Battlefield 1 - The Review (Version Tested: Playstation 4 Pro)

Historically speaking, I've had a love-hate relationship with the Battlefield series off and on, and yet to date I've bought every single one, stretching back as far as Battlefield 1942 and its many expansions, through the greatness of Battlefield Vietnam and Battlefield 2, onwards and upwards through Battlefield Bad Company 1 and 2, and Battlefields 3 and 4 - and even recently a cheapo digital copy of Battlefield Hardline (which is more a videogame adaptation of those weird US police reality shows than anything related to Battlefield games per se).

So here we are at Battlefield 1. A game I didn't bother with at launch, but listened to the whispers about.

"It's great!" sayeth one press source. "It's the best Battlefield game ever" sayeth another. I'm willing to bet that most of those videogame journalists didn't experience the sheer joy of winching a tank into enemy territory in Battlefield Vietnam, dropping it like a hot wasp in amongst a nest of Vietcong. But I digress, Battlefield 1 on PS4 is one heck of a fantastic game.

It starts off by easing you into the action via a series of single-player skirmishes, seeing you taking on the persona of fallen warriors from the conflict. There's a bit of twiddly cut-scene stuff before you're thrown into hell - literally into a mud-filled gas-dusted screaming noisy hell that echoes exactly what you'd expect to find in a historically inaccurate though nonetheless impressive version of a WW1 battlefield.

Oh dear. Well that's Windy Miller out on the streets then. Well done, field gunner!
The game takes a few liberties with kit (I'm pretty sure that neither side had portable semi-automatic weapons in widespread operation and what few machine guns existed were of the Maxim / Lewis Gun size, and definitely not portable unless you were some sort of a behemoth). But before long you realise that the situation is hopeless, and the game introduces you to the first of many, many deaths you'll experience as you begin to play.

Once done, you're into the mission structure proper - and you start off in control of the Mark 1 - a slab of caterpillar-tracked iron that eventually became the modern Tank. Used in WW1 for the first time in conflict, they were noisy, unwieldy, prone to failure but nonetheless deadly - and as you take control and start blasting away with those axis guns, you'll realise just how it must have felt to be on the receiving end of a tank charge during the battles.

Though Battlefield Hardline has a brilliant single player campaign, and previous Battlefield games have included some very good single player fun to be had if you're an antisocial type who avoids online gaming wherever possible (me in other words), Battlefield 1 has expanded the single player narrative substantially into a series of mini vignettes that touchingly offer up a small glimpse of the life of each soldier.

Echoing Call of Duty's single player campaign, you'll be done and dusted in a matter of hours but at least by the end of it, you'll be ready to embrace the sheer manic chaos of Battlefield 1 online.

Never take a clapped-out Sten gun to a flamethrower match

64 players can take part in games, and maps are usually on rotation so once you've actually got in, be prepared to die a lot - because the game seems to have some serious issues with matchmaking (I'll concede that I've lost a lot of my shooter skills over the years but the first couple of online games I was thrown into as a rank noob saw me die time after time before coming away with a mere couple of points in each round. Eeesh! Time for more practice!)

All the things I love and a lot of the things I've always, always hated about the series are all still in here. Snipers still hide in the shadows like the filthy point-ligging cowards they are. All other players seem to be armour plated but a couple of hits and you die. This does seem to be a real issue, I sat there and emptied a Lewis Gun clip into one player who just seemed to shrug off the bullets as if they were raindrops, and carried on running. The only time I've ever been effective was as part of a tank crew, and that was also the only time I ever made any sort of a dent on the score tables at the end of the round.

Elsewhere, people still cram into planes or camp out where they spawn, before uselessly piloting said planes straight into the ground without managing to get off a single shot or turn the tide of battle.

The other thing that occurs to me is just how 'slimline' Battlefield 1 is compared to its older predecessors. It's pretty obvious that this is a game that's entirely geared around the DLC. Purchasing the full Battlefield 1 suite of options could cost you as much as your console did if you shop carelessly.

But boiling it down to its essence,  the sheer (and quite terrifying) spectacle of Battlefield 1 in full flow is something to behold. Thanks to the power of the Playstation 4 Pro, the game looks utterly brilliant and some of the previous issues with the Frostbite engine seem to have been firmly put to bed (though not all, there are notably still Vsynch issues in multiplayer games - christ, I thought we'd be done with rubbish like that by now, honestly).

I've barely scratched the surface of the game but can see myself returning to it again and again. Though I'm very much a DLC naysayer, there is just enough in the 'vanilla' game to keep me occupied without the need for a ridiculously overpriced season pass or game of the year edition (I still maintain that things have gotten slimmer as years have gone by and DLC is now accepted as a normal part of any game's revenue stream).

Battlefield 1 is every inch a Battlefield game though. Bloody, frenetic, pulse-pounding, immersive and unforgiving.

Hookability: As addictive as Maoams but probably better for your teeth

Lastability: Fairly short-order single player campaign but multiplayer ranking and fun to be had for many moons to come

Playability: Fluid and gritty visuals, brilliant sense of immersion, intuitive controls and a real sense of power once you hop into those vehicles or clamber onto horseback.

Overall: Consider me converted. I was never that sure a WW1 game would work as well as this does but it's definitely one of the higher points of the Battlefield series.


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