Two years after the release of Battlefield 1, EA is ready to add a new entry to its storied shooter franchise, announcing today the first details and the release date for Battlefield V. Returning to the grand and ghastly stage of World War II, this new game will focus on squad-based gameplay, eschewing the explosively popular battle royale competitive modes of games like PUBG and Fortnite. I attended a preview event for Battlefield V today, and though it isn’t quite ready to play yet, the developers from Dice provided a comprehensive overview of what’s new and different — and there’s a lot.
Perhaps the biggest unifying theme to the changes in Battlefield V is the move away from abstraction. You no longer just move into an area and get automatically healed by a magical aura. Reviving allies is also an involved, animated, and much more personal process so that both the healer and the wounded can appreciate the intimacy of their situation (and get an up-close view of their buddy’s soldier customizations). Another example is that when you enter an area populated by enemies, you won’t be able to do a bunch of quick scans with icons revealing their locations. No more shooting at icons; in the new Battlefield, you’ll have to see and aim at the actual soldiers.
Physics play a bigger role in the new game, and environmental destruction is now being rendered on the basis of real-time physics calculations instead of pre-canned animations. I was also impressed by the fluidity and naturalness of the new motion mechanics for the player character that Dice showed off: you can throw yourself forward, to the side, or even backward while backpedaling and turning your body and shooting at the same time. There’s no bullet time slowdown, but the natural transition from a run to a pirouetting turn, fire, and landing into cover looks extremely promising and just plain fun.
With Battlefield V, Dice is emphasizing squad play in a big way. Every time you join a match, you’ll be put into a squad. The company’s motto for this game is “stay with your squad, play with your squad,” and it makes sure you’re able to communicate with your group at all times — at the loading screen, lobby, and in between matches — via either chat or VoIP. There will be incentives to entice people to assume the squad leader role and plenty of rewards to encourage collaborative play. Playing by yourself as a lone wolf will be possible, but you’ll have to actively pursue that option.
In accordance with the theme of shedding abstraction, Dice has decided to embrace the concept of scarcity. When you get into a battle, you’ll have a finite amount of ammunition and resources, and if you find yourself enjoying great success and surviving for long, those diminishing supplies will affect how you play. Every enemy you take down will drop ammo, for example, and you’ll then find yourself having to choose whether to rush over and loot their bodies — at a risk of being shot down yourself — or remain in your covered position.
Dice will try to balance this change with the addition of resupply stations at every objective flag, though the game will never be so generous as to make you forget about your limitations. The developers want this to be “a meta game where you’re mindful of your resources at all times.” Scarcity also elevates the importance of support players on squads, as they can resupply their frontline comrades on the move.
Battlefield V introduces two major new game modes.
One is called Grand Operations, which will be an epic, historically inspired, multimatch, multiplayer mode. The example I was shown revolved around the captured city of Rotterdam. The first mission sees the player landing as a paratrooper behind enemy lines, tasked with taking out anti-aircraft artillery points. That’s dubbed day one, and your performance at that mission directly affects how many soldiers (or respawns), resources, and vehicle choices you’ll have when you begin day two. The second day in Rotterdam is when the main invasion force has landed, and you’re trying to reclaim more sectors of the city from the occupying force. Day three moves things deeper, into the devastated, bombed-out parts of the city, and that’s where you can claim a decisive victory.
Day four in Grand Operations is called the Final Stand, and it fully embraces the scarcity idea. You get one life, one primary weapon with limited ammo, and you basically fight to the death. By this point, each player will have invested more than an hour into the contest, so the sense of a high-stakes battle for glory will be proportionately amped up.
Tides of War is the other big introduction. This is Battlefield V’s continuous online campaign mode, which revolves around assembling your own roster of soldiers, each of them customizable to a ridiculous degree of personalization (weapons, face paint, attire, gadgets, perks, abilities, and more). Both the narrative and gameplay evolve as you keep participating in more missions, and you’re incentivized to do so in order to obtain loot and rewards to pretty up your soldiers some more. Beside your soldiers, you’ll also be able to start out with a basic tank and then upgrade the hell out of it, adding different paint jobs as well as extra flair like sandbags, boxes, and branches around the turret.
“We don’t just want to give you stuff,” says Dice. “We want you to enjoy the journey.” Tides of War is the company’s effort to keep Battlefield feeling fresh, challenging, and rewarding. Dice also promises not to do any additional paid add-ons for Battlefield V, saying, “If you’re gonna stay together as a squad, you gotta be able to play the same stuff.”
Comparisons to Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will be inevitable. However, Battlefield V looks to be going in an entirely different direction. Call of Duty is embracing the battle royale mode, ditching single player, and adopting a much less serious tone (which includes fighting zombies on the Titanic). The new Battlefield, by contrast, still wants to tell “the untold stories of World War II,” portraying “real, relatable people facing brutal warfare.”
Battlefield V will be available to play for the first time at EA Play, EA’s satellite event to the E3 gaming conference in Los Angeles, which is taking place a couple of weeks from now. The deluxe edition of the game goes on sale on October 16th for Xbox One One, PlayStation 4, and PC, while the standard edition will be available on the same platforms on October 19th.