DICE Needs To Recapture The Magic Of Battlefield 1 In The Next Game
Battlefield 1 has seen a resurgence recently because of a massive discount on Steam. You can get one of the greatest FPS games ever made for next to nothing, so it’s no wonder that so many people have been diving back into DICE’s 2016 classic. At its weekly peak, 50,000 people had returned to the game to play. Although that has leveled out at around 30,000 now, that’s still 400 percent more than are currently playing Battlefield 2042. What the hell went wrong?
Well, it’s quite complicated. Over the past couple of years, the DICE studio that built Battlefield 1 from the ground-up has been chopped, changed, and replaced. Members of staff have left, including the lead director of Battlefield 1, Lars Gustavsson, who had been at DICE for 20 years. Player reception was also not below average for Battlefield 5 (it went 1 then 5, don’t ask) which indicated to investors and the leads of the next Battlefield game that they had to try something different—they misjudged why players were upset with BF5. It wasn’t that the game was bad, it was because the content drip was poor, there were hackers everywhere, and servers were laggy for a lot of PC players.
The result is that within five years DICE went from producing games of a generational quality, like Battlefield 1, to the shovelled-together Battlefield 2042. If it feels like Modern Warfare 2 was designed by a very talented AI that puts together everything a Call of Duty player wants, then 2042 was designed by a smart toaster. The attention to detail and atmosphere that continues to place BF1 on the very pinnacle of FPS games, six years after its release, has been totally lost.
Every time I return to Battlefield 1 I am blown away by it. Seeing old servers repopulated this week has been amazing, and I get to enjoy parts of the game that are usually impossible, like playing maps I haven’t been able to play for months. One in particular is Heligoland Bight, a map that recreates the first naval battle of the First World War. Every Destroyer on the map is player-controlled. The sea surf disguises enemies on the beach. As the weather turns, the seas grow more choppy, and the fighting on the wet rocks is brutal. Usually you don’t get to play this map because it was part of the North Sea expansion, which means this work of art – that dozens and dozens of people worked on – is largely forgotten about.
2042’s Portal Mode was going to be the answer to this exact problem—a platform within Battlefield itself that let players relive experiences on old maps, reimagined and remastered for the modern generation. At the time of writing, Portal feels like it has been completely forgotten about by the developers. This was the chance for DICE to recapture that magic, even if it meant avoiding producing anything new. But we’ve got nothing. Where are all these old maps? The guns? How has the game been neglected to the point that a game six years old is wildly more popular?
At this rate, Battlefield is almost certainly doomed. Modern Warfare 2’s Ground War mode doesn’t hold a candle to Battlefield 1, but it’s easily more enjoyable than 2042. Infinity Ward has worked on better vehicle systems and better map design, but it’s still not as good as classic games like BF4. But it won’t take IW long if it feels there is a good audience for more expansive, Battlefield-style gameplay. And, if not Infinity Ward, then another might attempt to take the throne. DICE faces a serious dilemma with 2042: continue supporting it and try to win back the fans, or ditch it to start work on the next project?
For DICE to succeed with its next game, it has to return to the roots of the franchise. Atmospheric map design, clear and defined class-based gameplay, attention to detail, and total chaos. Battlefield 1 feels like every rock, every glint on your sniper rifle, every falling brick from a collapsing church, has been painstakingly considered. So much care went into the design of the game, from its soundtrack to its costume department. To stand a chance alongside the behemoths of Treyarch and Infinity Ward, DICE needs to recapture what made their old games so brilliant, otherwise it’s all over.
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