seem unbelievable, the characters themselves feel real, and that’s what’s most important with forging an emotional connection between the player and the characters on the screen.

    The campaign in Battlefield 1 features a lot of challenges and collectibles to players to find, wide open levels that encourage experimentation, and more to keep players engaged and returning. It’s not quite as consistently exciting as the multiplayer, but War Stories still provides players with at least a few hours of quality entertainment, and they’re some of the better stories DICE has ever brought to the table.

    Graphics and Sound

    DICE and its Frostbite Engine are known throughout the industry for delivering bleeding edge graphics, and Battlefield 1 is no exception. The level of detail in every environment is breathtaking, and the level of destructibility is extremely impressive. Gone are the days of the scripted "levelution" moments that plagued 3 and 4, that’s for sure.

    Character models, effects, and everything else all look spectacular as well. The game is also very polished in general, with little slow down to speak of. The multiplayer does seem to run into lag issues more than other online FPS games, but that’s probably more a problem with the servers than any lack of polish with the game itself.

    DICE has captured the gritty feel of World War I expertly with Battlefield 1’s superb graphics. The sound design is also quite good, with powerful explosions, top notch voice acting, and epic music that work in conjunction with the visuals to create an incredible presentation.

    One really nice touch comes with the little narrations that are heard before starting levels in War Stories mode. These narrations mimic ones seen on History Channel documentaries about the war, serving as letters written by servicemen that are being read out loud.

    When it comes to graphics, there are few games on Xbox One that can even match Battlefield 1’s visual prowess, let alone surpass it.

    Play Time/Replayability

    Completing Battlefield 1’s War Stories mode can be done in just a few hours. Finding all the collectibles and completing every challenge in War Stories is another story entirely, but few will probably find it worth it to stick with the campaign beyond beating it once or twice.

    The multiplayer is where the real meat of the experience is. While the progression system is lacking, each match brings with it something new and exciting. Players will constantly find themselves in new scenarios that perfectly capture the chaos of war. These moments are what will keep players coming back to Battlefield 1 time and time again, not necessarily the progression system or unlocking new weapons or cosmetic items.

    Between the multiplayer and campaign, players can easily put dozens of hours into Battlefield 1 without getting bored. As far as first-person shooters in this day and age go, Battlefield 1 is really one of the ones that will keep players engaged for quite a long time.

    Final Recommendation

    After spending countless hours in Battlefield 1’s hectic online battlefields and completing War Stories, it was clear to me that the game is easily one of the best first-person shooters this generation of gaming has seen so far. DICE has outdone themselves with Battlefield 1, and hopefully this level of quality is apparent in future games from the studio as well.

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