Battlefield 1 is a special game. Aside from it being the best shooter and one of the best games of 2016, it’s also a big step forward for the genre as a whole, particularly the Battlefield franchise.
You can read more about my thoughts on the game in my Battlefield 1 review, but I thought I’d take this moment to really emphasise what it is about the game — specifically its campaign — that makes it so great.
Now, Battlefield games have first and foremost always been multiplayer games. The campaign has always kind of been “background” noise while most of the focus has been on the competitive arena. Battlefield 4 took some steps forward, but as with Battlefield 3, its campaign story was filled with missteps.
Battlefield Hardline took the series in a new direction, and while its campaign is among the best in the franchise, it hardly stands out as the “pinnacle” of the Battlefield experience.
Battlefield 1 sets a new standard. Not just for series developer DICE, but for developers of all shooters. That standard is one of powerful storytelling. Few shooters with a focus on multiplayer put as much effort into telling a story as Battlefield 1 does.
One moment demonstrates that extremely well. In the mission “Through Mud and Blood”, your tank crew becomes overwhelmed by enemy forces. At this point, a messenger pigeon is released out into the open to provide HQ with the coordinates to initiate an artillery strike. Essentially, the soldiers were committing suicide after being faced with what seemed like certain defeat and death.
“War pigeons”, as they are called, have been used for centuries during periods of great conflict. The US Army sent off thousands during the Great War.
The significance here is that the pigeon breaks up the gameplay in a rather beautiful way, and it really hits hard at how DICE has managed to create a respectful, beautiful, and thought-provoking campaign. Watch the moment below from 1:33.
Leading into this, the combat was chaotic and violent. Then, suddenly, we’re put in control of a pigeon.
It’s a symbol of peace — calmness and grace — with the backdrop of a tragic war in the background. The brutality of the battlefield below emphasises the importance of the pigeon and its significance to the mission at hand.
It may seem fairly trivial and silly, but this moment stands out in Battlefield 1 because it’s an outlier: the single moment in a long campaign where you’re not controlling a vehicle or soldier. You simply can’t ignore the significance of it, and I feel DICE was really trying to portray a message here, rather than simply saying, “You can control a bird!” The whole moment lasts only 50 seconds or so, and it’s not a necessary piece of gameplay to drive the narrative forward, but it is a nice distraction away from the brutality of the war unfolding around it.
Battlefield 1 launches October 21 on Xbox One, PS4 and PC