Introduction & Likes
The first real gameplay footage of World War I shooter Battlefield 1 debuted at this week's EA Play conference in the form of a trailer, a celebrity-riddled livestream, and many gameplay recordings by Youtubers. Combined, there's a strong picture for what the game will play like and what features to expect from it.
So, is it any good? Read on for what we liked and disliked based on what we saw, followed by our verdict.
Liked: More Destruction
It's clear now that Battlefield 1 returns to the Bad Company 2 (BC2) style of destruction, which is to say you can blow up most buildings. In Battlefield 3 (BF3) and Battlefield 4 (BF4), there was quite a lot you couldn't blow up, and developer DICE instead opted for 'levolution' - a silly name for scripted destruction events that affected a large portion of the map -- to satisfy the player base's appetite for things going boom. While cool the first time, they aren't nearly as fun as BC2-style destruction in the long term, and it appears DICE has heard that feedback.
Destruction will of course benefit from particle effect enhancements over Bad Company 2, as well as a greater variety of buildings to rip apart. And we know there will be 'levolution' as well at least in one aspect: when Zeppelins are taken down, they catch fire and destroy buildings and such wherever they land, and it's truly a sight to behold. In other words, the game features the best of both worlds.
The downside of destruction in BC2 was that it could lead to quickly leveled maps with few places to take cover. It remains to be seen if this is the case in BF1 or not, but I'll say I'm optimistic due to the larger scale of the game (meaning more buildings and a greater need to conserve explosives). Of course, small-scale modes may suffer.
Liked: Weapons That Pack a Punch
While Battlefield 3 and 4 featured impressive weapon audio and weapon design, the weapons simply weren't as satisfying to use in part because they lacked the powerful kick or 'shredding' feel most of the guns Bad Company 2 offered. As well, the boom from tanks rang hollow in comparison.
Fortunately, Battlefield 1 again looks back to BC2 for inspiration in this department: tanks sound even beefier than in BC2 with tank shells that really rock you when shot, and guns are authentically loud with a bigger soundstage, and bring enough kick to knock you on your ass and enough shred to make Kirk Hammett proud.
Liked: New Spawn Screen and Spawn Screen Animation
BF1 takes a page from the lesser-known but solid shooter Heroes & Generals with its new spawn screen and improves on it further. The result is a spawn screen I don't hesitate to say is the best I've ever seen in a game.
What makes it great is it removes all obstacles to information: you get a very clear picture of the battle with a view and detail similar to what you see with Google Earth. Even better, once deciding to spawn, a very slick animation transitions you smoothly from the map to the frontline.
Liked: Dynamic Weather
Weather changing mid-match is something we got a taste of in Battlefield 4's Second Assault DLC, which saw a sandstorm take place on the Gulf of Oman map.
In BF1, we saw from EA Play footage that heavy fog will sometimes set in on at least one map, encouraging players to play closer up as well as use fog to their advantage to hurry across open areas they normally wouldn't be able to without being shot.
How dynamic weather actually is and what types we can expect remains to be seen, but for now, it adds an exciting layer of depth.
Liked: Zeppelin Manual Controls
After the on-rails gunship from Battlefield 3, I almost fully anticipated the Zeppelin in BF1 to also be on rails, so it was a pleasant surprise when it came out that you could control it manually. Not only should it be thrilling to direct such a magnificent vehicle, but it will also make battles more varied and skill-based, especially since it can crash anywhere.
Liked: Sniping is Good Again
You could certainly tear up the scoreboard as a sniper in BF3 and BF4, but it was more difficult and arguably less fun than in previous games, thanks to the addition of scope glint, decreased bullet velocity (making hitting moving targets and bullet drop adjustments harder), one shot body kills at close range only, and what felt like slower ADS and tracking.
Happily, the footage out there so far makes it look like DICE is moving toward making the playstyle great again. Bullet velocity, ADS speed, and tracking speed all appear to be increased, and while scope glint seems to be back (count that as a dislike), the increased all-around speed means it matters less.
As well, the rifles can do small to moderate damage against tanks with the aid of armor-piercing bullets, the most realistic new scope view means you still have some situational awareness while tracking targets, and one hit body shot kills now apply to both close and medium range (in BF3 and BF4, it was close range only). On the final point, the ranges will vary from rifle to rifle, making gameplay and weapon choices even more interesting.
Liked: More Bolt-Actions
While bolt-action rifles weren't shown a lot at EA Play, we know that both the Assault and Scout classes can carry them. While not entirely realistic (bolt-actions comprised almost the entire share of weapon usage in World War I), it's a nice compromise that balances gameplay, fun, and an increased emphasis on the most popular gun type at the time.
Liked: No Audio Spotting
Starting with Battlefield 3, DICE implemented a system whereby you had two bad choices: show up on the minimap to enemies when shooting, or use a suppressor and gimp your gun statistics. Frustrating for many players, to say the least.
Fortunately, that's gone for Battlefield 1. Unless DICE changes things between now and launch (and I don't think they will, given suppressors weren't really used in World War I), the only things that will spot you are manual spots by the enemy and the scout's flare gun, meaning a lot less silly deaths, stealthier gameplay, and much more attention paid to gun sounds in order to track enemies.
Dislikes & Final Thoughts
Disliked: New Announcer
BF1 adopts a female announcer for objective notifications for the first time in the series. Worse, she has a robotic sci-fi movie-esque voice, unlike previous announcers who acted like commanders or squad leaders and yelled about whatever was happening, or at least indicated some level of urgency and humanity as though they were actually there and communicating to their men. Between the two changes, immersion suffers quite a bit.
I have heard the voice is just a placeholder, but it's just rumors at this point. Either way, the fanbase has been extremely vocal about changing the announcer to something authentic, and I expect DICE will listen.
Disliked: Modern Interface
Similar to the new announcer, the new interface is not appropriate for the game. World War I is rough, gritty, dirty, and lacking in technological advancements and should have an interface that reflects that to some degree -- think Bad Company 2: Vietnam or an updated version of what we saw in Battlefield 2.
Disliked: No Significant Graphics Improvements
Battlefield 1 marks the second Battlefield game in a row that brings little visual improvement to the table.
It's hard to complain too much about this given how far ahead of its time Battlefield 3 was, and given the return of proper destruction (which is hard on resources); nevertheless, it's a bit disappointing to see no glaring visual changes that make you sit back in awe the same way the Battlefield 3 Fault Line and Thunder Run gameplay trailers did when they debuted, especially with the fresh DirectX 12 support.
This isn't the end-all be-all of Battlefield 1 pre-release articles, mind you; there is quite a bit more in the game worth liking and disliking, but consider this a good start.
When it comes down to it, the game as it stands isn't everything I could've asked for, but it's also quite a bit more than I expected, and plenty enough to have me anxiously awaiting the beta.
See you on the battlefield, soldier.