Call of Duty or Battlefield? Entertaining or tactical? 64 players or only 24 opponents? These were probably the most important questions for the many shooter fans among us in recent years. This time, however, the Swedes seemed to have won the race long before the release of the shooting heavyweights – at least if you put the popularity of the two announcement trailers on the scales. While Call of Duty once again relies on the tried and tested futuristic setting, Battlefield 1 apparently took the hearts of shooting fans by storm with its World War I theme. But is the anticipation justified by the special setting and the bombastic look alone? We were able to check this out in person at a test event lasting several days directly at Dice in Stockholm.
We also got a test version, but unfortunately we couldn’t play it long enough. Therefore, we still do not give a rating, as we could not finish the campaign completely and furthermore we could only try out the multiplayer battles under artificial conditions, i.e. in Dice’s own network without lags and other annoying disturbing factors. However, our relatively short experience with the test version indicates that there are neither major netcode problems in multiplayer mode, nor problems with crashes or bugs in the single player campaign.
Battlefield 1 in pre-test: Campaign
The developers kept the campaign of Battlefield 1 quiet for a long time. It’s not really a good sign, so we started our career as World War I soldiers at the event with a slightly queasy feeling. Dice had revealed in advance that the plot of the seven-hour adventure would take us to different locations and that there would be several heroes, but they didn’t want to tell us anything about further details. So we were a little surprised that the campaign is now not a linear story like in the predecessors, but rather a small collection of short stories of the First World War, which we can even play in any order. Altogether in the skin of five Allied soldiers we learn how, for example, the battles on the Western Front were fought with tanks, why the Bedouins fought their fight for freedom against the Ottoman Empire or what makes a real flying ace.
A clever concept, which in our opinion works out perfectly: On the one hand, the short stories are detailed enough with more than an hour each to bring the characters and locations involved closer to us, and on the other hand, the developers did not get bogged down in an illogical plot, which presents us with a leg-hard warhorse that is a tank and flying ace as well as sniper and much more in one person. This would have been inappropriate in view of the rather sensitive subject of the First World War, especially since almost ten million soldiers died during the conflict.
In the role of the British tank driver Edwards, for example, we learn how unreliable the first steel colossuses of the battlefields were. While we run over the enemies in the first minutes without any problems with the Mark-5 tank (and of course run over them), we get difficulties with the engine of the tank during the chapter. Therefore we have to leave the vehicle and start looking for spark plugs – and this in enemy territory of all places! As in the Far Cry series, for example, it is largely up to us how we want to proceed. The minimap shows us four locations where we should search for the parts that are essential for survival. Before we set off, we look through our binoculars and try to mark as many enemies as possible. What we do afterwards, i.e. whether we creep or shoot and which weapons in our hands reach the targets, we may decide for ourselves. This rather free concept is also something that we have immediately welcomed, especially since we – like probably many other shooter fans – are a little fed up with the Call of Duty typical baller stalls and the tube-like levels. But unfortunately we were a little disappointed here. It’s not the fault of hose-like areas or repetitive missions, on the contrary: Panzer-Mission is almost beyond any doubt in terms of freedom of movement and variety. The problem is rather the very weak AI: We haven’t even experienced enemies setting a trap for us or attacking us from different sides.