Nearly a year removed from its release, Battlefield 1 is still going strong. This past July EA reported that more than 21 million players have enlisted in the World War I shooter, and a steady stream of new maps and game updates has kept fans on the frontlines. This week, the game received another wave of reinforcements in the form of the In The Name Of The Tsar expansion.

Set along the Eastern Front, the expansion focuses on battles between the monarchies of Austria, Germany, and Russia, as well as the Bolshevik revolt that pit Tsar loyalists against the rising tide of communism. Featuring five new maps, two new Operations, five new vehicles, thirteen new weapons, and one new game mode, In The Name Of The Tsar is the biggest Battlefield expansion ever.  

In The Name Of The Tsar launched alongside a Battlefield 1 balance update that dramatically improved general gunplay, making weapons more lethal across the board. The alteration is immediately noticeable, allowing you to take down multiple enemies with one clip more frequently during ambushes, making weapons like SMGs and LMGs more viable. The welcome change rewards patient movement and tactical approaches to hot zones and rightfully punishes the Leeroy Jenkins battalions prone to recklessly charging across no man’s land. Battlefield 1 has never played better.

Avoiding open territory is a requirement to stay alive in this expansion. Many of the maps are snowy, desolate, and flat, making them a sniper’s paradise and a paramedic’s nightmare. Your dark uniforms make you stick out like a sore thumb running across the maps, so if you don’t move cautiously along ridgelines, stick to trenches, and use smoke grenades to cross expanses with no cover, chances are a sniper will add you to their kill count. Even some control points have minimal cover in maps like Galicia, Volga River, and Brusilov Keep. The lack of cover increases the tension of movement, and several times I found myself praying for the randomized fog to set in to make crossing terrain easier.

What the maps lack in foliage and cover, they make up for in play diversity. Taken as a collection, these new locations play to Battlefield’s strengths in several ways. The infantry focused urban battle at Tsaritsyn keeps the gun battles tight and focused at the Cathedral of Light in the center of the map. The wide-open Volga River map accentuates tank battles across seven control points. My favorite of the maps, Albion, combines air, land, and sea combat to one frantic package that reminded me of the golden era of Bad Company 2. Fighting for control of the Zerell batteries stationed atop the biggest island while heavy bombers rain explosives from above and soldiers pouring in from all sides create some of the more memorable battle moments.

The new Supply Drop mode is a twist on conquest that has armies fighting for control of precious resources at random positions where they parachute to land. These chaotic battles may provide a nice change of pace for some, but failed to capture my attention enough to pull me away from the more structured standard Battlefield modes like conquest, Rush, and Operations.

Whatever mode you play, the return of class specializations gives you another perk to pursue while fighting. By completing Service Assignments, you can unlock new customization options for your classes that help accentuate your play style. If you’re a medic who frequently runs into danger zones to save fallen comrades, the Concealed Rescue specialization is a must. This perk has downed squad mates within 20m of your position drop a smoke grenade to provide cover for the revive attempt. Scouts who use trigger mines should focus on getting the Perimeter Alarm specialization, which marks any enemy within 15 meters of your triggered alarm. These boosts may be minor but they can still be impactful over the course of play.  

Shooter fans have no shortage of great options to explore right now with blockbusters like Destiny 2, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and Overwatch all going strong, but In The Name Of The Tsar makes a great case for returning to Battlefield 1. The game balance updates, specializations, and strong map designs combine to take the already strong game to another level.