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Battlefield 1: How weather and destruction change the game

We spent an hour with Battlefield 1's Northern France map as it morphed from explosions, demolition, and fog.

The plan seemed foolproof: we would hold out in the church atop the hill on the Eastern side of the map while the rest of our team fought in the village below. We had two squads covering the hillside and the field leading up to it. I was one of three scouts with sniper rifles picking off any enemies bold enough to cross the pockmarked field. There were five minutes left, we had the control point, and had nearly won. But then the fog rolled in, and our plan fell apart.

Battlefield 1's dynamic weather lends unpredictability to its setting -- even when I thought I had the map figured out, and the key sight lines covered, and the right choke points defended, I wasn't ready for the massive wall of vapor that rolled over the landscape. Suddenly, my sniper rifle was useless: the enemy team took the chance to cross the field, climb the hill, and rush the church with trench shotguns and bayonets ready. They took the control point and held out for the remainder of the skirmish.

The fog of Northern France may be ephemeral, but it forced me to have a Plan B at all times during a recent demo at E3 2016. Massive towns with sprawling farmland became close-quarters battles at a moment's notice. Developer DICE has yet to confirm any effects besides the fog, but I can only imagine the blizzards and sandstorms we might see in the game's World War I settings in the Alps and deserts farther South.

The demo's destructive environments added another layer of flexibility to multiplayer matches. Buildings crumbled and new sight lines replaced them. Brick walls shattered like glass as tanks drove through them. Artillery strikes created craters useful for cover as I sprinted back across that same field in a vain attempt to retake the church. The map I began on was a far cry from the one I left behind, and I could see the ruins we created, and used to our advantage, as the timer ticked to zero.

I played one match, but it felt like three: the San Quentin Scar, as DICE calls it, began with ample space for me to cover through the scope of my rifle. But the fog transformed it into a massive close-quarters battle. And when I realized how crucial destroying cover was, and subsequently creating it with craters and moving tanks, I leaned more toward a vehicle-based approach. The locale itself dictated how I played.

DICE still hasn't clarified how often the weather effects will occur: whatever algorithm that controls their frequency is unclear. And I've only spent an hour in the maps that will be available in the game's closed alpha next week, so I can't say whether this unpredictability will become rote as I play more of the multiplayer shooter. But I can say that, from my brief time with the game, I came away excited for what feels like a return to form for the series. The dynamism of these environments is as important as the weapon you choose, the vehicle you drive, and the soldier you take into battle. The moniker "Battlefield" just might be apt again.