Battlefield 1, in all its pro patria mori glory, takes players back to The Great War for the first time in the series’ history. That means plenty of new – or technically old – weapons, vehicles, and multiplayer maps to wrap your head around, alongside the now-traditional DICE staples such as the upcoming open beta and post-launch DLC.
The current closed alpha, meanwhile, has led to some interesting new developments, namely in the form of Battlefield 1’s launch maps, modes and campaign details leaking through a particularly zealous data miner, and some surprisingly sound rumours of a ‘pigeon mode’ – yes, seriously – in multiplayer.
Watch the latest Battlefield 1 gameplay trailer from E3 2016:
Battlefield 1 Gameplay – how does a World War 1 shooter play?
Taking shooters all the way back to the First World War, Battlefield 1 plays a little differently from your conventional modern shooter. Believe it or not there were no wall-running exo-suits back in 1914, so expect some slightly slower gameplay, particularly in terms of traversal, as you’re forced to make your way through the mudbath of trenches and barbed wire on your way to the front. That being said, what we’ve witnessed so far from the alpha suggests that Battlefield 1 will still maintain a good rhythm, with condensed maps well-fitted to modes involving small, infantry-focused teams.
Watch 90 minutes of gameplay from the Alpha on PS4 here:
Most of the word so far has described Battlefield 1 as a Battlefield game first, and a First World War game second, and from our experience that seems fair – static trench warfare is essentially non-existent, and you can still expect Battlefield’s traditionally grandiose air and vehicle combat to play a major role. New elements like mustard gas and incendiary grenades, meanwhile, are utilised as area-denial, rather than simply as gratuitous gore features.
The E3 gameplay trailer also suggests that long-range heavy artillery could have a significant influence, although there’s no sign of it in the alpha, so we’re yet to see how that plays out in-game. Generally there are some exceptional elements to DICE’s re-imagining of the First World War, but it also evokes gameplay elements of series entries past, too – Battlefield 1 feels like a return to the past in more ways than one.
Battlefield 1: is Levolution back, airships, behemoths, and how scripted events work
One of the key features pushed ahead of Battlefield 4’s 2013 release was ‘Levolution’, a somewhat grating term for the staged, landscape-altering events that occurred in multiplayer matches. No mention of that particular portmanteau was mentioned during an interview with DICE’s Lars Gustavsson at E3 2016, instead opting to talk in broader terms: “We will do dramatic impacts, like when the airship comes down on the village on St. Quentin’s Scar… It can happen in any way – it’s more focused on intuitive and general destruction with consistency.”
So no Levolution, but instead some more dynamic, seemingly less scripted events. The dramatic entrance of airships – like the one prominently-featured in the gameplay trailer and current alpha – along with the dreadnaught and an armoured train were specifically mentioned by Gustavsson, although it’s not clear if those are the only possibilities at this point or if more could follow.
Interestingly, those events act as reinforcement tools, triggered by one team taking a particularly heavy beating and falling behind. How and when exactly these are triggered will be “dependent on what type of level you play,” according to Gustavsson, although the general purpose appears to be giving a losing side one last shot at a dramatic comeback.
The aforementioned airship is St. Quentin’s Scar’s behemoth, and the only behemoth in the closed alpha. As things stand the airship only appears in the 64-player conquest mode, although it’s not clear if the main condition for behemoths arriving on the map is 64-players, Conquest, or both. Likewise, it’s unclear from the alpha what the exact score situation is for triggering the airship’s entry, aside from your team being well behind.
The piloted behemoth has multiple heavy gun turrets, including ones to the top and bottom of the aircraft, and you can, in fact, exit your turret on top of the airship and run along it, granting the chance for some excellent action-movie parachute stunts if you’re so inclined. The hulking, mobile reinforcement point is potentially a game-changer, thanks to the huge firepower, but can also be a disaster for your own team if brought down over friendly troops; on destruction the airship rather melodramatically bursts into flame and crushes everything beneath it – buildings, infantry and all – so try to be mindful of your positioning if you see it sustaining heavy damage.
Weather, similarly, will be “dynamic” according to Gustavsson, featuring sunshine, rain, fog, and variances of weather conditions according to your environment and situation. The single map in the alpha featured all of these conditions itself; heavy fog, for instance, covers the deployment map as you choose a place to spawn, and likewise dramatically reduces visibility in-game.
Digital Foundry also went hands-on with Battlefield 1 at E3, which also provided us with an interesting piece of gameplay info: namely a new Mesh Quality setting, which allows players to adjust the level of detail and quality of distant object geometry. According to Digital Foundry, “using lower settings, objects disappear from view or appear less detailed at closer distances to the player.”
In terms of gameplay then, snipers and long-range players are likely to see the greatest benefit from the new function – if they have a PC that can handle the highest settings – as the feature also “helps eliminate pop-in whilst increasing the number of objects players can see at a distance.” We have been experiencing a fair bit of texture pop-in ourselves – which is fair enough, it is an alpha after all – and so hopefully this new feature, along with some clean-up ahead of launch, should add some real quality-of-life improvements.
Battlefield 1 multiplayer: modes, maps, and are female characters playable?
Thanks again to that handy leak, we now have a pretty good idea of what to expect in terms of multiplayer game modes. Rush, Conquest, Team Deathmatch, Domination and Air Superiority all seem set to return. We can confirm Conquest and Domination are certainties, following their appearance in the alpha, whilst the new modes, titled Breakthrough and Possession, are also likely to be present in the game on release. A little deduction from what we’ve heard elsewhere can give us a good idea of what to expect:
Breakthrough, judging by the name, appears to be another title for what Gustavsson called “Operations” – a term missing from the leaked modes roster – which he described as a “frontal mode, so there’s an attacking team and a defending team, but it’s more of a journey.” It’ll apparently be somewhat similar to Rush, “but there are a lot of things that change on a bigger scale.”
Possession, meanwhile, could be what manifests itself as that rumoured pigeon mode, tasking players with holding a messenger pigeon for a period of time in order for it to successfully fly off and deliver its memo. As ridiculous as it sounds, a combination of the bird’s prominent place at the start of the E3 gameplay trailer, the general suggestions of what a mode named ‘Possession’ could be, and an astonishingly accurate ‘insider info’ video from earlier this year – which specifically predicted a Capture-the-Flag-style mode involving the messenger bird – all point to Possession indeed being a game of catch the pigeon (cue cartoon theme song).
According to the leak, you can expect a total of 10 Battlefield 1 multiplayer maps at launch, which are reportedly named as follows:
- Fao Fortress
- Italian Coast
- Mountain Fort
St. Quentin’s Scar is the full map name from the alpha – as opposed to simply ‘Scar’ – so you can expect a few minor changes from the terms in the list above.
As for the question of whether female characters are playable? That’s a no for multiplayer, according to Gustavsson. There will be at least one female character playable during the single player campaign however, in the form of the Bedouin female soldier. Gustavsson noted that DICE “wanted to stick to authenticity but also do it in a respectful way and an inclusive way.”
Battlefield 1 weapons – what melee and ranged weaponry will feature?
Again thanks to that monumental leak from the alpha, we now have what looks to be comprehensive list of all the Battlefield 1 weapons at launch. We’ve rounded up some of the standout arms from the alpha and alleged list for Battlefield 1’s release, but do check out the full leaked list from Redditor Lobix300 if you fancy a little history lesson.
Prominent melee weapons will likely be the Hatchet, Saber, Shovel, and Bayonet. Ranged weapons which stand out, meanwhile, include the classic Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), the British Army staple Lee Enfield MK III SMLE, German Army regular Mauser Gewehr 98, and the world’s first successful semi-automatic shotgun, the Browning Auto-5. Other gear such as Dynamite, Mortars and Anti-Tank Guns look set to appear, too.
Battlefield 1 vehicles – behemoths, tanks, cars and horses
Only a handful of vehicles have been discussed so far. DICE’s Lars Gustavsson mentioned a few to us when discussing the choices you make with the new classes: “Do I want to go into the single-seater DR1, or the twin-seater, or even the bomber with a three-man crew?” Also according to Gustavsson, the two new vehicle classes – which we detail just below – will allow “the possibility of customising the vehicle before someone snatches it from you.”
Thanks to the alpha, we know the following will make an appearance:
- German Mark V Landship
- British FT-17 Light Tank
- A7V Heavy Tank
- Armoured Car
- Behemoth – Airship
As things stand there aren’t any horses in the closed alpha, however there will be cavalry in the game on release.
Likewise in addition to the standard vehicles are, of course, the behemoths: the airship, armoured train, and dreadnaught.
Battlefield 1 classes, gadgets and loadouts
Battlefield 1 will see the return of the standard Assault and Support, along with the new Medic, Scout, Pilot and Tank classes. The Scout seems to be a relatively straight renaming of the Recon class from Battlefield 4, whilst the Medic signals a re-purposing of the Assault’s former medicinal abilities into its own class. Similarly, what was the Engineer in Battlefield 4 is now split between the Pilot for aircraft, and the Tanker for – you guessed it – driving tanks.
The aforementioned leak, along with the current alpha, also provided us with an idea of the exclusive gadgets for each class, meaning some unique loadouts depending on your preference:
Battlefield 1 beta, alpha: What’s included, and how do you access?
The Battlefield 1 alpha – which is active right now – is by invite only, and will remain so from now until it finishes. There’s currently no date for the beta, although willing players can sign up via EA’s Battlefield Insider program and receive early access to that beta when it comes about.
Here’s what features in the alpha:
- Multiplayer Modes: 64-player Conquest. 24-player Domination.
- Multiplayer Maps: One map as things stand: NAME, with the 24-player Domination mode taking place in a condensed, central area of the larger version.
- Land Vehicles: Armoured Car, FT-17 Light Tank, Mark V Landship, A7V Heavy Tank
- Aircraft: Three-seater bomber, focused on air-to-ground. Two-seater fighter, focused on dogfighting, with a rear gunner. Single-seater scout plane, focused on agility and air-to-air combat. Airship behemoth, a heavily-armed, mobile reinforcement point.
- Artillery: Doesn’t appear to be present in the alpha.
You can watch Digital Foundry’s impressions and graphics comparison from the alpha here:
As for the upcoming beta, no official details have been announced, however it’s possible to make a few educated guesses based on past experiences with DICE. The studio’s most recent entry, Star Wars Battlefront, featured a very similar alpha to that of Battlefield 1, using just one map, Hoth, and mode, Walker Assault, on repeat. With the Battlefront open beta, DICE expanded that slightly to two modes and maps, adding Blast on Sullust. As Battlefield 1’s alpha currently features both Conquest and the smaller Domination game mode, both on St. Quentin’s Scar, we can reasonably say that you shouldn’t expect too much more in the beta – perhaps one additional map or mode at most, and potentially one or two additional vehicles or aircraft.
Battlefield 1 release date, pre-orders, Deluxe Edition and DLC
Battlefield 1 will release for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on October 21 worldwide. In North America you can order from Amazon US and Best Buy, and in Europe, from Amazon UK, GAME and Simply Games.
However, there one or two things you can do to play the game before then. One means of getting your hands on Battlefield 1 ahead of the official release date is through EA Access on Xbox One, and Origin Access on PC. Subscribers to those programmes will be able to play the game three days early from October 18.
As things stand, the Battlefield 1 Early Enlister Deluxe Edition is the only special edition or DLC that’s surfaced, and is available to buy via GAME stores in the UK, and digitally from the PlayStation, Xbox, and Origin online stores. Those who purchase the Early Enlister Deluxe Edition will also be able to play three days early, from 18th October. That particular edition comes in at £69.99 on consoles or £64.99 through Origin, and includes:
- The Red Baron pack: Red Baron’s Triplane, Red Baron’s P08 weapon, Red Baron’s Flyer Pin sidearm
- The Lawrence of Arabia pack: Lawrence of Arabia’s Black Stallion horse skin, Lawrence of Arabia’s SMLE weapon, Lawrence of Arabia’s Jambiya sidearm
- Enhanced visuals for three of the game’s largest vehicles: Frontline Camouflage Train, Night Raid Airship, Dazzle Camouflage Dreadnaught
- Five Battlepacks
Those who pre-order the Early Enlister Deluxe Edition will also get the added bonus of the Hellfighter Pack, which contains themed items inspired by the Harlem Hellfighter infantry regiment, alongside seven days early access to a free map pack, due for 2016 release.
Finally, in terms of independent Battlefield 1 DLC, that free, unspecified map pack is the only confirmed addition at this point. From past experiences with EA and DICE games we can probably expect some heavy post-launch support in the form of additional maps or modes, although it’s worth making clear that so far, outside of the free map, there’s no word from EA on DLC or a season pass for Battlefield 1.