War shouldn't be fun. But Battlefield 1 is the most fun we've had in a first-person massive multiplayer online shooter. Its 64-player team versus co-op is an epic thing to behold. It almost makes us want to be in the trenches.
Which, given the prevalence of first-person shooters in today's gaming world, is a bold statement indeed. Not all Battlefield titles have quite hit the mark of late (yes Battlefield 4, we're looking at you), and 64-player isn't new by any means, but Battlefield 1 feels fresh and exciting because the variety of vehicles and its World War One setting make it stand out.
As a WW1 shooter the weapons on offer don't extend to futuristic lasers or armoured SWAT teams - which is refreshing in its own right. Instead you'll need to make the most of pistols, rifles, bayonets, machine guns and the like. Yet a lot of Battlefield 1's attack happens from within vehicles: from tanks, to biplanes, and motorcycles to epic airships, there's no holding back from the explosive and destructive power available.
The 32-players per team in the multiplayer session we played in are able to self-assign a role deployment on the map. Whether that means controlling the guns on an armoured vehicle, piloting an airship, manning a tank, flying a biplane, or running amok on the ground as infantry. If you die in battle then you won't respawn in the same deployment, you'll have to fit into an available slot from the arsenal that's in play in order to help out your team.
That means each game - unless you're a super-sharp sniper who never dies (we doubt it given the mania that unfolds) - will see you manning different guns, vehicles and tactics in a bid to win.
The old French village environment we occupied was a capture-the-flag style of play, with five different map sections available to conquer by remaining within the zone for an ample period of time. The sections in this example were marked from A through E, but your opposing team can recapture or stalemate your occupation too - it's all about numbers on the ground.
Battlefield 1 not only looks fantastic, its environments fully destructible too - a feature well known to Battlefield players. Topple defences, blow-up buildings, morph the map to your advantage even. Or, like us, get stuck in a six-gun armoured vehicle turned on its side and be forced to respawn. It's not always perfect, then, but this kind of glitch only really adds to the entertainment factor.
The vehicles are the most interesting aspect of play, given how different they feel in a typically infantry-led first-person shooter environment. Aboard a giant airship you feel indestructible. Well, at least until a mass of biplanes and ground fire take you down in a giant explosive fireball. Piloting one of those biplanes is the trickiest aspect of the game to control, we found, but mastering them may well be the key; taking them down with ground fire is equally satisfying as flying them.
What's interesting about the map we played in rural France is its openness. Much like the files and trenches of WW1, cover isn't as constructed or abundant as you'll find in many shooters these days. Sometimes running wild and dodging gunfire (or just running away) is as effective as a forward march. This will differ depending on the levels, of course, as Battlefield 1 will also explore the Arabian desert and the Italian Alps.
The trailer shows off what Battlefield 1 does so well. Sure, it might be over-exaggerating the slow and monotonous warfare of WW1, but this is a game, so it's got to elevate its offering to be engaging.
So whether you're a hardened first-person shooter, or a gamer looking for an intense experience that puts other generic shooters to bed, Battlefield 1 ticks all the boxes. We're pleasantly surprised by just how good this game is; it's been one of the standout titles at the E3 gaming expo 2016.
Fingers crossed it's a perfectly polished package when it comes to launch on 21 October this year.