E3: The real cold war is about to begin.
In the year 2142, the world is a very different place. A much colder one, for starters, since a new ice age is dawning. As the Earth's soil begins to freeze over, rendering vast portions of the land uninhabitable, the planet's population finds itself fighting for survival, battling for territory, and embroiled in a bitter struggle over who gets to wear the last remaining woolly jumpers.
Ok, maybe not the last one, but you get the general idea - the world of Battlefield 2142 is bleak, cold and divided. Two factions are fighting it out for supremacy; the Europeans have put aside their differences over farming subsidies and straight bananas to form the EU Coalition, while those on the other side of the world have teamed up as the Pan-Asian Coalition.
You get to choose which side to fight for - and more excitingly, to play with all manner of spanky new weapons never seen before in a Battlefield game. In fact, said weapons have never been seen before ever, what with it being The Future and everything.
But don't make the mistake of thinking 2142 will be all about using lightsabers and the like to fight off hordes of aliens. This may be a futuristic game, but it's not quite a sci-fi game, as senior producer Marcus Nilsson explains: "The world is not Starcraft. There are no lasers, there are no plasma guns; this is a dirty, gritty and brutal world where everything you fight for is to survive."
Whilst there may be a distinct absence of plasma guns, however, there is of course plenty of new stuff to muck about with. Nilsson starts by showing us the T39 battlewalker, which he describes as "the Godzilla of the battlefield."
Running and gunning
Bearing at least some resemblance to those AT-AT walkers which gave the rebel alliance so much trouble on Hoth, the T39 is a two-man vehicle that comes complete with anti-personnel and anti-air guns. It also has an active defence weapon which can immobilise any incoming rockets or grenades. According to Nilsson, "It's an absolute infantry eater; it kills everything in its way, basically... When you're in it, we want you to feel really powerful, because you are in a killing machine and you are the person who controls it."
But like previous Battlefield games, 2142 works on a rock-paper-scissors principle - which means there's always a way to take down even the most powerful of units. As we watch, a couple of soldiers team up to launch an electro-magnetic pulse grenade, which stalls the T39 for a few moments and gives them enough time to launch a secondary attack, blasting the whole thing into pieces. Not quite as elegant as tripping it up using only a tow cable and a slinky fly-by manoeuvre, but impressive to watch all the same.
Now Nilsson shows us the SD-18 sentry drone, which will hover above your head as you traverse the battlefield, covering your back as it scans for enemies. It's currently Nilsson's favourite unit in the game, and apparently the playtesters are also big fans ("Some people in the office call it their new best friend. I don't know what that tells us about them...").
The SD-18 is brilliant at warning you of incoming danger and taking out enemies at close range, but not so effective if they're further away. Its other weakness is that it's visible at all times and will follow you everywhere, so there's nowhere to hide when you're using it.
If you prefer to keep things on the down low, you might like to make us of 2142's active camouflage. It makes you almost invisible to everyone else on the battlefield; almost being the key word, since if you don't use it with care your presence will be picked up by enemies. The other problem is that whilst you're using active camouflage, you can't use weapons - "So use it wisely and it's a really good tool, but you also have quite big weaknesses with it," says Nilsson.
Now it's time to unveil the biggest of 2142's big guns - a giant airborne unit called the Titan, which Nilsson describes as "the very icon for the new game." According to the backstory, the Titan was first developed for civilian purposes, specifically to transfer people and cargo over long distances. But it wasn't long before the military got wind of the new technology and turned the Titan into a giant killing machine which has now become "the backbone of the whole military service."
The Titan can be used to transport and supply reinforcements, including troops, APCs and battlewalkers. It's operated by a single commander, who also controls the unit's offensive weapons, such as the underside cannons. We're promised there will be a whole range of new "commander toys" to play with, although these haven't been revealed just yet.
However, Nilsson does show us the new Pod System, which "was developed to cater for the fact that all of a sudden you have the aircraft carriers up in the air - we need to get there somehow." And the best way to get there, it seems, is to go into pod mode, which means you can soar high into the air and across the battlefield, all the while surveying the action below from a first-person perspective.
"You can shoot yourself long distances from APCs, and other vehicles, and there's just room for so much to happen when you do that... You've never seen the battlefield like this before. Just being up there, flying in first-person, is absolutely so cool," says Nilsson.
Be warned - you might be travelling fast, but you can still be shot down out of the air by a keen-eyed sharp shooter. But you can also control your direction, just about, which enables you to not only avoid attacks but determine where you land. If you're skilled enough, you can even land right on top of an enemy to take them out; "That happens more by random [chance] now than by anything else, but it still happens."
"I love this feature," Nilsson says. "Just imagine what the Battlefield community will do with something like this..."