We had just over a week having fun in the literal sandbox playground of the Sinai Desert in the Battlefield 1 Open Beta and it left us desperate for more. Now that it’s finally here, we’ve been getting ourselves stuck knee-deep in the mud and blood of Battlefield 1 to find it delivering in volumes across both the single player and multi player experience.
First and foremost we have to say that for all it’s been the best part of 100 years since The Great War, DICE have managed to produce a game that pays a huge amount of respect to the subject matter given the stark and depressing events of the first world war. They have managed to deliver not just atmosphere in spades across each of the relevant maps and war stories, but also poignant reminders of the sacrifices that were made and the huge loss of life during this terrible period.
The single player campaign, a collection of five war stories set across Europe, is inspired story-telling for a genre that usually shows very little consideration for this element of the game. Given the subject matter, it is a pretty damn perfect means of showing just how far-reaching and all-encompassing this war was. The prologue, Storm of Steel, is a prime example of this. Set on the Saint Quentin Scar map, you find yourself in the shoes of a Harlem Hellfighter joining the charge against the approaching German army. Your mission is simple; hold at all costs. You and a band of soldiers attempt to repel the opposing forces in a shelled out cottage, enemies coming from all sides. When you are eventually overwhelmed, and your expectations are to be respawned, your soldier’s name appears alongside their year of birth and their year of death. No restart, no game-like considerations. Just a poignant reminder of how easily life was lost on the battlefield.
It caught me totally by surprise. It made me stop and think. It helped visualise just how horrific it must have been to be in these conditions. I honestly didn’t think a first-person shooter of this ilk could produce something that would illicit an emotional response. There’s no bombast, no bravado, only a sense of futility. The last time a game came close to this was when Medal of Honour Allied Assault threw you into the Normandy landings of 1944.
Beyond the prologue, we’re introduced to five War Stories each carrying a real human element to them. They also act as preparation for the multiplayer side of Battlefield 1, be it the cat and mouse tank battles in Through Mud and Blood, the aerial dogfights in Friends in High Places, the ground assaults of Avanti Savoia and The Runner to the final story, Nothing is Written, where your lone Bedouin warrior assists the legendary Lawrence of Arabia take down an armoured train.
DICE have managed to take what is normally a throwaway part of a game like Battlefield and introduce some impactful storytelling that makes you want to invest in the characters you play. For all the single player campaign may only be 8-10 hours at most, the way they’ve focused the storylines around each of those characters, to make you care about their outcome, says a lot about the studio’s care and attention to the subject matter.
If that is how much care and attention DICE have paid to the single player, then the multiplayer element where the core focus is should be even better. That itself is a war story we’ll be following up on here on Gamer Tagged soon.