Battlefield 1 is a game so vast in scale that it’s often impossible to actually process what you’re seeing.
A perfect example is the crescendo of one of the game’s single player missions which sees you dogfighting biplanes over London as two unfathomably large airships dominate the sky.
On a small display it’s impressive to behold, on a large 4K TV it’s absolutely jaw-dropping. Interestingly it’s a scale that the Battlefield games have always worked with, and yet it’s the World War 1 setting that finally gives it true meaning.
World War 1 was enormous in just about every conceivable way, whether you’re talking about the airships, the numbers of those killed or the sheer sizes of the battlefield.
It was one of the single most bloody, brutal and dehumanising conflicts that we as a species have participated in. As a result of this the entertainment industry has mostly steered clear of it: how do you sell despair?
Recently though, video games have tried to take on this mammoth task, and with games like the superb Valiant Hearts from Ubisoft we see developers taking on a new role: they’re not just storytellers, they’re educators.
In its single player campaign, Battlefield 1 takes this mantra and holds onto it tightly. Before you lies a globe full of conflict, with the game’s single player missions broken down into six unique characters and their own stories.
These include a recruit from the Harlem Hellfighters, a young British tank driver, a volunteer pilot in the Royal Flying Corp, an Italian special forces soldier, a veteran Australian war hero and a young rebel fighter who wants to rid her country of the Ottoman Empire.
Each story begins and ends with a brief history of their role in the war and the significance of the battles they fought in. Your time with each person is brief, but the storytelling is such that some of them are emotionally very powerful.
The tank driver’s story in particular deserves a mention. It pulls you into the desperate bond of friendship that forced these men together and, in particular, the bond they felt towards their vehicle.
Tanks in WW1 were enormous, loud, unreliable and became ready targets for the hundreds of guns that were normally trained on them.
Battlefield 1 still very much leans on the blockbuster side of video games, but it’s clear that the developers cared about how they told the story of this conflict and that care and attention pays dividends.
Multiplayer is an altogether more different story, that’s not to say it’s any worse, it’s just tonally it’s very different.
How do you go from explaining (successfully) the futility of war, to then asking players to effectively shoot everything and everything?
It’s a difficult ask and while it does feel jarring, the multiplayer aspect remains one of Battlefield’s best features. The maps are truly enormous in scale, and while it’s often easy to feel overwhelmed by everything around you, playing with friends helps you find some form of order in the chaos.
Who should buy Battlefield 1?
There’s not really anyone we wouldn’t recommend this game to, it’s powerful, compelling storytelling and it has a multiplayer that really does set the benchmark for games like Call of Duty to beat.
Who shouldn’t buy Battlefield 1?
If first person shooters aren’t really your cup of tea then steer clear. This game is fast, frantic and incredibly difficult compared to the almost snail-like pace of multiplayer shooters like Destiny.