Posted in Video Games

Master of War: Dispatches from Battlefield 1

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I’m a bit late to the party on this, I know, but Battlefield 1. Very good, isn’t it? So far, I’ve played only briefly – my fatigues remain fresh, my eyes show no symptoms yet of the thousand-yard stare – but I wanted, all the same, to scribble down some first impressions. Before I become too war-weary (or more likely, too addicted) to wield the pen again. Bugler, sound the charge.

It’s realistic

I’d never fought in a war. Until, that is, I played Battlefield 1. Pick conquest mode and suddenly you’re there on the front line, rifle in hand, boots on the muddy ground, ducking under a hail of bullets, explosions, screams. So visceral is a Battlefield battle that even as a virtual recruit, you almost wish you’d not taken the king’s shilling and had stayed in Blighty instead. Mortar fire is shatteringly loud, tanks are terrible lumbering beasts and woe to any soldier who, in a fit of bravery, pokes their head above the parapet. Death is frequent, almost arbitrary. It’s an unflinching take on trench warfare — and one of the most intense gaming experiences there is.

It’s nice-looking

The Battlefield series has won a reputation for gasp-making graphics, and this latest entry is no exception. Pin-sharp textures, eye-popping lighting effects, trees that look realistic enough to hug — Battlefield 1 is why I bought that gaming PC in the first place. Better yet, everything’s tightly optimised, letting more modest rigs crank up the settings and still enjoy Zeppelin-high frame rates. I would add, pedantically, that multiplayer doesn’t look quite as good as single player, although it’s possible I’m imagining that.

It’s frenetic

From the vast maps to the plentiful player count (32 per side), Battlefield 1 is as anarchical as multiplayer comes. All is chaos. While coordination is encouraged, no field marshal bellows orders at you, letting everyone wage war however they want. In a plane. In a tank. Even on a horse. If you’re feeling nice, you can play medic and revive friendlies. If you’re feeling nasty, you can play assault and explode enemies. But, a warning. Just as there many ways to kill, so there are many ways to be killed. Snipers pick you off from the front, foot soldiers bayonet you from behind, and death drops from the sky in many guises, including grenades, mortars and mustard gas.

It’s unforgiving on beginners

Forget boot camp. In Battlefield 1, you’re lobbed straight into the front line. Which can be challenging for a new recruit to the series (raises hand), one who happens to be an FPS noob too. Expect to be killed, often and early, without warning and with extreme prejudice. A lesson you soon learn: Battlefield 1 is a sniper’s paradise. The enemy will pick you off from miles away, unless you pick them off first. Which means, unfortunately, you need to be able to aim. My aim, unrelentingly bad, is a decisive source of competitive disadvantage.

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