Summary: Campaign complete
Most Intriguing Idea: Playing as a unit, rather than an individual
Best Design Decision: Character-swapping in the first mission
Worst Design Decision: Stealth everywhere
I was very excited by Battlefield 1‘s prologue mission. The mission activities themselves weren’t anything remarkable by Battlefield standards: hold this point, shoot these dudes, drive this tank. What set the scenario apart was that when I died I didn’t just reboot in the same body at a checkpoint. Instead, the person I was playing was dead, and I switched into the body of another guy in the same general vicinity. This seemed to me like an almost perfect way to capture the bloody action of World War I, and also to ground a shooter in the reality of war, rather than resorting to absurd “one man” heroics as the default. I couldn’t wait to play a full game like that, embodying the action of a full unit as they fought and died in the futility of a bloody, brutal, and unnecessary war.
Well, technically I could wait—am still waiting, in fact—because that’s not what Battlefield 1 turned out to be. It turned out to be a stealth game, and not a good one. Stealth missions and mission segments show up constantly throughout the campaign (one sub-story consists of nothing but), even when the focus is on tanks or planes. It’s rudimentary line-of-sight stuff with vision indicators and see-through-walls tagging. Uniquely, enemies can also see the player-character through walls, as happened when an enemy sniper saw me through a giant rock AND a tent. Naturally, whenever spotted by anyone, every enemy in the area however far away instantly knew my location no matter where I moved to.
Even the dogfighting doesn’t perk up the game. The controls felt too limited and the mission objectives were dull and rote; I found myself longing to play Wings again (maybe I’ll pick up the reboot). The only real respite from crap stealth and shoddy level design is a pair of raucous levels focusing on an Italian dude with a big gun. The whole campaign feels like a colossal misfire and outside of the prologue and the Italian missions I can’t think of one moment of it I’d ever consider playing again.