The newest game in the Battlefield franchise is also the first, chronologically speaking. Battlefield 1, which publisher Electronic Arts unveiled today on a global Twitch stream, is set during World War I. Occurring before EA's Battlefield 1942, which came out in 2002, this new entry is the earliest wartime game in the shooter series.
It's an interesting twist to say the least. Battlefield's main competitor, Activision's Call of Duty franchise, keeps marching onward into the future by augmenting soldiers with nanotechnology and powered exoskeletons in settings that have more in common with the Halo universe than a history textbook. EA, on the other hand, is turning back the clock on Battlefield. With a confusing name and surprise setting that certainly shakes up the relatively conservative FPS genre, Battlefield 1 marks a shift in direction for the popular franchise.
Here's what we know so far:
The title is for real
Battlefield 1942 established the franchise’s interest in expansive, real-world conflicts. And its commitment to historical accuracy built upon the popular WWII shooters of that era. So Battlefield 1 is meant to harken back to those glory days. It's the fifth main Battlefield game, but it's set during the first global conflict of the modern age. Game makers aren't known for taking risky leaps when it comes to branding, so it's a surprise to see EA taking a leap with one of its most celebrated series.
The release date is set for October 21st, 2016
As is standard for Battlefield games — discounting the delayed Battlefield Hardline — this newest entry is releasing in the fall, when it will go head-to-head with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. It will be a fascinating clash of philosophies: Activision's COD franchise continues to move further into the future while EA takes us as far back as it can go without putting a musket and canon at our disposal.
Battlefield 1 will go head-to-head with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Whichever one players gravitate toward more — either science fiction warfare or reimagined historical combat — may set the tone for the genre for years to come. What a time to shoot graphical representations of other humans lives over the internet!
It's not steampunk-themed or set in alternate history
When Battlefield 1 leaked earlier today, people saw a cape-clad soldier in front of a giant zeppelin plastered across the backdrop. At first glance, it seemed EA was drawing influence from Bioshock Infinite by giving its early 20th century shooter a steampunk vibe that would lean heavy on airships and reimagined industrial technology.
Yet EA says the game is drawing from honest historical events. The Germans really did do zeppelin bomb raids, and horses and tanks coexisted on the Western Front. Sure, there was rudimentary hand-to-hand combat and trench warfare, but WWI was also the first major conflict to feature complex air and ground vehicles. EA says designing a game around WWI is a lesson in contrast, and we can see that in Battlefield 1's first trailer.
There is a single-player campaign mode
We don't know much about the campaign mode, but EA designers confirmed onstage at a press briefing today that Battlefield 1 will include single-player content. Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4 had lackluster campaigns, and the franchise has always been praised for its gigantic multiplayer arenas, so a lack of details there is quite alright by most fans.
You can ride horses
Nothing screams video game absurdity like telling players they can ride living, breathing animals into a battlefield against advanced industrial weaponry. But EA's Berlin stressed that, in true WWI fashion, "you can bring a horse to a tank fight."
Yes, that sounds silly, but he's also right. WWI marked the last major conflict in which horses provided any strategic advantage, although the animal's use was largely phased out in favor of tanks and other vehicles over the course of the battle. A large front in WWI also involved the Middle East and the Ottoman Empire, in which traditional cavalry units clashed against Western technology. So pack your saddles, I suppose.