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Battlefield 1 Single Player Review. SPOILERS AHEAD

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This is my first ever game review. As this is all my opinion, if yours happens to differ, that's okay. My thoughts reflect my experience from playing through all the single player levels just once, through the first week of release, since I bought the Early Enlister Edition for Xbox One, and my concluding opinion. While I will mention gameplay and graphics a bit, my primary concern is the writing and characters. Some of this is summary as well, and as such if you find it not working in conjunction with the review, than I will make adjustments for future reviews I do (or edit it too). 

 

I posted this on the BF1 forums as well, so you might see it there under the username ThoArtUnrivaled.

 

WARNING: THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD (for those who haven't played yet)!

You've been warned...

 

Lets Begin!

 

"Storm of Steel"

 

Wow! A great use of in medias res. Places the player directly in the midst of a battle as a member of the Harlem Hellfighters. A TERRIFIC way to start the game. The musical score enhanced the horror of the fighting, but the graphics look stunning and haunting at the same time. Moreover, I loved the narration. The soldier describing that war was supposed to be "a great adventure". Quite the opposite.  That was some solid writing, from either a third person or first person perspective. It could be both, really. 

After completing that mission, the montage of battlegrounds you were heading to felt like a really nice way of showing the player snippets of all he/she will experience. And the narration....one of my favorite aspects of the campaign. All mixed together for a great intermission before you access the rest of the campaign.

Graphics: My jaw dropped when the game loaded up. The visual punch elevated by the background shooting and explosions painted a scene I won't forget for a while. It was heartbreaking to see all these people, good and bad, die, even though its a video game! The flamethrowers blanketing landscape, tanks bulldozing through trenches and destroyed farmhouses...man. That was something

 

"Through Mud and Blood"

We are rapidly introduced to Daniel Edwards. As a former chauffeur, he volunteers for the British tank corps. His first experience of the war is set in France to take the city of Cambrie. He doesn't have any experience driving tanks, but he quickly learns. At first, we see he doesn't fit in completely with his comrades. Their is a dysfunctional social dynamic.That changes as the player progresses through the four levels. McManus learns to trust him, Townsend the tank commander as well, and Finch, the pigeon handler, is ecstatic, but not totally convinced.

From there, the writing nails the intensity of tank warfare. Getting stuck brings up desperation to get..well..unstuck. With every small moment of victory comes a hurrah or "Nice Shot, McManus!". 

Jumping to the concluding mission, the sorrow Townsend shows for blowing up Bess was pretty sad. I felt bad; that tank was their home. But as German soldiers were prying their way in, he had to make that fateful decision. Luckily, Edwards and McManus survive. The whole set of missions was great fun. Solid writing and cinematics direction, tragedy for the tank crew, but hope instilled at the end. 

 

"Friends in High Places"

The cinematic begins with introducing Clyde Blackburn, an American fighter pilot to volunteers for the British RAF. During the poker scene with George Rackham, we learn he is witty, quick thinking, fraudulent, and not afraid to cut corners to get  what he wants. It sounds pretty bad, but it is for the better as this section of the campaign progresses. 

Wilson (Cast Away, anyone?), the nervous British pilot, teaches Blackburn how to properly pilot and gun the biplane they use (I forget what that plane was called). While I struggled with the controls, as I suck with flying in video games, paying attention to their dialogue made me chuckle. Blackburn messes with Wilson, but not to the point where he's flying dangerously. He's a quick learner, and very soon the game thrusts you into a couple waves of dangerous German Red Barron, tri-winged fighters. All this is happening while flying near enemy territory. 

Eventually, they fly through cloudcover and locate an entire German fort. Instead of veering off, Blackburn is excited for the opportunity: he dives at their enemy, twists right above their heads and lets Wilson snap reconnaissance photos. It startled me; I honestly thought the Germans would shoot them down. Nope! 

The remainder of the missions are of Blackburn and Wilson challenging Germans in a huge air dogfight over more French territory and an extremely entertaining Zeppelin fight over the skies of London. Their time comes to an end with what I deem a little improbable: jumping off a Zeppelin, fire ripping it apart, and landing thousands of feet into....the Thames river. The level ends with Blackburn asking the player if they would believe his story, since others might twist it. Breaking the fourth wall in a funny way, revealing his unreliable narrator self, (I did have to look that up, since I forgot about it), but the whole Zeppelin jump felt a little too unbelievable.

This whole set of missions was truly enthralling. Flying the Bristol, laughing along with Blackburn and his co-pilot and witnessing his character come alive though his action was highly entertaining.

 

"Avanti Savoia!"

While this campaign is just two missions, so much is explained and established in the first cutscene. Luca Vincenzo Cocchiola, much older, is reminicent of his brother Matteo. His daugher asks who he is, since she mistakens him for her father. The emotion in Luca's voice foreshadows something horrible to happen. The writing does a great job summarizing Luca and Matteo's relationship as brothers, and the flashback into the battle Luca loses him in cements their strong relationship: one will always come back for the other.

After battling up the mountain, and watching German bombers create a landslide that ends up killing Matteo, the desperation and his fear of whether he lost his brother or not overcomes him. The scene of Luca lying over his dead brother is truly heartbreaking. No words to describe it. It reminded me of the ending of the World War II film "Fury". How the camera circles above the tank and all the dead Germans is similar to how Luca lies next to Matteo. While he does a warrior, the death of their relationship is tragic. 

I wish DICE made another mission or two for added playability and depth of brotherhood not just amongst them, but other soldiers. However, that wasn't the point of this campaign; the relationship between brothers was far more powerful, perhaps as powerful, than driving back Germans in Italy.

 

 

"The Runner" 

Fredrick Bishop is a well known Aussie soldier. Jack Foster, young man who introduces him, tells the player through great dialogue he's basically a legend. While Bishop minds his own business, the naivety the young man possesses through the acting and the writing is easily demonstrated and eventually shown.

What works so very well is the, albeit short lived, relationship between Bishop and Foster. Bishop wants to forget about him, but seeing how vulnerable he is to the might of the enemy clicks something in him. The moments of showing how to properly hold a rifle speaks strongly of their hastily growing connection, but from happens in the end, that ends prematurely. 

Through the excellent and simplified writing of these two characters, we feel bad for the death of Bishop. His last line speaks a testament to his eventual growing trust. A somber, but highly effective line that shows he is both happy the kid lived, but secured the lives of many other soldiers after Bishop fought his way, in a mightily heroic fashion, through the fort. Once again, great writing in this set of missions that portray the common theme of brotherhood and sacrifice.

 

 

"Nothing is Written"

Lawrence of Arabia! I was really looking forward to playing as the famous British soldier. Sadly, we didn't. But it makes sense: his story has already been told through the famous Oscar-winning film of his name. However,  the female protagonist makes a pretty good replacement. 

Zara Ghufran is a rebel from the Beduin tribe, working with Lawrence. Together they outwit the Ottoman soldiers they are battling in the sands of Arabia. The intro to the levels tells why Lawrence is aiding the Arabians, and that Zara knows how to use the sands and the lack of attention the Ottomans possess to her advantage. From the writing and acting, we find she is resourceful, prone to easy anger, tough, sly and sneaky. on the other hand, the Ottoman soldier Tilkici speaks just a couple lines, yet has a major point to not glance over. "Nothing will stop the progress of machines...". That line alone reveals a lot about the state of human civilization during World War 1: mechanized warfare being a new front in combat. That's huge, considering the player later blows up their huge armored train.

Now I wish DICE included more information to set her apart from other tribes and females leading the fight against the Ottomans, but from what we get, Zara is a character that is entertaining to play as, and refreshing as a female who takes part in what is normally a male role. 

 

Concluding thoughts

DICE's writers finally crafted a worthy single player experience with characters that have motivations, their own histories, and take part in the War to End all Wars. Its sad to see those that appear as great characters lay their lives down, even if its fictional, but what DICE did is make not just a great experience from a gameplay perspective, but a narrative point of view. The beginning nails the horror and terrifyingly violent atmosphere and grit that World War 1 was. The anthology of campaigns, in a way similar to HBO's Band of Brothers, collect similar and different views on fighting, the evolution of machinated combat and how millions upon millions of lives, and humanity, were changed in those four harrowing years. So, DICE, thanks! I am thus far really enjoying the breadth of experiences with this iteration of Battlefield. It's an amazing game. I do wish you added naval warfare levels and expanded gameplay on a couple places, but from what you've delivered, Battlefield 1 is by far the best single player experience you've made for the series. For the next game, if there is one, Id like another anthology of experiences, depending on the period in history you tackle. As is, I will definitely replay it here and there, maybe even coming to a stronger understanding of the characters that I missed the first time. I'll end with the monologue that is spoken after the campaign is finished, because it beautifully captures everything the characters experienced and would say after the war ended if they were real.

 

"One day, all this will be over.The War to end all Wars will be fought by one side or the other. The guns will rust...the grass will grow...and there will be nothing left of any of this.The land will heal itself as everything does in the end. We'll be long gone by then, but maybe not forgotten. History only remembers one in a thousand of us. Then the future will be filled with stories of who we were and what he did. How we lived, how we fought, and how we died.When this is all over and the war is won, they will remember us. But until that day comes, we will stand, we will look death in the eye, and We Will FIGHT."

 

Battlefield 1: 8.75/10

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