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Why DICE chose World War I for the new Battlefield

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Battlefield 1 isn't 'just shooting from a muddy trench'

Electronic Arts and DICE today unveiled Battlefield 1, a combat simulation set in the First World War, due to be released worldwide Oct. 21.

A trailer showed during a livestream depicted combat making use of ground, troops, airplanes, battleships, Zeppelins, horses and snipers. At a press event, an EA spokesperson stressed that the game is about "variety, and not just shooting from a muddy trench."

Weapons on display included bayonets and hand maces, rifles, machine guns, gas attacks and sniper rifles. Battlefield 1 also allows players to take control of tanks and biplanes. Dedicated vehicle classes are being introduced, such as tank captain and pilot. Some vehicles can be used by two players, such as a pilot and gunner.

"There's a common misconception that this was an era of muskets, but they were inventing weapons all the time," said lead game designer Danny Berlin. "There is a huge amount of variety of weapons with a powerful and authentic feel. It's a fast and really cool experience, and any play-style you have, we'll cater for it."

"we are going back to the dawn of all-out warfare"

Locations include the muddy fields and forests of France, the deserts of Arabia and the Italian Alps. Maps will include cityscapes and villages with lots of buildings, as well as open fields, more suited to tanks.

A spokesperson said that the time was right for DICE to move away from "the modern genre" of recent games in the Battlefield series.

"We wanted to create a physical space that is more personal and physical," said Berlin. He added that the company had chosen to call the game Battlefield 1 because "we are going back to the dawn of all-out warfare. [World War I] is the genesis of modern warfare."

He said that a new melee system is being introduced with "more depth and meaning to hand-to-hand combat," including knives, maces and a shovel, as well as "a very powerful" bayonet charge.

Berlin added that World War I was unique in that it featured new technology alongside hand-to-hand combat and horse charges. "You can bring a horse to a tank fight," he said. Players can also take control of a battleship and pound enemy objectives.

"You can bring a horse to a tank fight"

"We want to portray how scary it was for the soldiers to see these completely new [weapons]," he said. "Vehicles are a very strong key for us. You'll have large heavy tanks, light tanks, armored trucks, different types of biplanes, like bombers that tie land and air combat together, but also scout planes that are key to air-to-air combat.

"You can have dogfights where you are the pilot and your buddy is in the rear seat shooting back at the bad guys."

Berlin promised more player choice and more variety in the single-player campaign, which will focus on "a bunch of different people and how they are reacting" to the unfolding war. One moment in the trailer appeared to suggest a shell-shock or PTSD storyline, as a soldier cowers in fear from the sound of artillery blasts.

As always, multiplayer will be a big focus for the game, with 64-player maps.

"Team play is the recipe for success," said Berlin. "Your team is a good asset for you. This is still a multiplayer sandbox so if you want to lone wolf it, that's fine, but synchronized team play and squadding up wins the day."

Battlefield 1 will be available to play during EA's mid-June EA Play event, with an early access program planned for Windows PC and Xbox One.