Battlefield 1: They Shall Not Pass Review
A bit of France and a bit of fun to keep you going
Battlefield 1 was an astronomically hyped game, and rightfully so. With its main competitor, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, flopping in the eyes of its public despite a decent critical reception, the spotlight was entirely on EA and DICE’s new lovechild. Nobody would have blamed the game if it never lived up to the hype — the bar was set almost unfairly and unrealistically high — but it did; it was released to critical and public acclaim. Fans had been yearning for a boots-on-the-ground Call of Duty title for years, and with the series failing to deliver, Battlefield barrelled in and gave them exactly what they were looking for.
It’s hard to believe that Battlefield 1 is already six months old, but it’s still going strong and showing absolutely no signs of slowing down in the foreseeable future. It’s an utterly mesmerising game that tells stories of different factions and lives from the war in such a unique and compelling way that I genuinely couldn’t recall having as much fun with a campaign in quite some time. The multiplayer experience only needed to come close to that level of quality in order to create an all-around excellent game; it did, and the two game modes combined with stunning visuals and inspiring, pulse-accelerating music to create one of the best video games of 2016.
Unfortunately, in an age where gamers have grown accustomed to fast-paced shooters and exo suits and jetpacks, one can only do so much with a more restrictive World War 1 setting and so the game has begun to grow stale — even for this self-anointed long-time Battlefield enthusiast. Like many others, I’ve been so used to modern day weaponry and locale for so long that the aura of history and war doesn’t quite do it for me anymore after half a year. This can simply be put down to FPS fans having been spoiled over the past few years, and with such incredible AAA releases as the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series and even Battlefield’s own Bad Company series moving the genre’s landscape into the future — where it has stayed — we have gotten used to a certain, much faster-paced, style of gameplay. This is by no means to say that I’ve come to dislike Battlefield 1; the game is stunning and the gameplay is rock-solid, but after playing it for so many hours I simply came to feel as though I’d experienced all that the game has to offer.
Fortunately, just as that feeling began to set in, EA released the game’s first expansion, the incredibly welcome They Shall Not Pass. A stunning reminder of just how well-crafted Battlefield 1 is as a whole, the expansion brings the French army into the fray with a new Elite Class and ten new main, melee and stationary weapons, while also adding a brand new game mode, two new Operations, ten new ranks and a bunch of new unlocks.
Of course, maps are always the most-touted features of a new expansion, and They Shall Not Pass doesn’t disappoint, delivering four new battlegrounds set in France, each one with their own distinct aesthetic and play style. Verdun Heights is the clear standout, a hell on earth that has been utterly decimated by artillery fire, leaving enormous forest fires in its wake for players to fight their way in and around. Although it’s not the easiest map to play, it is arguably the most confronting Battlefield map to date.
Continuing with the frantic, confronting maps is Fort de Vaux, Battlefield 1’s answer to Battlefield 4’s wildly-popular Operation Locker. The tight corners and claustrophobic battles that take place within the Fort are sure to get any Battlefield player’s heart pumping just a little faster, whether that’s out of exhilaration or frustration; players simply can’t turn a corner on this map without coming under fire, usually from an entire squad.
Rupture and Soissons take the warfare into the idyllic French countryside, and they’re certainly easy on the eyes — especially Rupture with its beautiful little poppy field. They are also far larger and more open maps than Fort de Vaux and Verdun Heights; they’re playgrounds for snipers and tank lovers, and infantry are forced to play a lot more strategically than in the other two maps if they hope to stay alive for more than a minute at a time. Players who know how to use their surroundings to their advantage, however, will have a blast finding new ways to sneak up on snipers and destroy unsuspecting, and hopefully fully-loaded, tanks.
Unfortunately, the expansion’s new game mode, Frontlines, is not quite the slam dunk that Operations was when it was introduced to the series; its length compared to other game modes means that it often drags on and becomes more than a little repetitive. What has been done well, however, is the fact that the new weapons added to each class can be unlocked by completing challenges with guns from the base game. Although the weapons are very obviously designed for the new maps, bringing them into the original maps reveals that they are a clear upgrade over what was already available. It’s a good way to add some incentive to the game, one that has kept me coming back to play for hours on end — just like the good old days.
Although I’m still yet to determine whether I’m ready to pay for the game’s Premium Pass, They Shall Not Pass is a promising start to Battlefield 1’s season of expansions. The four new maps are a welcome change of pace, and the pack overall brings plenty of new variety to the game; one can only hope that the next expansion comes out more quickly.