It’s been a while, but this year will see the return of the Battlefield franchise. Remember it? Most recently, developers DICE went old school with Battlefield 1 and Battlefield V, both set in the World Wars. While the historical settings didn’t prevent excitement from the massive maps and set pieces the series is known for, it did feel like DICE were falling behind. Behind who? Only their arch FPS nemesis – Call of Duty. Since Battlefield V, the COD franchise has seen massive success with the reboot Modern Warfare, Black Ops: Cold War, and the standalone free battle royale Warzone. It’s a lot for Battlefield to compete against with just one returning title, and we’ve not heard too much about it yet, so what can we expect, and what will DICE have to do to get a one up on the renewed COD monopoly?
First of all, we know a return to the modern day is on the cards. This is a move echoing COD, who similarly came back to the sort of near-future war setting of the Modern Warfare IP, and with a bit of a soft reboot managed to reignite the passion for the franchise many felt back in the noughties when crossmap throwing knives and quickscoping were all the rage in Modern Warfare 2. COD certainly isn’t slowing down, so Battlefield needs to catch up. Switching back to a modern setting might be the way to do this; a similar soft reboot that returns players to the technologically limitless near-future, with more opportunities for weapons and, importantly, vehicles – it may seem a small detail, but no helicopters in the World Wars means far less fun flying around the map with your squad, raining down shots that miss most of the time anyway.
COD currently has a massive amount of content in its recent games – singleplayer campaigns, two sets of live service multiplayer modes, zombies in Black Ops: Cold War, and the very popular, free Warzone. Battlefield can’t hope to usurp that with just one release, but with a successful launch there is every chance of having a similar renaissance to the Call of Duty franchise. One avenue they must certainly be considering is the live service model of multiplayer, which COD has exemplified with continuous support for Modern Warfare and Cold War, featuring numerous ‘seasons’ of new content – maps, guns, weapon skins and outfits – that keep players coming back. Battlefield has never really done this, and there’s little emphasis on player expression beyond serious, ‘realistic’ camos for weapons and vehicles, but there’s still something to be said for regular content updates if it means new maps, modes and things to blow up architecture with. It’ll be hard to break the COD monopoly with yearly releases of new games, when the cycle now seems to favour long term engagement with the multiplayer. There’s still some question marks over whether there will be a singleplayer story in the game, or any modes beyond those contained within multiplayer, but we’re likely to see something different in an attempt by DICE to usher in a new era for the franchise that can get players consistently involved.
Possibly the most important feature we need to see is the maps. COD is all about three lane, close combat maps – team deathmatches and search and destroy gamemodes that favour individual excellence and focusing on a Kill/Death ratio. Battlefield has always had bigger ambitions. Huge maps, multiple combat zones, world events that change the terrain and a whole lot of players scrapping it out in wars of attrition, more focused on moving as an army and helping the team than who’s top of the leaderboard. Ideally, we can have some coexistence – these are two very different approaches to FPS, and being able to go from short, fast-paced matches in COD to large scale, hour long matches in Battlefield is a privilege we’ve been missing for a couple years now. In their very brief teaser, DICE insisted they were aiming to use the new console generation to bring ‘massive and immersive battles to life with more players than ever’, and a promise of maps with an ‘unprecedented scale’. We’ll find out more when the gameplay trailer comes out, but there’s no suggestion that the franchise will be holding back on making things bigger and better.
The new consoles are the final thing to take into account with this upcoming release. DICE have already asserted that they’ll be pushing the PS5 and Xbox Series X to the limit to create these huge battles with plenty of players, and that’s exactly what we all want. The more players, the more carnage, the better. The prospect of 60fps and even better graphics is tantalising when thinking about the stunning set piece opportunities these performance upgrades could bring. There’s also the matter of crossplay. COD bridged the gap already, allowing players on both consoles and PC to play together and thus bring the entire community together for a massive combined playerbase. This would be an incredible addition for Battlefield, making sure no system misses out on full battles and ensuring friends can squad up and cause some havoc together regardless of their platform choice.
It has to be said, a lot of this is speculation. We won’t know for certain what the new Battlefield will be until next month, when the first trailers and real information is meant to be released. However, it’s clear DICE and EA are looking at a shakeup, not just making Battlefield bigger and better like every title aims to do, but also adjusting the model and trajectory of the series to better line up with Call of Duty’s successful renewal. These two franchises have a lot of history, and it’s the best of both worlds for us fans if they’re both thriving, so let’s hope that whatever Battlefield has up its sleeve, it’ll lead to another FPS series revival that lets us mix COD’s individual glory with fresh faced Battlefield chaos.