To no one’s surprise, Battlefield 1 was the star of the EA Play showcase. Fans waited for hours in a long line for a chance to play DICE’s next installment in the popular first-person shooter franchise. The game’s demo featured the St. Quentin Scar, a large location in France that included small towns, demolished buildings and spacious fields. Appropriately, I would be playing Conquest mode, where two teams of 32 players would fight for control over multiple points on the map.
War Never Changes
In terms of preparation, choosing your soldier class and weapons is nearly similar to previous Battlefield titles. I could take on the role of the Assault, Medic, Support or Scout class, all of which had six weapons to choose from on the loadout screen. If I didn’t want to run around the battlefield, I could operate one of the available tanks or fly a biplane.
Even though this new game puts the series in World War I, having some form of familiarity, especially with the loadout screen, is not a bad thing. Veterans of the series are already familiar with it, not to mention that it’s already easy to navigate, which means less time on the menu screen and more time shooting the enemy.
The Grand Battle
At the beginning of the match, I chose the role of scout, or sniper. With my rifle in hand, I followed my comrades to the nearest control point to take it for our side. For the first few minutes of combat, I couldn’t contribute to any kills because of the weather. A thick fog descended on St. Quentin Scar, which made any sort of long-distance shooting nearly impossible. I had to wait for the enemy to come closer. I could hear planes flying overhead while the first shots of the battle came from friendly tanks that saw a glimpse of the enemy.
There was a lot of ground to cover between each capture point, which made it more difficult to find adequate cover. I found this out the hard way as I moved to a nearby village. An enemy sniper was in the area, and I was close enough that he shot me as I was about to approach a vantage point. Then, the fog cleared to give way to a cloudless, sunny sky.
In the short amount of time left in the match, I decided to try my hand at operating a small tank. As fun as it was to blow up some enemy soldiers, I was more impressed with the game’s destruction physics. As I approached one of the small towns, I made my own shortcut by ramming a wall with the tank (similar to the Kool-Aid man bursting through a wall). To my surprise, the wall easily crumbled away as I drove into it at full speed. From my tiny window, I could see bits and pieces of the wall fall apart.
However, I couldn’t celebrate my triumphant entrance for long. The village was infested with soldiers, and an opposing tank was moving in to reinforce their position. I was able to take out five or six soldiers before the tank showed up. By then, I tried to move away from its line of sight, but it was too late.
Reach For The Sky
After my brief time with the tank, I wanted to see if I could do better with a biplane. As it turns out, flying these old planes is actually a difficult feat. The fighter jets of today have more than enough thrust to reach high altitudes and faster speeds. With these biplanes, I needed to use both the engine and gravity to fly through the skies. I tried to climb higher by engine power alone, but the plane stalled and fell into a nosedive. The same goes for turning: I needed some gravitational assistance to get back to the main combat zone, but once again, my plane stalled and turned into a heap of fire and rubble as I crashed to the ground.
However, that isn’t to say that I didn’t have fun flying these planes. It felt authentic, and it meant that I had to learn how to operate the old flying machines. I couldn’t just zip around and make tight turns like in Battlefield 4. I had to account for engine power as I climbed and make sure the plane didn’t stall at the wrong moment.
As the battle continued on both air and land, I realized that our enemy was winning by a large margin. However, the game has a way of allowing the losing team a chance to take the lead by spawning the airship--a massive, yet slow ship that rains bullets from its multiple gun turrets.
When it showed up, I managed to get on board and man one of the turrets. Together with three other players, we were able to clear out some enemy-held control points so that our allies on the ground could take it back. However, there were two downsides to controlling the airship: It was large, so it was an easy target, and it was slow, so it couldn’t avoid enemy fire. My airship comrades and I had our fun for about five minutes, but then the airship started falling to the ground. The gigantic beast groaned as metal made contact with the ground, and then it burst into flames, like the finale of a fireworks show.
A Battle For The Ages
The airship advantage wasn’t enough to get us back in contention. The opposing team was too strong for us, and as the match approached its final seconds, more of our control points fell to the enemy. We lost.
At first, Battlefield 1 felt like playing yet another Battlefield title but in a different setting, but this game had its own unique properties, as well. The changing weather provided some interesting gameplay in the first few minutes, and fans will undoubtedly test their flying skills with the biplanes. The appearance of the airship made for some intense moments near the end, and if you have enough players on it, you can easily change the tide of battle.
The long line for Battlefield 1, then, was well worth the wait. The gameplay was enjoyable, and there were more than enough differences to make it stand out from its predecessors. October 21 can’t come soon enough, but at least DICE had an impressive first showing of Battlefield 1.
|Release Date||October 21, 2016|
|Platforms||PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One|
|Where To Buy||OriginPlayStation StoreXbox StoreAmazonBest BuyTargetWalmartGameStop|
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Get ready, suckas, Doo-Doo-Draws is preparing for battle! :P
1. Rocky start. Tons of bugs and server problems. Everyone expects it now, so EA/Dice get a pass.
2. Prolific cheating. No, you won't find 2342 headshot cheaters any more, they are more subtle now, but still ruin the game. EA/Dice can do nothing about it, as they have proven with BF 3,4.
3. Stacked teams. All the pro/leet kids pile on to one team, or change teams to the winning team the first chance they get. Server ends with scores like 500-0.
4. Awful 'netcode' or whatever you wish to call it, along with no restrictions to region play. It's 'magic'. It leads to all sorts of problems, some real, some imagined, but will still be there.
If I am wrong, I will eat my hat. :)
1) These Battlefield games always have a rocky start. I think the distributed-server model (with multiple admins) makes it even worse.
2) The one thing Star Wars Battlefront does is centralizes server administration under EA. Star Wars Battlefront doesn't use the distributed model and had far fewer server issues and fewer hacks. The unfortunate part is that the Star Wars Battlefront game is nowhere near as fun as the Battlefield series games.
The health hacks are the most annoying lately and have somehow persisted because I think they are often less reported. People have figured out ways to consistently have 4 or 7 or 12, etc... health after you've riddled them with bullets in the brain at close range and they turn around and shoot you once. The first time it might be believable and you chalk it up to netcode or some other timing issue. But with consecutive contests by which you consistently lose the gunfight with a particular individual and the same individual ends up with 12 health each time thereafter, you know something is amiss. I don't think enough people hack to ruin the entire game. Communicating with the admins usually remedies this unless one of the admins is also the hacker.
3) Titanfall definitely does the best job of balancing teams that I've seen so far. I think every game designer could learn from this.
4) To take advantage of the awful netcode, simply hop on another continents' servers and you'll have an advantage. They really should restrict the zones. At a server level, the admins could tighten it down by automatically kicking those with ping times over 100 for more than 5 seconds or so instead of allowing 150+ consistently, but it's a point of pride to say your server is among the top n in the world so many server admins allow high ping times. Also, no one wants to play on servers where there aren't other players, so keeping a server full is a high priority for server admins, otherwise no one plays on your server(s) at all.