After the Review follows up on games shortly after their release. Did they make the right decisions? How are the fans reacting? We examine those questions and more. You can read our full review of Battlefield 1 here.
I knew the moment I saw a zeppelin for the first time that DICE had made the right decision in bringing Battlefield 1 back to World War I. After years of shooters set in the near future, the far future, and the present day, it was about time the genre got back to basics.
It was a particularly good move for Battlefield. After spending so much time in the modern era, the series had started to feel stale and uninteresting. It was also having a hard time distinguishing itself from its nearest competitor, Call of Duty, which was also leaning hard on modern day military action. Something had to give; and in the end, both franchises broke in opposite directions.
While the jury's still out on Call of Duty, the shift has so far worked out splendidly for Battlefield. DICE's shooter has enjoyed good reviews and solid word-of-mouth since launching last week, and the freshness of its setting is a big part of it. That goodwill has already translated to the sales charts. There are reports that Battlefield 1 has greatly outpaced the sales of Battlefield 4 and Battlefield Hardline—both relatively uninspiring entries in the series. After years of push-button warfare, fans were ready to get back in the trenches.
Of all the shooters on the market, Battlefield was particularly well-suited for a move to World War I. The series has its roots in World War II, and the chaos of close combat fits it well. It's also one of the only shooters capable of nailing the sheer scope of the World Wars, scale having long been one of the franchise's chief calling cards. Behemoths are the cherry on top—massive vehicles that fit the setting nicely while feeling uniquely "Battlefield."
Even though Battlefield has never been set in World War I before now, it still feels like something of a homecoming for the series. This is the Battlefield that we all fell in love with back in 2002, with the added benefit of a setting that feels at once familiar but also fresh and new. Credit DICE for taking advantage of their source material and weaving in a wide variety of locations, historical events, and literary references—all of which makes it feel that much more grounded in reality.
We'll see if Battlefield 1 is able to retain its momentum through the end of the year, but early returns are good. The question now is whether its competition will follow suit.
Are historical shooters back?
Activision is surely watching the reaction of Battlefield 1's shift closely. They must be shaking their head a bit, as Call of Duty's last visit to World War II was met with jeers and boos (before eventually being embraced as a classic). But it's been eight years now, and DICE has shown that there's still a healthy interest in historical shooters.
But that doesn't necessarily mean that Call of Duty should head right back to World War II. One reason Battlefield 1 has managed to strike a chord is that it feels new and different. Much the same can be said for Black Ops, which turned heads with its Cold War paranoia and conspiracy theory-driven storylines. Mostly, fans just want to experience something different amid the constant churn of annual shooters.
Still, Call of Duty wouldn't be foolish to get back to its roots. There's been an outcry for a historical shooter for a while now, and plenty of fans have fond memories of World at War. More than a few have called it the game of their childhood, which is... terrifying... but also speaks to its nostalgic power. Maybe now Activision will finally give them what they want.
But their main takeaway from this shouldn't be, 'Do what the other guys are doing,' or even that historical shooters are back. It should be that fans like it when they get something new and interesting, particularly if its well-executed. That might seem trite, but with this year's Call of Duty looking like Yet Another Sci-fi Shooter, Activision might benefit from this bit of received wisdom.
For now, we can appreciate the success of Battlefield 1, and bask a bit in the novelty of having a new historical shooter. Here's hoping that overeager publishers don't go and ruin them again.