Battlefield 1 goes backwards to World War I: 'It isn't just trench warfare'


Preview: All the information on DICE’s new Battlefield

I’m sitting here eating a “house-made energy bar” in a theatre room in EA’s Bay Area office staring at a DICE/EA logo while waiting for a presentation to confirm all the news about the new Battlefield that leaked this morning, because Battlefield news always leaks.

So, Battlefield 1, a name slightly more frustrating than “Xbox One.” It’s coming to PC, Xbox One, and PS4 October 21. DICE is taking its shooter, recently spun-off as a Miami Vice-style mistake in the Visceral-developed Battlefield Hardline, back towards World War I in what can probably be described as a “period piece” right out of the BBC while rival Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare chases space. The multiplayer producer calls it, “truly immersive, all-out warfare, on an epic scale,” and repeated similar phrases over an hour-long presentation that chronicled the history of the series. “Team play,” “epic,” “all-out warfare,” “core pillars,” “immersive,” “immersive,” “immersive.” These are some of the words I heard a lot before being welcomed to “the future of Battlefield.”

Which is the past.

We were treated to an early viewing of the announcement trailer and a joke by the host about getting a boner for all the trench warfare. The first-person gas mask equipping (not unlike Metro) after running into mustard gas elicited a lot of cheers in the room, which was filled with members of the Battlefield community. There was a lot of hype to the “Seven Nation Army,” bass-thumping trailer with well-mustache’d pilots and troops charging in on horseback, swords raised. It ends with a soldier looking upon a giant (lead?) zeppelin looming in the distance.

Explaining the name Battlefield 1, DICE says, “We’re kinda going back to…the true dawn of all-out warfare. This is the genesis of what modern warfare is today.” I like to think that Phil Collins would agree.

“When you mix the old combat with the new, industrial era, that’s when you get something unique.” The mix of technology involved in the era, which saw a boon in R&D, can keep series staples like fighter planes, but also introduce claustrophobic trench warfare segments where hand-to-hand combat is as viable as your weaponry.

Beyond the trailer, we were shown some behind-the-scenes video documenting the team shooting loads of guns and flying drones to record terrain maps — you’ll fight in the Italian Alps, in forests, in Middle Eastern deserts, at sea as you dog fight and stick fools with bayonets.

The constantly changing terrain — from deserts to French cities to mountainous regions — is meant to upend your play style, moving from large-scale combat to more intimate, corridor war.

Multiplayer is class-based with Assault classes that focus on taking out enemy vehicles, Scouts armed with sniper rifles, and so on. There are vehicle classes, too; I’m sad I didn’t catch any in-game horse riding, though. There does seem to be impressive map variety (in terms of terrain and look) for the typical 64-player…battlefields. DICE is harping heavy on Battlefield 1 requiring tactics and “team play,” though I’m not sure that urging is going to affect your real-life online experience (“I’m gonna fuck your mom!”). Still, you’re supposed to feel like “a critical asset” to your team and vice-versa, though “if you want to lone wolf it, that’s fine.” But if you want to play the alleged right way, you can squad up outside of the game and keep playing matches with that same squad.

DICE is promising all the guns, too. Shotguns, automatic weapons, snipers, the works. But there’s also a hand-to-hand combat system being overlaid on a new melee system, which includes trench knives, shovels, and spiked clubs for brain bashing. The “air, land, sea” mantra let’s you “be the Red Baron” in dog fights, level the ground with bombers, or ghost ride some of the first tanks (gas, brake, dip). Planes can be stocked with multiple players; you can be the gunner in a pal’s scout plane, or you can jump in a “huge battleship” and “completely demolish the entire shoreline.” Plus, “you can bring a horse to a tank fight,” if you want to flank a tank and avoid becoming horse flank steak.

There aren’t a lot of details about the solo modes, but “we’ve got to bring more Battlefield to the single-player campaign.” The intent is to “push variety” and offer “more player-choice” in “larger environments” over a story that covers different characters reacting to the changing world.

Like Hardline, you’ll get to play Battlefield 1 early on Xbox One/PC through EA Access. It launches on PC, PS4, and Xbox One on October 21, 2016 (with a collector’s edition that you can play as early as October 18). Battlefield 1 will also be playable at E3, at EA’s offsite “EA Play” event if you’ll be in Los Angeles on June 12. There will also be a beta later this year.