Battlefield 1

Battlefield 1 Multiplayer Hands-On

If you're terrified at the prospect of fighting in a war, this won't help you all that much.

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Allow us this quick anecdote before getting things underway: the audio wasn't working on the Battlefield 1 demo station we were sat at. We could've left it, but we love audio in games so we raised a hand. The speed at which we were escorted to a working rig was almost shocking. The DICE staff in attendance looking hugely concerned. With the headphones now blasting World War 1 into each ear, understanding quickly emerged from what was once silence. Audio in BF1 plays such a big part of scaring the crap out of you.

Battlefield 1 is unforgiving. It's harrowing. It's... basically damn difficult to stay alive or to take guys down as you're fighting. Conversely, however, it's always crystal clear what your role is and the tactile aspect of weapons, vehicles and tools serves to support this. If one of the objectives of Battlefield 1 is to make World War 1 feel like a terrible struggle, it succeeds. More than ever in any Battlefield scenario, you're going to need the support of all your pals.

The highlight of the Battlefield 1 demo at EA Play was the Behemoth, the colossal airship. It lets you see inside the control panel, and change between viewpoints of the gunners and bomber. It was state-of-the-art at the time of its deployment, next to useless in any modern day theatre of war. If the skirmish below becomes swallowed by fog, you can no longer see anything to aim at (there were no special optics in World War 1), and it's probably best to bail out.

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Abandoning all hope is not heroic, however. And as our efforts proved on a recreation of The St. Quentin Scar, located on the Germans' Hindenburg defensive line, showing true grit is the only way forward. It was a game of Conquest, pitching squads of five versus five, with no hope of coordinating any kind of effort but plenty of scope to experiment with weapons and vehicles. Starting out as the Assault class, attempting to capture an enemy occupied windmill, the need to be right in the face of your enemy soon became apparent. Even with an automated rifle of sorts, your opponent can dance to safety unless you're bang on target. Equally, you're not guaranteed to get away with burst-firing for headshots. It's unlikely that side-strafing multi-kills will feature a great deal in Battlefield 1. The trade-off is that gunning down individuals feels like a major triumph. You have to choose your moment though.

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Ill-equipped, in an entertaining way, to draw too much attention to yourself in the extreme, it's possible that the Scout/Recon class is a better place to start your contribution. Looking for suitable places for cover, which now include craters littered all around, the pristine high-definition presentation of Battlefield 1 running on a high-end PC gives you a lifelike view of the battlefield. Foes ducking behind cover of derelict buildings are easy to spot, though taking aim with the crude bolt-action sniper rifle is of course trickier than an M39. Success feels decisive though, like an honourable dual won by brains over brawn.

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Since our team wasn't much interested in working as a unit, and with little time remaining on the demo, it was best to investigate the vehicles such as tanks and armoured cars. And for sure, crashing through stone buildings in a 28 tonne Mark I spraying the vicinity with a Hotchkiss 6 pounder (we presume) felt devastating... and was deafening. Machine-gunning from the window of an unfamiliar armoured car just felt precarious as hell.

Where Battlefield 1 wins is on the almighty sense of scale, and not just size. There are intricacies involved in mastering bizarre, by modern standards, support weaponry and generally more up close and personal infantry scuffles. We couldn't tell you just how powerful the gaming rig was driving the glowing keyboard and razor sharp monitor, but the rich visual detail served only to describe all the information we needed to survive as a petrified human being.

There are subtle gameplay assists, such as glint on sniper rifles from afar and a pleasingly fast deployment routine that helps with orientation as you zoom into action. Otherwise, what's unique about Battlefield 1 is this brutal, make-shift meta is as upsetting as it is darkly inviting. Stable-mate Titanfall 2 makes it so easy to have a blast, while Blizzard's Overwatch is a hilarious 'Fun for the Entire Family' proposition. To counter the colour and accessibility of the aforementioned, Battlefield 1 could make you a soldier.


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REVIEW. Written by Oliver Thulin

"You can spot elements of the best parts of almost every Battlefield title in there, and when it's at its best it feels better than ever."

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