For all the issues with first-person shooters nowadays, there's a lot to be said for trying to make something original - or as close to original as audiences will take.
Battlefield 1 comes to market in a crowded environment. Halo 5, the upcoming Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Star Wars: Battlefront, Rainbow Six Siege - all of them vying for a piece of the pie and trying to mark themselves out as a distinctive experience for players to enjoy. It's interesting to note that, between them all, there's a sense that they're moving between the same lines and drawing with the same colours, but not doing anything radically different.
The same can be said of Battlefield 1, but at least here it's trying to be different. The biggest differentiation is the setting of World War I, an era that's largely overlooked by gaming and pop culture in general - but that is ripe for exploration. The single player campaign is set over a variety of 'war stories', ranging from T.E. Lawrence's campaign with the Bedouin rebels in Arabia to a daring assault in the mountains as a member of the Italian Empire's armored shock troopers. While the Battlefield franchise was never big on narrative, there's a decent attempt to get players invested in each campaign. The Italian campaign, for example, is told via flashback from a grandfather's perspective and works to make it more cinematic than you'd normally expect from a Battlefield game. Each campaign is unique enough in terms of the gameplay, but there is a sense that it's all leading towards the multiplayer and it's in multiplayer where Battlefield 1's strength lies.
The various game modes - Operations, Rush, Conquest - all add a new flavour to the various potential match-ups. What's more, weekly events in multiplayer put a brilliant and unique spin on the existing modes. For example, one event saw players on the side of a mountain in deep fog with only pistols, which for one of the most thrilling multiplayer experiences we've had in quite some time. While this might have been a much more intimate affair, the large-scale maps like the Sinai Desert and Amiens really do capture the chaos of battle. The usual of individual classes and vehicle-specific ones makes for a much more balanced and defined experience in multiplayer. The maps feel well balanced and being able to spawn vehicles in map is a nice little addition. Obviously, it remains to be seen how the servers will handle the load on the opening few days of the game, but it's rarely been an issue for DICE or EA and it's unlikely to be one now.
Graphically, Battlefield 1 is much as you'd expect from the Frostbite Engine and DICE. The use of colour and depth isn't exactly unique, but it works beautifully well with the grand vistas and surroundings of World War I and it's engrossing enough to keep you interested. Together with some excellent sound design, you can really get the feel that you're squelching through mud and water to charge up a hill to take a bunker or a capture point with bullets whizzing past your head. The soundtrack, by Johan Söderqvist, suits the game perfectly and makes it feel all the more cinematic when it's needed. There's an earnestness to it than lends itself to the game and makes for a much more satisfying experience.
Overall, Battlefield 1 is a superior first-person shooter and sits firmly ahead of previous Battlefield entrants. Immersive, textured and strong gameplay means that Battlefield 1 wins out as one of the best first-person shooters of the year.