It’s time to return to the battlefield. Let me preface this by saying that I’m not the biggest fan of first person shooter games. I tend to find the initial thrill of playing a new FPS game exciting, then after a day I get bored of the repetitive nature of them which goes as follows:
“You killed someone, here’s your xp. Now you have enough xp to use this weapon which is ever so marginally better than the last one. Using this new gun, you killed someone, here’s your xp…”
And so on and so forth. At least that how I usually find fps games. But I’ve been playing Battlefield 1 now for 3 weeks and am yet to feel even the slightest bit of boredom. Even when I’m doing badly (which is quite often) I’ve never once felt like throwing the towel in and putting the disc back into it’s case to forever gather dust on my shelf. This could be for a number of reasons:
Environment – I don’t want to just write that the graphics are amazing because that wouldn’t do justice to the thousands of hours that hundreds of people put into the way that the game looks, sounds and feels. It genuinely feels as though I’d been transported to WW1 (I’m sure veterans would disagree with me, but this is my review so deal with it).
Lots of people may not notice how the sound of a characters breathing or footsteps change because it is something that just naturally happens in real life, but to recreate those effects convincingly in a virtual world is nothing short of masterful.
The graphics themselves are jaw-dropping even on a console. I can’t even begin to imagine the level of eye-gasm I would have if I played it on a high end pc. I imagine I’d spend most matches wondering around saying “Oh my god, look at that sunset, it’s gorgeous, look at that mountain, it’s gorgeous, look at that lighting, it’s gorgeous, look at that weapon texture, it’s gorgeous”. Meanwhile my teammates will be screaming at me to stop walking out of cover to stare at the flowers and to stop overusing the word gorgeous as it’s creepy. I know that cynical people out there will say something along the lines of “It’s easy to make anything look good on the frostbite engine” to which I’d respond with “Yeah, well….. OK good point” but that still doesn’t take away from the magnificent job that the design team over at EA Dice have done.
The ever destructible terrain that we’ve all come to love in Battlefield games remains and in my opinion is what sets it apart from all other fps games. The fact that if you play online in most games and there is an irritating little so and so camping in a corner who seems able to shoot you at every given opportunity, it can get rather annoying. Actually, scratch that, it can get so rage inducing that the red mist descends and before you know it the $60 game costs you either a new controller, a new console or a new TV depending on how much anger you’ve buried down deep inside over the years. However this isn’t an issue in Battlefield. If someone camps in a corner, blow up the corner, problem solved.
Single player – This will remain spoiler free. The single player campaign is done in an nontraditional manner. Rather than it being one story, with a main protagonist and a final boss, it’s several stories each one feeling real and telling the overall story of WW1 from multiple points of view. I won’t go into any details regarding any of the stories just so that I don’t say anything that may ruin any of the stories for anyone reading this. But I will say this, by having several stories it takes away some of the fun that having one well done story would provide. My favourite games tend to be open world games with huge, non-linear stories where your actions change the outcome of the overall story and although I tried to leave all bias out of this review but I can’t help but think I’d care more about the offline game if the story was longer and it took more time to build up the characters. However, despite being short, the stories are incredibly well done, requiring the player to demonstrate each of the skills they know in equal measure.
Online – The size of online games both in number of players and the size of the maps was always the factor that separated the two big rivals in the first person shooter category, Battlefield and Call of Duty. If you are a fan of the expansive, long games that go hand in hand with the Battlefield franchise then you will not be disappointed. A typical team death match can last 10-15 mins but if you play operations a game mode can easily last 45 minutes or more. If you have the time to play these long games then they’re much more satisfying and exhilarating as unlike most online games, there is a story that accompanies it which helps to get you fully immersed in the time period of the game where players have to defend certain landmarks (being attacked by the opposing team), if they lose it, they fall back to another one until they have no further back to fall. The main difference that I found between online games of BF and CoD is that the games are much more balanced. Games are often decided by just a few points, it is very rare for there to be a game decided by 20 or more points whereas with CoD it is much more common, this is fine if you’re on the winning team but frustrating for any good players on the losing side where the opposing team is getting all of the kill streak perks which tend to completely overpower a game.
Gameplay – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” was likely the mindset of the guys and girls over at Dice and although the game does play well, it’s not without its flaws. For me, the gameplay is what prevents BF1 from getting a perfect score. Now don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t play poorly. It’s gameplay doesn’t by any means ruin the game but it just doesn’t quite feel fully polished. There have been several instances where I have taken cover behind a rock; this is where there is usually a prompt saying ‘L2 peek over/left/right’ so you press L2 and your character pops his head out of cover so you can shoot at whoever you see. Then you think ‘this is great, time to move up’ so you leave your cover and run to the next rock. You press L2 to peek over. Nothing happens. Even the prompt doesn’t appear, so you shuffle closer to the cover and the prompt flashes up for a split second then goes off. You realise that you’re now too close, so you try to move slowly back. By the time you finally get in the ‘sweet spot’ the person you were aiming at is stood behind you wondering why you keep two-steppin’ back and forth next to the rock, before momentarily blowing a hole through you.
Although for me this isn’t the biggest gameplay issue; by far, the most irritating part of BF1 is the sprinting system. If you go prone to kill an enemy and you know that another player is behind you, about to apply a killing blow to your cranium, you may think it best to sprint away and find cover. So you press in the sprint button (L3) and your player darts to his feet and sprints off in whatever direction that you point him. That’s fine, great in fact. Now consider this, you are crouched in cover and you just land a killing shot, you see 3 guys about to flank you from your right but you aren’t in a very good position to fire back and you know you’ll be ambushed. So you realise that you have to move, and move fast. You move out of cover, you press L3 in faster and harder than you ever have done before. Your heart pounds, your controller screams in agony at the force you’re applying and your player…… continues slowly walking in the crouched position. You get triple penetrated by the bullets of the guys behind you. You die. This is when frustration rises, I don’t mind being killed but when it happens due to clunky, uncooperative controls it’s like throwing a bucket of petrol onto the small rage fire in my heart. In the grand scheme of making a game of this scale it is easy to make the L3 button exit the crouching animation and start sprinting. Because of this that leads me to this conclusion. It was an intentional decision to make the controls work this way. If that is the case then I’d love to know who thought up that idea.
“Pressing the sprint button should allow a player to go from prone to sprinting, but if they’re already on their feet crouching, they should have to make themselves stand fully before they can sprint”
“You’re a genius <insert name here>, here’s a bonus”
I imagine it went something like that (though it 100% definitely didn’t).
Now I realise that I’ve focused very heavily on the negatives of BF1 but the only reason I’m frustrated by it is that if they’d taken a few more hours to correct the controls it would be a near perfect game which is praise I’ve only given to one game, that being The Last Of Us.
To summarise, BF1 is the most realistic and immersive first person shooter to date but because of a few clunky controls it falls short of being a perfect first person shooter.
Reviewed on Playstation 4 by Danny Pursglove