THINK ABOUT THE first things that you do with a new game. Testing the reality of the game world must come somewhere in the top five. Do barrels explode? Can walls be destroyed? How much of the scenery is interactive? It's a testing
ground of next-gen's push towards realism.
So when Battlefield: Bad Company strolls out of the war-haze and unloads the promise of destructible environments, we're all ears.
"Battlefield is known for its emergent gameplay that lets gamers use the toys available in creative ways that are often hard to anticipate," senior producer Karl Magnus tells us. "By adding destruction and transforming the sandbox into a truly interactive environment, we give gamers so many more options to do this, to play the game their way, and use their imaginations to solve the different objectives".
Forget the destruction-for-points highscore realm of Black, Criterion's 'Burnout' take on the first-person shooter. Inventive use of your environment isn't just aesthetically pleasing here; it's a bona fide strategy to survive your march into hostile territory.
Interactive environments are not the only big change to the Battlefield series; the game may be a semi-sequel of Xbox Live favourite Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, but it features a new game engine built from the ground up for next-generation consoles, entitled Frostbite. Bad Company has been in development for over a year now, but DICE has been working on the engine for longer.
The result is a graphical interface that strays away from the vibrant styling generated by the Unreal 3 Engine in Rainbow Six Vegas and lingers on the muted tones of the game's European township backdrop.
It's thanks to Frostbite that you can use the terrain to your advantage during the numerous firefights that still make up the Battlefield experience. Expose the perfect sniping position by blowing out the second floor of a derelict building (see Appetite for Destruction on the previous page) or create your own line of defence by stockpiling debris across a road. It's a step away from the over-equipped Ghost Squad of GR:AW, and also a step closer to real-life conflict, despite the near-future premise.
And so we come to the second big shift of the series. The overarching Eurasian conflict is relegated to the sidelines as the action focusses on the story of three renegades as they choose to ignore orders and follow their own agenda. It's going to come as a shock to veterans of the series, but it's a welcome change according to Magnus, who sees it not only as a way to draw in new players to the Battlefield experience, but to promote a story based on real-life situations.
"We don't want to create another socalled 'epic game' with verbally challenged, one-man armies saving the world from super-villains or hordes of evil aliens." Surely Magnus isn't referring to a certain green armour clad Master Chief? "We'd rather tell an involving, modern war story about ordinary guys up to no good in the army, waging a war for their own personal ambitions instead of blindly following the orders of their superiors."
The focus suggests echoes of the George Clooney Three Kings film but, with the storyline a closely held secret at this point, we'll have to wait until closer to the projected 2007 release to find out more snippets. Hopefully the promised threads of 'dark humour' will be genuinely amusing.
Still, hardcore Battlefield players shouldn't think that the game diverges completely from tradition. The sandbox environment promises an expansive battlefront that isn't limited by invisible-wall syndrome, and the multitude of weapons and vehicles promised means that storming enemy compounds will be as intense and as satisfying as ever. And if fattening up the single-player campaign isn't for you, there's still the draw of 24 playerenabled online multiplayer. Only this time you can vanquish cowardly campers by demolishing the building they're squatting in, or dropping a wall on a defensive line of enemy soldiers.