Of all the first person shooters on the way, Battlefield 1 seems the most interesting. There’s no sci-fi setting, no mechs, no modern combat. This is as close to a remake of Battlefield 1942 we might ever get (outside of the semi-sequel, 1943, of course), and it’s absolutely gorgeous to look at. But how does it play?
We got our first glimpse into the gameplay and mechanics this past weekend with the official open beta. My time spent with it was colourful, at times breathtaking, and at other times hilarious. For anyone who grew up with the original Battlefield games from a while back, this will feel more like home than any of the more recent modern day takes in the series, thanks in large part to its setting but also its almost simplified gunplay.
The main mode I played, one that I always come back to whenever I play Battlefield, was the large and at times overwhelming Conquest Mode. 64 players, 32 per side, rushed into the incredibly large and open map set in the Sinai desert where sand dunes, destructible environments, horses and overhead dog fights greeted them. The first thing that struck me upon loading into my first game was the immense depth and detail of the surroundings. I guess I’m so used to buildings and modern architecture in FPS games that an environment such is this was a little jarring and awe-inspiring at the same time.
It took a game or two for me to get used to everything. The controls are pretty much the way you’d expect, Dice hasn’t mucked around or added any weird ideas on that end, but finding the right kind of makeup and class to play as took up most of my time early on. I eventually settled on Support, a class that suits my preference of playing at a medium range and providing cover fire to others as they rush in. I still found myself running into danger more often than not, though that was largely down to discovering the ins and outs of the map itself.
Arguably my favourite moment came during a later battle, where I found myself running into a sand storm towards the furthest capture point, further south of the map. I could barely see anything in front or around me outside of the symbols representing the capture points themselves, the sound capturing what it would feel like to be caught in such a situation, high winds and battering sand flying everywhere. It was both intense and exciting, like nothing else in an FPS to date. When the storm passed and the sun finally came back out, I found myself quietly hunting down a hidden enemy player, who had hunkered down to try and defend the location.
Sound plays a massive part in the Battlefield universe, and Battlefield 1 again covers all the right moments. Booming explosions, footsteps and shouts from a distance, aircraft flying and diving through overhead … everything comes together to create a realistic portrayal of the violent yet exotic battles of World War 1. More importantly, the musical score has shifted back to orchestral from the dub step, bass heavy tracks that have plagued FPS games of late, and something I’m very grateful for.
I few other highlights included hearing a strange noise behind me as I ran towards another capture point, only to turn around and come face to face with a tank flanked by three other players. Scared the crap out of me, sure, but luckily it was my teammates and not the enemy. Let’s just say I laughed, and completely forgot the importance of listening as a strategy, though I guess you had to be there to hear the squeaks coming from the tanks at a distance. It’s strangely amusing. Also the horses are a great addition, think of them as this games version of a dirt or quad bike, allowing you to quickly get from one place to the next in style.
I did see a few glitches here or there, a few comical moments when equipment hanging off players backs flew around in circles or changed their shape or downed enemy bodies and destroyed pieces of buildings lay hanging in mid-air. No weird caterpillar dudes aka Battlefield 3, but funny none the less. Nothing game break though, and that’s always a positive. In fact, outside of the first loading screens to get into the game, it didn’t take too long to get from one game to the next.
As much as we may have doubted Dice’s decision to go back through time, Battlefield 1 holds plenty of potential and should find a comfortable place between its competition. Given Call of Duty and Titanfall are all sci-fi action, Battlefield 1 should provide plenty of variety and perhaps a little relief the usual fair we’ve become accustomed to of late, and for a player such as myself who had a blast with 1942 and 1943, I’ll arguably feel more comfortable here than anywhere else. Besides, there’s horses!
Mark Isaacson is the editor of PN. Go say hi @Mark_D_Isaacson