The new 'Battlefield' game takes war seriously, and it's a terrifying and incredible accomplishment

There are too many shooting games.

As a human being who enjoys video games, how are you to be expected to understand the subtle differences between, say, “Gears of War 4” and “Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare”? To say nothing of “Titanfall 2” or “Battlefield 1,” or any of the other myriad games where shooting a gun is the main form of interaction.

Fortunately, we’ve sorted through the mess. We already told you about “Gears of War 4” — that’s a pretty good game right there! — and this week “Battlefield 1” is finally out.

Battlefield 1Electronic ArtsThe gruesome reality of war is everywhere in ‘Battlefield 1.’

Far from the action-blockbuster bombast of “Gears of War 4,” the “Battlefield” series skews toward serious re-creation of actual combat. There are some conceits to the video game nature of it — replenishing health and leaping from rooftops, for instance — but the series aims for a more serious tone than its competition.

In “Battlefield 1,” the long-running series is heading to World War I.

That means trench warfare, mustard gas, gangrenous appendages, and battle on a scale previously unseen on Earth.

“Battlefield 1” may be a video game, but it clearly takes its subject matter seriously. From minute one of “Battlefield 1,” you’re faced with the horrific reality of “the war to end all wars.”

The game is split in two, between a single-player “War Stories” component, and an online multiplayer component.

If you’re a fan of the series, no doubt you’re looking for information on the latter. You’re in luck: Multiplayer feels about the same as in previous “Battlefield” games. That’s not a knock against it — “Battlefield” is the high watermark for online first-person shooter multiplayer games as far as I’m concerned. Everything from graphics to gameplay to sound design is first in class; it’s gorgeous, incredibly fun, and playing with surround sound is a great way to feel like you’re in a terrifying firefight. It’s also massive, with up to 64 players in a single match.

The usual modes are there (Conquest and Rush) while two new modes (War Pigeons and Operations) add new flavour. That said, it’s likely that players will stick with the classics — while War Pigeons is interesting (collect a pigeon and get it to safety before the enemy team), it’s little more than a novelty version of one-sided capture the flag. Operations takes the idea of Rush (capture various points) and expands it into a massive, ongoing game across several locations. Rather than holding points, you’ll play either offence or defence.

But this stuff is all basically standard for the series. If you like previous “Battlefield” games for the multiplayer, you’re going to like “Battlefield 1” for the same reasons.

What’s really different about “Battlefield 1” from other games, as well as from previous entries in the “Battlefield” series, is the single-player “War Stories” mode.

The concept behind “Battlefield 1” being set in World War I is simple, and incredibly fraught: tell the story of the first war spanning the globe, that saw the clash of saber-wielding soldiers on horseback with new world empires.

Rather than attempting to tell a single story, “Battlefield 1” takes a “Saving Private Ryan” approach: It tells the story of the war from the perspective of a variety of fictional but believable characters. You’ll play as a grunt on the front lines, as a pilot soaring through the air, as a warrior galloping across the desert — even as a pigeon, bringing the message to take out Germans with artillery (even though it also means your squad’s demise).

In this respect, “Battlefield 1” is an incredible accomplishment.

It employs gorgeous graphics and polished gameplay systems to great effect when it comes to empathy — an emotion rarely evoked by even the best storytelling in video games, let alone blockbuster games like this.

In an early mission, you’re trapped behind enemy lines. After carefully sneaking past a few dozen German soldiers, you must sneak through no man’s land — the scorched earth between enemy and friendly lines where battles are fought — which is pocked with disfigured body after disfigured body. It’s one of the many instances in “Battlefield 1” that smartly conveys the seriousness of the situation without overbearing rhetoric.

If I have any complains about “Battlefield 1,” it’s that “War Stories” is too short.

There are just a handful of stories, and it’s the freshest, most innovative addition to any major shooting series since “Titanfall” added double jumps and wall-running. That it left me wanting for more isn’t exactly a knock against it. In case it wasn’t already clear, “Battlefield 1” is a fantastic, fresh entry in a series that’s hit some turbulence in the last few years. If you’re at all interested in a more mature take on storytelling in first-person shooters, this is the game for you.

“Battlefield 1” arrives on October 21 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

NOW WATCH: Here’s your first look at ‘Battlefield 1’ — the life-like war game that blew up on YouTube

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