The Battlefield Portal trailer is relentless, furious, and assembled with a very specific goal: to send fans of the saga into raptures. The merit is not only of the tight editing or the musical accompaniment, but of the numerous winks at the iconography of some of the most appreciated chapters: a wave of mad doctors armed with defibrillators, the infantry of the Second World War, the tower Caspian Border radio that crashes loudly on the ground, and more than anything else the colored smiley that hangs from the spool of a grenade.
In short: a mix of elements that come from 1942, Battlefield 3 and the second Bad Company, almost outlining an ideal history of the brand.
But be careful to fly high with expectations: there is still much to discover about this new experience prepared by Ripple Effect (the new name of the studio that until recently was referred to as DICE Los Angeles), and above all there is to see it in action and try it with your hand. EA has once again chosen the same strategy as a few months ago, when it showed the world Battlefield 2042: very little gameplay, a trailer with a sure emotional impact but entirely made in CG, and a presentation above all “chat”, which little suggests the actual playful qualities of the proposal.
It would be unfair to say that the Portal idea has no potential, especially if we place it in the frame of a service game. The prospect of “resurrecting” maps, troops, gadgets, modes from the most popular episodes of the franchise is intriguing, for a platform that acts both as a historical memory and as a great “playground” of total warfare. As often happens, however, the effectiveness of initiatives of this type must be evaluated in the field, and often even that is not enough: it is necessary to see how the public reacts, and how often the players use the tools available to create playlists, modes and fantasies in which the modern armies of Battlefield 3 meet with the historical ones of 1942. The further one moves away from direct contact with the product, the more difficult it is to make detailed judgments, and EA’s communicative approach is unfortunately going in the opposite direction of a direct involvement of the public and the press. To date, the only thing we can do is summarize a bit the contents that we will find in Portal and explain how it will be possible to build custom matches, in the hope of being able to touch the Ripple Effect work first hand.
Battlefield: a story to be passed down
Portal is in fact a “platform within the platform”, a mode in which – as we have already explained – not only the contents of Battlefield 2042 come together, but also other fragments (maps, armies, gadgets, vehicles, modes) recovered from other episodes of the series.
Warning: this does not mean that inside you will find all the experience of Bad Company 2, but some specific elements that were part of it. To make you better understand what you can expect, just list the 6 maps recovered from the historical episodes: Battle of the Bulge and El Alamein come from 1942, Arica Harbor and Valparaiso from Bad Compay, Caspian Border and Noshahr Canals from Battlefiled 3. Along with the seven maps which will be included at launch in 2042, this raises the total number of territories in which EA’s massive battles can take place to 13. Speaking of maps, it must be specified that the six “playgrounds” selected have been extensively restored from a graphic and technical point of view: all the assets are now in high resolution, and the maps exploit the potential of the latest version of Frostbite, also integrating an environmental destructiveness that was precluded at the time of the release. Again, we don’t have a clear idea of how these additions can change game balance or match balance, but it’s an intriguing experiment if nothing else.
The team confirms in any case that the maps can also be played in the “classic” version: in that case they will still be graphically updated, but without advanced destruction and environmental disasters. It is understood that, despite the possibility of dusting off classes, weapons and gadgets from the episodes mentioned several times, the gunplay, the ballistics and the feeling of the game will be those of 2042: the “exhumation” of the old Battlefields is only content, and the sensations of the shooting will therefore be dictated by the most recent release.
Once logged into Portal, the player will find himself in front of two playlists: the so-called official experiences, built specifically by the guys of Ripple Effect, and those instead devised by the community, which will be able to invent options and methods thanks to an editor of which we’ll talk shortly. Even by accessing the list of official experiences, expect to find everything: there will obviously be traditional ways that will remain as faithful as possible to the original situations, to allow you to rediscover the sensations experienced among the deserts of El Alamein and on the endless expanses of Caspian Border.
However, there will be very over the top options, literally crazy time events and experiments that are anything but orthodox: clashes between historical troops and modern platoons, battles with an overabundant availability of tanks, skirmishes fought only between doctors. In short, get ready for a proposal that works as an extension to the Battlefield 2042 experience (perhaps by integrating some extra modes such as Team Deathmatch, formally not present in the basic offer), but which also serves as an amused departure from the military rigor of the saga. A sort of theme park where anything can really happen.
The editor of Battlefield 2042
Moreover, Ripple Effect has also been thought to give users the possibility to experiment with the game options, using the Battlefield Builder: it is an editor, not integrated into the game but available instead on the official website of 2042, thanks to which build and share elaborate or imaginative ways. The decision to make it available only via Browser, says the development team, was made to have the ability to update the software independently from the game client, and avoid having to publish too many patches.
Once you enter the Builder, the tools available will be many: we will be able to select maps, modes, troops, but also play with logic. For example, it will be possible to impose on all players a fixed loadout that changes with each death; or even make sure that all the kills restore the energy to the maximum, to encourage a more furious and direct approach. Do you want to reduce a team’s energy but give it more effective weapons, to see if it ticks anyway? Do you want to make only support classes collide, or do you want to eliminate weapons altogether and let the war equipment be exclusively that of war vehicles? With Portal anything is possible, as long as you have a little patience and experiment with the Builder.
In this regard, the usability of the site in which to build your gaming experiences did not seem exactly optimal, with a series of very dense and complex menus. It must also be said that the team is currently working on the interface, which could therefore be more digestible when the Builder is published. It will also be necessary to understand what the involvement of the community will be: to what extent will the players feel stimulated to create new game options to share with the whole playerbase or with their friends? The success of the Ripple Effect idea will also depend on this, even if the philosophy behind Portal is frankly interesting.
At the moment, taking a quick look at the technical revision work done on the maps of the old Battlefields, we were for example very impressed. The latest iteration of Frostbite grants new life to classic maps, and exploring the verdant plains of Caspian Border awakens tasty war nostalgia – if we consider that Portal’s offering will then be expanded along with that of 2042 (all new seasonal content will become available in the builder), we have to admit that the Los Angeles team may have had a potentially winning idea.
We are practically sure, among other things, that Portal can somehow limit one of the most obvious problems of every game as a service, that is the one related to the frequency of release and distribution of new content. EA could in fact alternate, to the classic seasons of 2042, the publication of new updates for this editor: other maps could arrive from the three episodes mentioned several times, and even Ripple Effect could add new chapters to the list. Is an incursion by the futuristic troops of 2142 to be completely ruled out, perhaps even as a timed event?