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E3 2016: Battlefield 1 First Impressions and Preview

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Battlefield 1

During this year’s E3 2016, Electronic Arts held its first EA Play event. Since EA did not have a presence on the show floor, the publisher essentially held its own mini-convention right across the street from the Los Angeles convention Center at LA live. During EA Play, ToonZone was on hand to check out the multiplayer demo for DICE’s latest installment for the Battlefield franchise, Battlefield 1. Battlefield 1. When Battlefield 1 was first announced, it came off like a strong choice to take the setting back in time in the history of the world. Specifically, Battlefield 1 changes the setting to that of World War I or the Great War, and DICE’s choice to take the game to the World War I era looks like a good one so far.

Before the actual hands-on demo portion for Battlefield 1, the EA Play and DICE staff were nice enough to present a video presentation to ease gamers into the world of Battlefield 1. The video featured a quick and dirty run through the demo, player classes, weapons, new attacks, some of the new vehicles and features. It was essentially a nice tutorial and introductory video for the overall demo gameplay experience.

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The demo at EA Play featured the massive, epically epic 64-player battle. So players were divided in teams of two in an all-out battle. For one thing, the multiplayer map for this battle was in no way claustrophobic. Sometimes multiplayer maps in first-person shooters play in a fashion that’s a bit cramped, but here, the actual “battlefield” was pretty wide open space for the demo. The map, set in early 20th century France, having such a big space definitely added to the epic nature and grandeur of the battle.

One thing that’s slightly jarring about the demo experience for Battlefield 1 was the pacing. Overall, the gameplay for the demo had a very deliberate pace. It’s a lot slower than a game like Call of Duty. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes multiplayer gameplay moves too quickly before the player even registers what’s going on. The drawback was though at times that while on foot, a soldier or infantry men moves rather slowly. However, even the running or spring function plays in a somewhat slower, more deliberate fashion. This is an area where the game could probably use some improvement. Movement does feel cumbersome at times in Battlefield 1.

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The benefit to Battlefield 1 is that there’s a fun arsenal to play with. Battle does not have to be waged merely on the ground. In Battlefield 1, it can also be waged in the skies. Players can take part aerial battles with WWI biplanes. There are also combat vehicles, such as classic tanks, that players can control. For the start of the battle, I started in a rolling tank. The tank isn’t necessarily fast, and it can’t fit through some tighter spaces, but the tank gameplay was very satisfying nonetheless. The tank can run over enemies, dispatch them with machine gun fire or take them out with explosive rounds. From the demo, it looks like players have a nice variety of vehicles to try out to find their own, best personal way to wage war on the battlefield. Besides the airships and tanks, there’s also the motorcycles and also some powerful ground cannons.

For the demo, both sides are looking to control various checkpoints. The group with more defended and controlled checkpoints for the most amount of time for the end of the round wins. The AI does a good job in notifying what areas are compromised in enemies, so while one checkpoint area is conquered, the player can move to the next. Players could choose from several soldier classes: Assault, Support, Medic and Scout. Each class had its own weapons and loadouts, and the game has an even greater amount of customization to the loadouts as well.

Another interesting new feature is charging through a room. A soldier might not be able to take comfort in the safety of an enclosed room. Now players can charge through a door and go in for an instant kill with a bayonet mounted rifle. There is a considerable danger here. If the bayonet charge is not properly timed, it makes the soldier who attempted that attack incredibly vulnerable to retaliation from an enemy. It seems the charge can also be executed on the ground, but I was never quite able to successfully pull it off.

The most epic moment of the Battlefield 1 demo is that at one point, the losing enemy’s side can launch a last-ditch effort with a giant zeppelin airship. The zeppelin offers a considerable amount of fire power, but it is also equally vulnerable to attacks from ground troops. The visual of seeing the zeppelin getting peppered with firepower before ultimately crashing to the ground provides a bit of glorious chaos to the gameplay. It’s definitely a way the game raises the stakes with its multiplayer gameplay by offering such a big sequence and set-piece. I was on the winning side, so I was not able to board or control the zeppelin for that sequence, but the moment was visceral. DICE has done well in creating a war-time gameplay difference that’s different than a lot of things have come before.

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The graphics and visuals for the EA demo looked slick and spectacular. The environments and vehicles were all nicely rendered using the Frostbite engine. The designers at DICE did really well in making the more epic moments, such as the zeppelin battle, in the multiplayer battle look really big and authentic. Despite having a battle with 32 players participating on each side, the gameplay ran very well. There weren’t any major hiccups with the demo.

So far Battlefield 1 is looking promising, and the World War I setting is a welcome change of pace for the franchise. In a time where Call of Duty is taking its franchise into the direction of sci-fi, it’s nice to get another type of shooter that goes back in time in actual human history. Battlefield 1 arrives on October 21. The game will be available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC via Origin.