I’d never played a Battlefield game before, but numerous positive reviews for Battlefield 1 (including here on this very site) combined with the game’s interesting setting of the First World War moved me to give it a try, and I’m very happy that I did.
Picking the First World War as a setting for a video game was always going to be difficult to pull off, owing to the sheer horror of the war itself. Whereas the Second World War can be placed in some kind of narrative context due to the unbridled evil of Hitler and the Third Reich, the First World War does not benefit from that same context.
Yes, it’s overly simplistic to merely state that the Nazis were the bad guys and the Allies were the good guys, but the fact does remain that Hitler’s horrific plans to eliminate not just the Jews but also other ethnic minorities, homosexuals, and even the handicapped (I’ve been to a site while on a walking tour of Berlin where the Nazis set up labs for people with special needs, where they were brutally experimented on in monstrous fashion) did certainly give strong reasons to fight both him and the state that backed him. As with all things in life, nothing is ever truly black and white, but the point remains that making a game where you fight Nazis is a much easier sell than making a game where you have been sent to your death for essentially nothing.
Make no mistake, the First World War was a senseless theatre of barbarity, which stemmed from little more than the major European powers of the time having a dick measuring contest that ended up spilling over into four vicious years of slaughter and anguish. Rather than actually fighting for something tangible, like bringing down a truly evil dictator, nearly every soldier in the First World War went to his death for little reason other than posturing from the ruling classes.
Pompous, out of touch generals threw soldier after soldier into a hail storm of bullets for gains of maybe a couple of inches, as puddles of blood grew into oceans. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the horrendous bodge job of the resulting peace by the Allies at Versailles did little more than create the economic and social downturn in Germany that ultimately led to the Nazis gaining traction to begin with. So, not only was the war a pointless waste of life, it also directly led to its subsequent sequel twenty years later.
With that said, perhaps you can understand why this would be shaky ground to base the narrative of a video game? But not only does Battlefield 1 successfully do justice to the absolute horror of the war in as tasteful a manner as possible, but it also manages to create an engaging and enjoyable experience to go along with it.
Yes, the game wants you to feel the weight of the situation and never misses a chance to ram home the desolation and desperation of a world slowly choking to death on the stench of war, but it also understands that you want to have some fun at the same time, and it balances the two competing philosophies with aplomb.
In one of the missions with the British tank crew, you have to infiltrate a small French village to find important items required to repair your spluttering tank. You can tackle the mission however you like. For instance, you can use windmills dotted around the stage to scope the area before stealthily sneaking in, getting what you need, and then quietly sneaking your way back to the tank. Alternatively, you can do what I did after a bit of exploring, which was mount a nearby horse and start blowing everyone to fuck and back with anti-tank weaponry before galloping over to a group of flummoxed German soldiers and cutting them to pieces with my sabre!
I can honestly state that those few minutes I spent on horseback in that village were some of the most exciting and pulsating minutes I’d experienced all year on my PS4. I’ve not had a proper chance to dive into the multiplayer yet, instead focusing on the campaigns, but if that’s similarly good, then Battlefield 1 may honestly be in the running for my favourite game of 2016.
I must make special mention of the voice acting in this game, which is frankly some of the best I’ve ever encountered. Voice acting is a real art form, and when it’s done right it does so much to make you feel connected to the characters in the game. I didn’t like every character in the game, but I certainly felt strongly one way or another, which I think is incredibly important when it comes to engagement in a story-based campaign.
It’s been said elsewhere, but I feel it bears repeating, you could honestly make a decent full length campaign out of any of the six story arcs in this game. The characters are powerful enough to pay that off, and that’s a testament not just to the scripting but also the actors for injecting life into each single one.
So yeah, I really like this game. Give it a butchers if you haven’t already.
That’s yer lot for this week, I’ll be back next week with a Retro Feature, as I finish my look at the THQ/AKI N64 wrestling games, so stay tuned for that!
In the meantime, why not have a goosey gander at these other great articles here on Gaming Respawn? Go on, I know you want to!
You can read Emiliano’s review of Civilization VI by clicking right HERE
And you can check out Gaming Respawn’s SPOOKtacular Halloween Special by clicking right HERE
Thanks for reading!
The Urban Dictionary defines “The Fitzgerald Scale” as “A scale used to measure the awkwardness of a situation. The Fitzgerald Scale is divided into ten subunits, called ‘Geralds’. Each Gerald is in turn divided into ten Subgeralds, which gives 100 possible levels of awkwardness. One Gerald is a commonly awkward level, where a ten Gerald situation would be a scarring event.”
Man, the atmosphere of that party was off the Fitzgerald Scale when we decided to leave