Battlefield wasn't in the best place going into Battlefield 1. Public perception of the series definitely took a hit with Battlefield 4, which struggled with a variety of issues, and DICE a whole was coming off the disappointing Star Wars Battlefront. For that reason, Battlefield 1 kind of needed to hit the reset button a bit; and in that regard, I think it's succeeded.
Although it cheats in some ways, Battlefield 1 does enough to capture the flavor of World War I that it doesn't feel like a reskinned World War II shooter. The Operations mode works particularly well in this regard, concentrating the action in a way that brings out the sheer chaos of World War I. Whether you're attacking or defending, you'll find yourself diving for cover and praying as your position is bombed to hell by zepplins, artillery, and grenades. It's intense, exciting, and very Battlefield.
It's aided by some pretty strong maps, each of which requires a very different style of play to succeed. The Argonne Forest is rugged and unforgiving, with much of the action concentrated around a main bridge separating either side, while St. Quentin's Scar slowly turns the once idyllic French countryside into a burning hellscape. My personal favorite, though, is Empire's Edge: a map set alongside the Adriatic coastline that manages to work in a huge number of vehicles. All of them feature interesting terrain, a wide variety of places to attack, and the kind of layered design that makes for a good multiplayer map.
In the meantime, the single-player draws from a variety of sources: World War I literature, historic battles, and even adventure films. It can be a little hit or miss—I was put off by "Friends in High Places" and its X-wing-like fighter plane—but each story has at least once memorable moment. And they can even be pretty emotional, as in the case of one story where an old soldier remembers his brother. These stories aren't exactly All Quiet on the Western Front, but they are more thoughtful than I was expecting, certainly more than I'm used to seeing from a military shooter.
Through it all, Battlefield remains faithful to its identity as a sprawling shooter—a massive playground loaded with tanks, planes, and blimps. You can argue that it takes way too long to get into games—load times are pretty long in Battlefield 1—and that matches take far too long (around 30 minutes minimum); but once you're on the field, you can't deny the power of hunkering through an artillery barrage while tanks roll past you. Just last night, I yelled at the top of my lungs when I shot down a passing attack plane in my tank. You're just not going to get that in another mainstream shooter.
In that vein, you could argue that Battlefield 1 is an acquired taste. At the end of the day, there will be plenty of people who prefer the faster pace of Call of Duty or Halo, or the beautifully balanced squad play of Overwatch. But as a history fan and someone who just delights in driving around in tanks, Battlefield is very much my shooter, and this is the most fun I've had with the series in ages. In bringing the action back to the World War I, they've recaptured a large part of what was missing from the previous games. You can tell people are still adjusting, as tanks have been allowed to run amok among through the field because no one seems to know how to kill them just yet. Take away the fancy gadgets, and suddenly everyone flounders.
At the end of the day, I can point to plenty of little things that annoy me about Battlefield 1: the over-reliance on experimental weapons, the load times, the fact that Operations are just too big. But at the end of the day, this is the freshest, most focused, and flatout different that the series has felt in ages. For once, DICE seems content to do their own thing and not worry too much about the competition, and the result is an excellent game.
Battlefield 1 is hampered by long load times and menus that suffer from significant input delay. If you're too slow to back out of a competed battle, you will have to sit and wait several minutes for the next battle to load. It could use a lot of work.
Outstanding audio remains a hallmark of the series, and that is once again the case for Battlefield 1. Playing with a high-quality surround sound system is a mind-blowing experience.
Battlefield 1 is probably the best-looking shooter on the market today. Its vistas are simply awe-inspiring, and sometimes you just have to sit and marvel as bombs explode around you and planes roar overhead. Once again, DICE has outdone themselves.
I went in to Battlefield 1 with admittedly low expectations. I was excited about the setting, but I had my doubts that DICE could execute on it given their recent track record. Thankfully, DICE not only does justice to World War I, but refocuses the series as well. Battlefield 1 does a great job of getting back to basics, and it's aided by some fantastic map design. Overall, this is the most fun that I've had with the series since Battlefield Bad Company 2, making it one of 2016's best shooters.