The History of Battlefield
Battlefield 1 recently had their large and widely publicized open beta, and yes, I know it’s really more of a way to drum up hype and give people a demo than a way to suss out any meaningful bugs. That being said, publisher DICE is still calling it a beta, and historically they have required the extra time to work out serious bugs (note: yes – I AM talking about the fiasco known as Battlefield 4). That being said, Battlefield 1’s gameplay seems comparatively very mature.
A return to the beginning
I have been a fan of Battlefield from the beginning, playing 1942 towards the end of its run with the release of secret weapons, and really getting into the series with Vietnam. I loved the sense of scale and the historic feel of fighting in these battles in memorial at the time.
By the release of BF2 I was well versed in the series, and was able to fully experience the wonder this title had become. That being said I did feel a sense of loss in the absence of historical setting – the battles were abstract, in fighting against fictional enemies in a new setting. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing though. The core aspect of Battlefield was still there, with the awesome vehicle combat, the interesting mechanics and a great balance system. The expansions added some to the experience, but never really captured my attention.
2142 took this future setting to an extreme, but harkened back to the epic vehicular combat, and interesting mechanics of game mode. The Titan game map stands out as a highpoint in my mind. This was short lived however, as DICE quickly moved on to the next generation of the Bad Company console spin-off.
Succumbing to peer pressure
Peer pressure is not something which is often associated with the Battlefield franchise. The Bad Company duo of games are often cited as perfect examples of Battlefield mimicking other popular series. Unfortunately this trend takes DICE further away from the core of what made Battlefield great in the past, namely the vehicle combat.
This trend continued in smaller parts though Battlefield 3 and 4, though to lesser effect. One perfect example of the move away from vehicle combat comes in the form of the map Operation Metro, which as the name suggests takes place in a subway station, and the tunnels and some of the streets around it. Needless to say there are very few tanks or helicopters roaming the Parisian Subway System.
Now this move away from vehicles, while unpopular with the veterans of the franchise, was well received by the general public. Operation Metro was one of the most popular maps in Battlefield 3, and it received a reboot in Battlefield 4’s Second Assault DLC. Things were looking good for DICE and EA.
Complacency Leads to Failure
In this positive climate for EA with the anticipated release of Battlefield 4, there was a high level of anticipation leading up to the Closed Beta for players who had preordered the title, and those who owned Battlefield 3. Sadly, this was met with a product not ready for public consumption. The game was lacking optimization for users with AMD processors, with some users reporting frame rates in the single digits with low levels of graphics card utilization.
Unfortunately, poor optimization was not the extent of Battlefield 4’s launch issues. Customer reception was tepid, and EA scrambled to perform damage control.
With the upcoming release next month of the newest installment, anticipation is high that Battlefield 1 will redeem the franchise and bring it back to its roots. With the setting being the trenches of World War 1, the potential is already there. The Open Beta took place last weekend, spirits are high, and anticipation great. With not only the return to a historical setting, but the increased emphasis on vehicles, many fans of the series are hopeful this will herald a return to what made the series great in the first place.