Battlefield 5 was official revealed to the world, and while little more than the trailer was shown in terms of the gameplay, longtime series developer DICE went into detail on what to expect when the game launches in October.
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War Stories return and the mantra is to focus on the “unseen, untold, unplayed” aspects of World War II. They play out as small self-contained narratives inspired by real events.
But DICE wanted to stay away from the settings you’d typically expect from a game set in WW2. Don’t expect to be storming a beach yet again. Instead we saw concept art of a totally devastated Rotterdam, the rugged terrain of North Africa, and a French countryside torn apart by the new machines of war. There’s a lot of variety, but the most intriguing was a piece of art of a German trooper crossing a mountain range, knee-deep in snow.
This is presumably taken from the one story DICE chose to tease in greater depth. Set in Norway in 1942, it focuses on a young female resistance fighter trying to save her family. Set North of the Arctic circle, it looks unlike anything you’d expect from a WW2-era shooter.
Combined Ops is the name given to Battlefield V’s co-op game, in which up to four people play together in what DICE describes as an intimate yet social mode that sits somewhere between single- and multiplayer. It’s also a good place to learn the ropes of Battlefield, especially for those who’ve been previously overwhelmed by the size of the series’ signature large-scale multiplayer.
As a group of paratroopers you’re dropped behind enemy lines and the goal is to stay undetected while making your way to the objective. As you’re working as a small unit ammo and supplies are limited, and gathering the right equipment to complete the objective and working as a team to make the most of the resources available is key to success. DICE said a mission generator will create dynamic objectives but didn’t go into details as to how it’s going to work.
The Weight of War
Battlefield V promises a sense of physicality not seen in previous games in the series. This was demonstrated in a number of ways, firstly by a soldier running through waist-high water. He lifts his knees high in an attempt to move as quickly as possible, but the drag of the water slows him down. As the water shallows, the way he moves changes.
It’s hardly revolutionary but small details like this are designed create immersion. They also provide the player with a choice: wading through water might be the most direct route to the objective but it leaves you open to attack. Similarly, running on loose rocks and mud increases the chances of slipping or falling over. It’s not apparent how this will impact the game – whether it feels natural or gets in the way – but it’s indicative of the level of detail DICE is striving for.
Another nice touch is how bushes and long grass now visibly move when you crawl through them, potentially giving away your position; an enemy sniper might not be able to see you, but a twitching bush or swaying grass is a dead giveaway.
Thankfully the spotting system has been modified so it’s less of a crutch. You can no longer scan an entire field from afar and pick out half a dozen enemies and highlight their positions. If you want to shoot someone you have to see them, rather than tracking their movement by following an icon over their head.
A lot of work has gone into making combat flow more fluidly too. When prone you can now look in any direction, seamlessly switching from lying on your back to rolling on your front, and even shuffle backwards while lying down and firing.
Elsewhere, smashing open doors and jumping through windows is seamless, with no pause or opening animation to get in the way of the action. The revive animation has been improved too: when you move in to help a bloodied teammate you’ll stab the syringe into their chest before dragging them to their feet and ushering them on their way. If they’re incapacitated in the middle of a crossfire, you can run in, drag them to safety and provide medical care once in cover.
On that note, anyone in a squad can revive each other, not just the medic, but it takes longer and the won’t fully restore all their health.
Build it Up, Blow it Apart
In Battlefield 1 everyone had a gas mask; in Battlefield V, everyone is equipped with a tool which enables them to build. Fortifications promise to change how Battlefield plays, because you’ll be able to build defenses as well as knock buildings down.
A handful of fortifications available were announced, from fox holes to trenches, sandbags, barbed wire and tanks traps. It’s also possible to rebuild destroyed buildings to a certain extent, to create makeshift strongholds at midway points on the map.
Importantly, it’s possible to tow field artillery and AA guns behind tanks and half-tracks rather than them being locked in position, so there’s a huge amount of scope to experiment by setting up defences around heavy artillery in fortified positions chosen by the player, rather than fixed by the design of the map. By extension, this also makes it tougher on pilots, who can no longer rely on map knowledge to learn the locations of ground threats.
When a building is hit it will break apart in different ways. An LMG will slowly shred it to pieces, while a tank round blows away entire walls. If the shells hits inside the house, walls and debris explode outwards; a direct hit from the outside will cause the walls to crumble inwards, potentially crushing anyone inside.
Perhaps the biggest point DICE stressed is how playing as a squad unpins everything in Battlefield V. You can play as a lone wolf but it’s not the default option and you won’t be able to access some of the perks and rewards on offer.
As in Battlefield 1, there are specific character classes to choose from – assault, medic, support and so on – as well as specialties within each field, so an attack-minded assault troop can have a very different loadout – and indeed appearance – from an assault player who favours defence. But while there promises to be a lot of flexibility within classes, having a spread abilities is still key to the foundation of any squad. Since ammo is scarce – DICE said there will be situations where players will run out of ammo – having a support player is crucial as they carry additional magazines they can share with the group. Similarly, you can only fully regen health to maximum if you have a medic.
Spawning next to squadmates ensures you at least start together, but it’s imperative to keep that connection, especially as you progress across the map. When shot you’re able to watch your teammates while waiting to respawn, to give you a better sense of what you’re dropping into when the counter hits zero. But if everyone in the squad is killed, you’re forced back across the map to the previous deploy drop, which creates a dilemma – if you’re the last man standing in your squad, you need to retreat and give your teammates time to get back in the game or risk losing progress. As a result squad wipe is the most effective way to gain advantage on the battlefield, handing over control of the area and giving you time to resupply knowing the enemy cannot attack anytime soon.
Grand Operations is a multiplayer mode with a strong narrative element. Essentially, there are two teams – attackers and defenders. The goal of the attackers is to continually push forward until they conquer the map, while the defenders must resist. In Battlefield 5’s Grand Operations, this assault takes place over potentially four in-game days, with long matches taking up to an hour. Specific objectives change from day-to-day, and what you achieve on one day impacts on what happens the next. The attrition of war is something DICE is trying to convey,and so each day the odds are increasingly stacked against you.
On day one in the example given, attackers are cast as paratroopers tasked with dropping behind enemy lines and sabotaging long-range artillery. Defenders try to take out the drop ships and it’s entirely possible to wipe out entire squads with a single shot. If the attackers don’t sabotage enough of these guns, that side suffers heavy casualties and it will impact what happens on the second day.
Day two and attackers have taken to the ground but the number of vehicles and resources on how many guns you took out on the previous day. On day three the conflict continues in another part of Rotterdam, on a map showing heavy destruction. It’s possible for the match to end here if one side has a clear advantage, but if not it goes to sudden death.
The fourth day has a very different style of play; you’ve been fighting for four days, and DICE wants you to feel like you’re exhausted, out of resources, and out of soldiers. This round is known as Last Stand: each player has a single life and one mag of ammo, with no additional supplies save for what your squad can provide. There are no respawns but you can be revived by your squadmates. And to make things even more dramatic, for this final round, the dynamic weather is dialed up to create as dramatic a finale as possible.
In Battlefield 1, weapon recoil was random to a certain extent, so you never knew if a machinegun would kick to the left or right when the trigger was pulled. In Battlefield V there’s greater predictability and specific guns fire in specific patterns, meaning it’s possible to counter recoil by spending time learning how each weapons works. It’s a small improvement but one that seasoned fans will appreciate and benefit from.
LMGs have been improved too – there’s greater freedom on where you can plant a bipod for example, which is essential to keep bullet grouping tight. Bullet penetration has also been jacked up and an LMG can punch through cover and tear down a house if you rattle off enough rounds. Similarly, tank-mounted machineguns are far more capable of flushing out enemy troops who duck into a nearby house for cover.
Customisation and Rewards
Everything in Battlefield V – your character, the soldiers in your squad, your appearance, weapons and vehicles – can be levelled up and customised. Better still, everything you unlock is transferable from one game mode to the next, creating a sense of persistence and ownership. Put in the hours to unlock a tank and upgrade it with extra armour and an arctic camouflage paint job and it feels like your tank rather than one you just jumped into on the battlefield. Any upgrades make a visible difference too, whether it’s on a vehicle or weapon. Guns are broken down into five to seven components, each of which are customisable, so there’s a huge amount of variety to make something your own. Additionally, weapons get covered in mud, grass and blood on the battlefield, which is a nice touch.
The same level of customisation applies to you and your squad mates – you can choose between genders, change clothes, alter their appearance by changing their hair, add a helmet, apply war paint and so on. One of the soldiers in the trailer also has a prosthetic arm, so that could be an option too.
Unlocks are purchased using squad points, which are awarded depending on how you play. Play as a team – revive your buddies and focus on the objectives – and you’ll earn more points, which can also be spent on perks such as smoke cover, a tank barrage, or even a V1 rocket, which can clear out an enemy position in seconds.
However, some unlocks can only be earned playing in a squad – you won’t get them playing as a lone wolf – and others are only available during limited time events, giving players ‘I was there’ bragging rights.
Tides of War
Battlefield 5 is ditching its Premium Pass, which asked players to purchase new maps and modes.
Battlefield 5 is ditching its Premium Pass, which asked players to purchase new maps and modes. Instead, new major of content will be rolled out across the year via something being referred to as The Tides of War. Essentially, it’s Battlefield 5’s live service and has a host of different elements to incentivise daily play.
Players will be given Daily Orders – three small objectives to complete during normal games in return for in-game currency. But there are also Special Assignments – longer-lasting challenges that take more than a single day to complete. Completing these will earn you iconic loot, and there’s the option to take on four of these assignments at once. Familiar assignments will be periodically revamped, offering new gear as a reward. The aim is to always have a new challenge that results in a meaningful reward.
These potentially disparate challenges are being given a loose narrative. There will be four chapters across the first year, each focussing on a different aspect of the conflict and the game. The first will concentrate on the Fall of Europe, and perhaps most alluring to some, these chapter will come with time-restrictive rewards.
Preorders for Battlefield V are starting to trickle in following the reveal. Right now you can preorder the standard edition on Amazon, but more are sure to follow.