The next version of the much-loved sandbox-style first-person shooter Battlefield will be called Battlefield 1, will be set in World War I and will arrive in the shops on October 21, publisher Electronic Arts and developer DICE have revealed.
At a bombastic reveal event in London’s Gfinity Arena, EA and DICE showed the first footage of what will surely the most realistic and ambitious World War I game ever – the Great War, surprisingly, has remained more or less untapped territory for mainstream first-person shooters until now. But that will change on October 21, when Battlefield fans, fiercely loyal to the franchise’s unique multiplayer attributes, which let 64 players enact large-scale battles in fully destructible maps, manning or piloting any military vehicles they can find, will be able to jump into a startlingly visceral and realistic evocation of the “War to end all wars”.
At the event, DICE did not show any live footage beyond an admittedly impressive trailer (see below), but various members of the Swedish developer’s top brass were on hand to provide a fair bit of detail about Battlefield 1. It will visit locations like the battlefields of France, the Italian Alps and the Arabian desert – authenticity demanding that cavalry will feature (although DICE refused to explicitly state that players will be able to ride any horses they encounter). The first generation of tanks will feature, along with planes varying from light observation craft to bombers. You will even be able to take the controls of battleships, although Lars Gustavsson, DICE’s design director, emphasised that: “Battlefield’s rock/paper/scissors gameplay will always be there, so there won’t, for example, ever be one particular best gun to have on the battlefield.” So, if you gain control of the destructive power of a battleship, it won’t last long before others work out how to disable it.
Senior producer Aleksander Grøndal outlined DICE’s approach to Battlefield 1’s single-player campaign: “We wanted to add various vehicles, more gameplay choices and more player-choice in general. The story is about the destinies of several different people, and how they react to the world changing around them.” Concentrating thus on spectacular experiences, rather than attempting to shoehorn in a coherent story, sounds like a sensible way to approach the single-player campaign, which has been a weak point for past iterations of Battlefield.
But it’s Battlefield’s multiplayer side which generates the most fanatical devotion, and Grøndal described it thus: “We still encourage you to play as a squad, but you can still go lone-wolf, too. You will need to adopt a play-style and loadout for the changing conditions. The game has persistent squads,” in which you will be able to play with the same group of friends, “And you will be able to choose roles like assault, where you take down vehicles, , medic or heavy gun support. There will be dedicated vehicle classes, like tank officers or pilots.”
Grøndal was keen to highlight that DICE has set out to make Battlefield 1 visceral and gritty, paying particular attention to elements like melee weapons – which include a shovel and a devastating bayonet attack. The footage shown of the game included flamethrower-wielding and mustard gas attacks, and was generally strikingly intense.
Fans will be able to participate in an early-access open beta if they sign up to become a Battlefield Insider. Watch this space for more details about Battlefield 1, along with hands-on impressions, as they emerge.