GOTY 2016: The Top 10 Games of the Year - #7
We're excited to announce the Silicon Sasquatch Top 10 Games of the Year! After months of discussion and a marathon five-hour meeting, we've finally narrowed down the ten games that we feel best represent the best and most important that 2016 had to offer.
#7 | Battlefield 1
EA DICE | October 21st, 2016 | Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Historical games often toe a very difficult line, and a series with the budget of Battlefield has an expectation of being impressive, fun and interesting. At the risk of selling games short, conveying a sensitivity to loss and violence is not typically the strong suit of video games.
For a long time, historical shooters, specifically World War II shooters, were the premiere setting for first-person action games both narrative and multiplayer. Medal of Honor brought Saving Private Ryan-level production values (or as near as they could be translated to games) to the medium for the first time. Battlefield 1942 brought the scale, minus the drama; 1942 was a tremendously fun but often goofy and unbalanced game. Playing an action game with 63 other players was unheard of at the time, and the chaos, while fun, felt more like our imagination of war than anything that had been released before. Hard to believe it was less than 15 years ago…
Games are a technology-based medium, and trends have a way of changing quickly. Market saturation poisoned the well for historical shooters, and Call of Duty 4 helped make modern combat the du-jour setting of the seventh console generation. Every major publisher scrambled to have a seat at the the military-industrial complex table and, with the rise of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, modern combat finally became old hat. Speculative future warfare is the new setting of choice, and with it, new movement mechanics and space-age weaponry are making first-person shooters increasingly unrelatable. While not undesirable, sci-fi action scratches a different itch than the war shooters of the 2000s.
It’s ironic that DICE, one of the progenitors of modern combat shooters, has managed to provide a breath of fresh air by going backwards to a war marked by gas masks.
The best stories in the Battlefield series have been the ones players made with friends, not the ones told by the game’s writers. But with Battlefield 1, DICE found a way to tell stories of the Great War without relying on the common jingoistic tale of Americans saving the day. By focusing on six vignettes rather than a single epic, BF1 potently illustrates the grand scale of the conflict as well as its steep personal costs. Each act has its own high points, but it’s at its most dramatically resonant in the prologue, as you fill the shoes of soldier after soldier, each life sacrificed just to push a little bit farther in a hellscape of ash and mud. By focusing on a more episodic style, DICE stopped trying to outfox Call of Duty and allowed Battlefield to tell its own story. Battlefield 1 is one of the most singularly beautiful games that’s ever been made, even if it is often focused on the complete destruction of that beauty.
But again, this is not a series that built its reputation on single-player campaigns, and the vast majority of players are looking for massive battles against other real people. Battlefield 1 has managed to deliver on its classic formula of epic scope and intense moments while still being tremendously fun. Operations mode, which features two sides pushing for control of points over multiple maps, makes the multiplayer feel less like one enlarged map full of chaos and more like a group of smaller maps with their own matches being fought.
Delivering that kind of experience using the backdrop of the most brutal war in the history of humankind requires a certain kind of respect and sensitivity to those who sacrificed their lives. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about recreating the battles of World War 1 amongst friends online; it’s emotionally difficult to contemplate real people living through similar experiences. But DICE has created a campaign that gives those people a voice and demonstrates the fears and the courage they brought with them to the battlefield. — Tyler Martin