Intimate stories of epic battles in Battlefield 1

In addition to telling poignant stories, the Battlefield 1 campaign serves to teach players the basics of combat that would be useful in the multiplayer section.
In addition to telling poignant stories, the Battlefield 1 campaign serves to teach players the basics of combat that would be useful in the multiplayer section.PHOTO: ELECTRONIC ARTS

Battlefield 1 is a breath of fresh air in the military first-person shooter genre.

By focusing on vignettes from World War I in its single-player campaign, Battlefield 1 steps back from the high-tech weaponry and modern settings that its previous games and its rival Call Of Duty franchise have been obsessed about.

Right from the single-player campaign's bleak prologue, which sombrely states that "the war to end all wars ended nothing", I got a strong anti-war vibe. This is not your typical action game that glorifies violence with a super-human protagonist.

Instead, you are put into the shoes of multiple characters placed in scenarios where death is inevitable. There are no heroic last stands, just muddy trenches filled with bodies and the names of the dead flashing across the screen when they fall in battle.

The campaign consists of five short stories, each set in a different part of the war. Every story is independent, so you can jump into any of them and continue from where you left off. I took one to two hours to finish each story.

These stories feel personal - an Italian soldier telling his daughter how his brother perished in the fighting and a grizzled Australian veteran sacrificing himself to ensure that a young recruit makes it out alive.

The campaign consists of five short stories, each set in a different part of the war. Every story is independent, so you can jump into any of them and continue from where you left off. 

Because most of these stories seem realistic, the one that stood out is a scarcely believable tale of heroism by a rogue pilot. It is like something out of an action movie and I was reminded that truth is the first casualty of war.

However, this story is the most fun-filled, as you get to fly a plane and engage in dogfights with German fighters, bombers and even airships.

An addition to the series is cavalry - you can ride a horse and behead enemies with a sabre. Introduced in a story involving Bedouin rebels fighting alongside Lawrence of Arabia, the cavalry feature is fun, but of limited use against the many tanks, trains and other armoured vehicles you'll find in the game.

  • 9/10

    RATING

    PRICE: $69.90 (PC, version tested), $79.90 (PS4, Xbox One)

    GENRE: First-person shooter

My only criticism of the campaign is that the stories are told from the Allies' perspective. It would have been interesting to be able to play an Axis soldier.

Developer Dice seems to have done a solid job on the historical aspect of the game. There is a good assortment of weapons from the early 20th century and they feel different enough in terms of reloading speed, range and the damage they can cause.

Ammunition is fairly limited, which means you are forced to switch weapons often. However, you can avoid most of the fighting by using stealth and taking down enemies quietly using a melee weapon.

In addition to telling poignant stories, the campaign also serves to teach players the basics of combat that would be useful in the multiplayer section.

With up to 64 players for some maps, Battlefield 1 serves up large-scale battles that illustrate the chaos of an actual battlefront.

The new Operations game mode, which has two sides fighting to take over and hold territory over multiple maps, is very well done, especially with cutscenes and voice-overs to give context to the battle.

However, as a novice, I spent most of the time getting killed by better players. It does not help that Battlefield 1's graphics look astounding on a high-end PC. More often than not, I found myself admiring the scenery, such as the lush greenery of the Argonne Forest map, to my detriment.

Vincent Chang

•Verdict: For fans of the genre, the latest Battlefield instalment is one you should not miss.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2016, with the headline 'Intimate stories of epic battles in Battlefield 1'. Print Edition | Subscribe