Another year, another Battlefield vs Call of Duty showdown. Gamers with a limited budget will have a tough choice to make – Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty Infinite Warfare couldn’t be more different in their setting. EA’s World War themed Battlefield arrives first, and we played the Xbox One version.
A large chunk of our time has been devoted to playing Battlefield 1 in its single player campaign mode, which has been a bit of an achilles heel for the series in the past couple of years. Lacking a bit of polish and style when compared to the Call of Duty campaigns, the campaigns in EA’s Battlefield titles always felt like an afterthought and hardly worth the price of admission for those who aren’t too interested in playing online multiplayer battles.
True.. online multiplayer is what will be played by the majority of gamers, and the number of players still playing the single player campaign by the end of the year will be marginal at best. Nevertheless, there is a large group of players who play shooters solely for their campaign modes and the story that they present to their players. Games like Metro 2033, Bioshock and the Deus Ex games have shown that games can lean on single player and still be successful, yet Battlefield’s focus has always been on multiplayer.
Battlefield 1 is no different, but its approach to single player is much more than an afterthought and does a great job of representing the nature of the first World War. Although the second World War is much more burned into our collective memories on account of all the movies (and videogames) that were inspired by it, World War One actually has a lot more diversity to it than you’d think. Sure, we all know the role that the trenches played, but the war took place in an era where rapid advancements in technology played a crucial part in the war as well.
Battlefield 1’s story mode is actually somewhat like a miniseries or multi-part documentary that does a great job of showing how diverse this war really was. To achieve this, you’re not following one soldier’s journey through the war, which seems to have become the norm in most shooter campaigns. Instead, Battlefield 1’s campaign ‘episodes’ offer dramatic shifts in locale, characters and the nature of the battle they portray. Earlier in the campaign, you’ll see a big role for horseback riders – whereas later on it will be the mechanical monsters that decide the tide of the battle – both in the air and on the ground. Sure, the campaign is relatively short – which is par for the course with Battlefield and Call of Duty – but DICE has delivered a high quality experience this time and that’s a refreshing change for a series that usually falls short of what Call of Duty presents.
One section of the game might take place high in the Alps, where another takes place in a desert. One portion might see you airborne for a large part of your mission, while another has you controlling a tank behind enemy lines. Changes in locale like these aren’t groundbreaking in any way, but what’s especially interesting here is how different the gameplay becomes – and this has Battlefield written all over it. You’re not just doing a sniper mission one minute and leading an assault team the next – here you’re a pilot for a while and then you encounter completely different challenges the next time as you traverse the trenches.
What definitely helps are DICE’s top notch visuals. The environments are rendered beautifully, with a ton of action going on outside the scope of your own mission as well – it’s little touches like that which makes you feel like you’re part of something much greater than yourself, even in single player. The fact that mission backdrops change so drastically makes this all the more impressive, because it doesn’t matter if you’re surrounded by snow or the sands of the desert – everything looks gorgeous. A few visual glitches didn’t ruin this, and might be patched up in a future update.
So if you’re in the market for a story-driven single player campaign this winter, then Battlefield 1 is a real contender. It’s different from the Battlefield campaigns of the recent past, and it’s different in significant and positive ways. The World War One backdrops makes it an experience that’s not only refreshing, but also unique in how it’s approached – using vehicles like only a Battlefield game can.