Every few years the gaming community sees mega game publishers Activision and Electronic Arts go head-to-head with their flagship shooter franchises. Call of Duty has always reigned king on the sales front with its annual releases from three separate lead developers (and support studios) but EA’s developer DICE has always tried to up the ante with their Battlefield series but hasn’t topped the genre in popularity quite yet.
This year from the outside looking in, this BF vs. COD competition looked especially fierce. DICE is going back to their WWII roots with Battlefield V, embracing the same setting Call of Duty explored last year with their return to “boots on ground” gameplay. But from the timing of their announcements and reveal events earlier this year, to an initial release plan that saw Battlefield V coming out just before Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 for early access players, and right after that same week for everyone else, it seemed they thought this was the year.
And then DICE delayed Battlefield V an extra month so that’s no longer a thing. However, today, as Battlefield V launches their open beta early for EA Access subscribers and players who pre-ordered, the Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 cover story also launched from Game Informer. This means that today, both sides are beginning their full reveals of their respective battle royale modes – modes that both devs admit were tacked on later in development.
And weirdly enough, despite not having a game engine that supports large-scale multiplayer gameplay, Black Ops 4’s Blackout mode will support more players than Battlefield V’s Firestorm mode. Strange!
As part of DICE’s lengthy and detailed “This is Battlefield V” trailer unveiled today alongside their beta, the studio announced that their battle royale mode is indeed titled “Firestorm” and that it’ll feature 16 teams of four on the largest Battlefield map ever, vehicles and environmental destruction included. That means this mode is based on the same 64-player count that Battlefield V’s main modes cap out at – the same player cap the entire franchise has limited themselves to since their very first game, Battlefield 1942. At a glance, this is disappointing, because it seems they’d be in such a good position to double it and do something really special with their engine and gameplay which already lend themselves the best to this genre.
Note: DICE isn’t developing the Firestorm mode for Battlefield V, as revealed by Ben Walke, the Global Community Engagement Manager at Electronic Arts.
So, Battlefield V’s Firestorm battle royale features 64 players, destruction, a bigger map, and vehicles. For Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, we know it features vehicles and assets from all the Black Ops games, features their biggest map ever, but today we learned that it also has AI zombies, and supports 80 players for the beta (and has been tested for 100) players. Here’s what Game Informer learned from their trip to Treyarch and their conversation with co-studio head Dan Bunting:
“What’s really more important to us than a number is that the gameplay experience is as refined as it can be, that’s it the ideal perfect format for what players are going to play. So we’re starting with 80 players, but we’ve gone higher than that. Whenever we launch a game as a beta or whatever, that’s the beginning of something. We’re going to actively be participating in the community and taking feedback, making changes and adapting, evolving the game as feedback rolls in. So there’s a lot that can go on that can happen beyond that first impact of the game going out there.”
That’s quite surprising given rumors and reports that Black Ops 4 devs had troubles pushing that number up and that they’d only support 60. Now, Black Ops 4 may actually have a bigger mode than Battlefield V and being “big” was the big thing DICE always had over Call of Duty.
For both games, this can and will evolve with player feedback and with both games embracing live services for additional content. Within the next week we’ll be getting hands on with the public betas for both games, though for Call of Duty it’s launching with its battle royale mode and players can play it next week. There’s no timeline on when Firestorm will be available in Battlefield V and we already know its co-op mode is coming post-launch.
Ultimately, it’s going to come down to gameplay and we’ll see how well these play and how different they are than other battle royales in the crowded market. Can DICE and Treyarch do something meaningful and special, or is their rushed attempts to chase the popular genre and capture that Fortnite and PUBG spotlight not worth the effort? We’ve yet to see a true triple-A battle royale but that’s about to change.
Battlefield V’s open beta open to the public September 6, 2018, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s Blackout beta launches September 10, 2018.
Sources: EA, Game Informer