DICE looks to the past to build the future of its series
PC, PS4, Xbox One
Battlefield 1 may have leapt back in time with regard to its setting and necessarily contemporary kit, but DICE has every intention of creating its most technically advanced series instalment yet. “The way we look at it internally is that Battlefield 1 is a sequel to Battlefield 4, so turning the clock back on time isn’t the same thing as turning the clock back on development, or how we look at shooters in general,” senior producer Aleksander Grøndal tells us. The game is certainly the best-looking Battlefield yet, volumetric fog rolling across its ravaged fronts, and there’s a solidity to the game’s controls and movement that feels a cut above its predecessors.
“I would say that it’s actually more authentic now than Battlefield 4 was,” Grøndal continues. “The jets, for instance: if they were real, they’d swoop by in half a second, drop a bomb from miles off, and you’d never see them. The biplanes and airplanes we have right now are flying closer to their real speeds, so it feels more believable.”
This refocusing of the scale of interactions within the game also inspired the new Tanker and Pilot multiplayer classes, which transform vehicles from temporary buffs into something with greater permanence and impact. It’s a profound shift for a series whose multiplayer rhythm has always tracked more towards staccato than legato.
“When you pick a vehicle, we really want to make sure that you feel like you should play that role,” Grøndal explains. “So, if you choose to be a pilot, that’s your primary weapon. We want you to feel like, ‘OK, I’m an attack pilot. That’s what I do. I’m not some random guy in a plane – this is my job on the battlefield.’ We want to get away from people
just jumping out of planes up in the mountains to snipe.”
Tanks will also be a more imposing presence, enduring a little longer than
Battlefield 4’ s equivalents under fire and representing a chilling threat to infantry – especially as the Tanker class inherits the now-absent Engineer’s ability to repair vehicles, and can do so while holed up behind the armoured body panels of their vehicle.
Despite this new level of symbiosis, you won’t be bound to your vehicle. Pilots and tankers are still at liberty to get, or be forced, out of their charges, and will have access to their own gadgets and weapons when on foot. All classes will still be equipped with parachutes, too, though they’ll take longer to open and arrest your fall. The setting also means lock-on weapons are no longer part of your arsenal, which will come as a shock to players who rely on guidance systems.
All of the game’s vintage kit is being treated with the same attention to audio that DICE’s series is known for, and to that end the team have been up in biplanes to record engines and wind noise, and have travelled the world to find working examples of as many of the weapons and land vehicles included in the game as possible. Where an inclusion’s reallife equivalent is no longer available, DICE has used the closest examples it can get its hands on, including WWII weapons.
It has also ramped up the level of destructible elements in its environments, though the set-piece transitions that defined
Battlefield 4 have been subsumed by the new game’s dynamic weather and conditions.
“What Levolution was to us and what Levolution perhaps turned into was two different things,” Grøndal explains. “For us, it was basically about being a dynamic sandbox, with experiences that are constantly changing. That’s what we meant by the term, but people just talked about the set-pieces. So the weather and what we’re doing with destruction is a continuation of that train of thought. But this time we’re not branding it in a way that [will make] people laugh at us again. Everyone thinks that marketing invented that term, but it was actually invented by the dev team themselves!”
In shaking free of perceived gimmicks, though, DICE risked breaking its game. “We actually got feedback at one point that we had
too much destruction,” Grøndal explains. “We had to dial it back! People want hard cover, so we can’t level everything. But we have Bad
Company 2- style whole-house destruction, and ground destruction where you’ll be generating quite deep craters that change the topography of the map itself. You can use them for cover, to create traps, or whatever you want. It’s interesting; it’s something we haven’t dived into as much before.”
“We actually got feedback at one point that we had too much destruction”
As with Battlefield 4, some vehicles will accomodate additional players in gunner positions – the Mark V’s side-mounted machine guns make it a formidible presence on the battlefield
Senior producer Aleksander Grøndal
TOP LEFT Trench warfare changes the flavour of
Battlefield 1’ s warfare, the environment a more prominent consideration in tactical decisions this time around. The behemoth-class train is yet to be shown in action but will be a robust presence when it appears.
ABOVE Despite the older technology featured in the game, Battlefield 1 will still include some sprawling maps among its lineup. Expect to visit, among other locations, western France, the Italian mountains, and the arid Arabian desert
LEFT DICE has yet to let us loose on its animals, but equine companions risk being an awkward presence on the battlefield if they’re not integrated with care
The Zeppelin is brimming with weaponry and can rain down ordnance on the opposing team. It can be destroyed, but doing so requires coordinated effort