Battlefield 4’s eye-boggling E3 multiplayer demo climaxed with the collapse of a skyscraper that flattened a large portion of its Shanghai map and every last player positioned inside it. It was a startling statement of intent - though almost too dramatic and indiscriminate to envision as a deliberate ploy by one team or the other.
Lead multiplayer designer Thomas ‘Tompen’ Andersson, however, is here to reassure us that bringing down a skyscraper can be very much a tactical choice.
Andersson references the falling antenna on Battlefield 3's Caspian Border map as a smaller scale example of the kind of - shudder - levelution DICE are shooting for.
Beyond skycrapers, the developers have turned their levels into menageries of potentially player-triggered toys - car alarms, metal detectors and sudden powercuts. Even the changing weather can change the course of a match by cutting visibility - though I can't imagine how players will go about triggering rainclouds.
"Much more than just massive feats of destruction or pretty graphics," writes Andersson in a new blog post, "the exciting thing about Levolution is how it affects gameplay. From bringing down a skyscraper to securing a zone from enemy vehicles by raising bollards to block entry, Levolution will let you dynamically shape every game."
Cannier players will dynamically shift the battlefield to their advantage - which brings us smartly back to that skyscraper.
"Depending on your team strengths, collapsing the skyscraper on our E3 map 'Siege of Shanghai' can be either a positive or a negative," says Andersson. "When you’ve knocked out its four main pillars, the skyscraper will fall in a massive cloud of dust and debris, killing all players unfortunate to be trapped inside. The base that used to be capture point C at the very top of the skyscraper will now be found at ground level, amidst the jarring blocks of concrete and rubble.
"This new infantry battleground will be clouded by dust, making navigation hard and often seeing players switch to infrared night vision scopes or FLIR. What used to be sniper heaven and the ideal paradrop base has suddenly turned into a low-visibility close quarters combat arena.
"This is great if you’re all about infantry combat," he concludes, "but if you have a team of great pilots, you will probably want the skyscraper to stay intact."
DICE have explicitly gone about building complex, changing sandboxes for Battlefield 4's multiplayer. More than anything else, it’s this that has me convinced we're in for more than Battlefield 3.5, despite that speedy turnaround. How about you?