Sixteen years after Battlefield 1942 changed the landscape of competitive first-person shooters with its large-scale land/air/sea battles, the series returns to the same setting with Battlefield V. Today DICE dropped a kiloton of information on its eager fan base, revealing dramatic changes to some core Battlefield tenants, exciting new modes, and a new approach to its post-launch plans. Here's what we know about the game so far.
Battlefield Returns To World War II
Yes, Battlefield is going back to the place where it all started for the series. But DICE isn't interested in retreading the most famous battles of World War II. "To be frank, we've all played it – we've all been there," says senior producer Andreas Morell. "We've all stormed the beaches of Normandy and cleared every bunker in France. I think some of us can probably navigate the countryside by muscle memory alone. And we've also seen the movies. So for us, we really wanted to give our players something new."
What does that mean for a war that's been retread in games and films so many times? The studio created this edict: Take players to unseen locations, tell untold stories, and have them fight unplayed battles. DICE teased a few of these during the event, including arctic battles in Norway, airborne operations in Rotterdam, and tank battles in North Africa. We also saw concept art for the French countryside, so not every location will be off the beaten path.
Battlefield 1942 featured some of the most memorable maps of all time, so I asked design director Daniel Berlin how DICE plans to leverage those classic maps. While he said they aren't ready to announce anything, you can tell they have some plans to capitalize on that game's legacy. "I can't say anything about yet, that but there are ideas around these things – there is a lot of good stuff," Berlin says. "I can also say we are drawing inspiration from those old maps. We know that people will play this game and look back to 1942. To certain degrees we want them to be at certain locations and go, 'Oh! I'm getting that feeling that I had [in 1942].' Playing the game, you will definitely get those nostalgic vibes."
Operations Returns, With A Grand Renovation
After the success of Battlefield 1's new Operations mode, a long-form match that took place over multiple maps, DICE is doubling down on the concept in Battlefield V. Now called Grand Operations, the modular experience now switches between different modes as well as maps. In the example DICE gave us set in Rotterdam, you may start the battle as part of an airborne invasion in a new mode called Airborne. The attacking team must drop behind enemy lines and take out the long-range artillery so their invading force can advance. In the beginning, every soldier must spawn in the aircraft and pick where they want to jump as the plane moves across the map. Defenders in AA cannons can target these carriers and rack up crazy kill counts if they manage to down one with several soldiers waiting to deploy.
On day two, the battle still takes place in Rotterdam, but now the invading force is moving in to capture points in the classic Operations fashion, which is now a mode called Breakthrough. The number of troops and vehicles is determined by how quickly the paratroopers took out the long-range artillery in the last round.
When day three begins, the map changes to a bombed-out version of Rotterdam where the players see the destruction from the early bombing runs. This operation could end on this day if the attackers achieve a decisive victory. But if the battle is close, it extends into day four, which in this case is a new Last Stand mode.
Last Stand is the ultimate war of attrition. Ammo is low (you may only start with one magazine), vehicles are scarce to nonexistent, and if a squad is wiped they cannot come back into the match. This puts heavy emphasis on squad coordination to resupply and revive each other.
This is just one example of how DICE could construct a Grand Operation. The developers can modify the modes included, the number of vehicles, and types of weapons at teams' disposal every time they introduce a new one. DICE also plans to use this mode to introduce all the new maps and content coming to Battlefield V over its lifespan, but that content will eventually migrate over to the classic modes like Conquest, Domination, Frontlines, and Team Deathmatch. New (or renamed) modes like Airborne, Last Stand, and Breakthrough will also be available as standalone experiences. We'll play Grand Operations for the first time during EA Play at E3.
Squad Cooperation Matters More Than Ever
As the waning rounds of Grand Operations demonstrated, you really need to work together to emerge victorious in Battlefield V. This is the reasoning behind why players automatically spawn into a squad when joining a match in Battlefield V. You can still opt out of the squad and go lone wolf, but the design stresses cooperation more than ever before, and if you go lone wolf you'll miss out on some tide-turning weapons.
This renewed focus on team play begins with the squad leader, who has more power than ever before. If the designated squad leader isn't issuing orders and another player is continually requesting an assignment, the job will automatically switch to the person showing an interest in getting objectives. As the team performs actions together, they earn squad-reinforcement points over the course of the match. Once they hit certain thresholds, the squad leader then has powerful new tools at their disposal that they can deploy to benefit the team. This includes special vehicles only your squad members can spawn into, supply drops, a smoke barrage to supply cover, and even a V1 rocket you can drop on a tough-to-crack frontline to punch a hole in the defense. The squad leader must weigh this decision and determine whether they want to spend these points early for an immediate benefit, or save them in hopes of unleashing one of those deadly rockets later in the match.
One of the most significant changes to Battlefield V relates to revives. For the first time in the series, all squad members can revive each other, regardless of what class they are using. These "body revives" take much longer, and they leave the saved player with much less health than they would have if a medic did the job. If your downed squad member is out in the open, you can now drag them behind cover before attempting a revive, as well.
The squad spawn revamp lets you page through over-the-shoulder looks at each of your comrades to get a better understanding of what you are getting yourself into. You come to this screen by default instead of going back to the full deploy screen every time – unless your squad is wiped. In that case, new indicators tell you where your teammates plan to spawn so you can more quickly get back on the same page.
Scarcity Changes The Way You Play
In another move to force team play, DICE is taking a new approach to loading out soldiers when they respawn. You still get a few clips of ammo and a grenade, but unless you're an ace shot, don't expect that supply to last very long. You also don't regenerate your full health after taking a bullet, so staying by a medic is going to be key to survival. To help with the resource scarcity, you can always resupply ammo, gadgets, and health on a flag position – provided one has been built there. Bold soldiers can also run to collect ammo off the corpses of their downed enemies as well, keeping them in the fight a bit longer. We're curious to see how these changes affect the scout class. Snipers who like to camp are going to need an ample supply of ammo before they go perch on the ridge. Maybe this will convince more player to PTFO. DICE hopes this new scarcity creates more micro-lulls in the action where squads regroup before pushing forward, lending the play a more measured and tactical rhythm.
Major Gameplay Changes
The list of gameplay changes coming to Battlefield V is long, but let's start with the tool everyone uses the most in the game – guns. DICE is changing how weapons work to reduce the randomness while firing and give each gun a more predictable burst pattern that players can learn over time and eventually master. Where you aim is now where you shoot – no random bullet trajectories going left or right. DICE demoed this new technology on a test range and the variant between burst patterns was dramatically more reliable. This should increase the viability of LMGs for the support class, which can now rip through cover thanks to a new bullet-penetration ballistics system.
Those who like to go heavy have a fun new toy at their disposal in Battlefield V – towing stationary weapons. Now you can attach an AA gun or stationary .50 cal to the back of your tank and drag it to a more strategic location. You can even have one person firing the AA gun on the go while the tank driver is lobbing shells, turning the duo into a mini armored train of sorts.
Grenade spam has been a constant topic in the Battlefield community, and DICE has finally addressed it in a meaningful way by adding the ability to shoot grenades out of the sky or throw them back. Hopefully, this mitigates some of the shrapnel-filled death corridors that have a tendency to develop during battles.
DICE also changed how soldiers move through the environment, adding a layer of realism to wading through water or running through mud. If a player is trudging through shallow water, the soldiers will now lift their legs higher. Running on mud or rocks may cause your soldier to slip slightly, and they now charge into cover with full physicality, violently banging their bodies on the cover when running to the position. The environment also reacts to soldier movements in realistic ways. If you are moving quickly through high grass or shrubbery, enemies may see the blades or bushes moving.
Soldiers have more varied options when going prone as well. Dropping quickly to prone, you can now land on your side to keep your aim in a particular direction. You can backpedal while prone, and even turn 360 degrees. This will be handy when you are positioned in a building but need to get a look at who is approaching up the stairs.
The last major change DICE teased is a revamped spotting system. You can no longer just spam the spotting button to reveal icons all over the map. DICE isn't explaining how the new system works exactly, but we'll get our first look during E3.
Destruction Gets Physical
Destructibility has always been a hallmark of Battlefield, and DICE is introducing some impressive physics-based tweaks to the system in 2018. When shredding buildings to pieces with heavy ammo, you will see it react naturally. Exploding a wall from the inside will send the debris outward, and the decimated parts are now all real pieces of the building, not just pre-rendered chunks. Similarly, blasting a building from the outside will send the debris inward. Some pieces may end up hanging by a thread, eventually succumbing to gravity a bit later should another blast shake it free.
Fortification Counters Destructibility
One of the most interesting new mechanics Battlefield V introduces is fortification. We've all been hiding in a house, only to have a tank shell rip it to pieces and leave us with no cover. Now, soldiers of any class can make fortifications and rebuild parts of these structures. The fortification mechanics even work out in the open – you can deploy sandbags, anti-tank obstacles, barbed wire, resupply centers near flag points, etc.
Support class builds faster and can create more fortifications than the other classes, including stationary machine guns. They can also repair these types of weapons.
EA Choses Live Service Over Paid DLC
The new Tides of War live service replaces the Premium Pass approach from past Battlefield games. Design director Daniel Berlin says DICE has ambitious plans to keep this service evolving. Most content will come in the form of chapters that advance to new fronts of the war, giving the player a deeper context on the breadth of World War II and introducing new modifications to existing modes, new narrative experiences, new cooperative missions, new maps, and new rewards.
The big question this raises: Does this new approach mean a dramatically reduced number of maps? "I can't say anything in terms of numbers, but we are really f---ng dedicated to making sure that this journey in Tides of War is something we're really leaning into," Berlin says. "I can't talk specifics, but there's going to be tons of stuff for you guys."
Dramatically Expanded Customization
For the first time in the Battlefield series, you can now customize your characters from head to toe. As the screenshot above indicates, this even extends to gender – expect to see a lot more female soldiers in the field. Customization options include facial features, hair, face paint, upper torso, pants, and accessories like goggles and gloves. The trailer shows a woman with a mechanical arm, so expect to see some unique offerings.
Guns and vehicles also have dramatically expanded customization options that extend beyond skins. Weapons each have five-to-seven different visual parts you can customize, including the chassis material, muzzles, stocks, scopes, and trinkets. We saw some guns decked out with immaculate marble stocks, and others that looked more DIY, like having foliage bent over the muzzle.
Customization extends beyond the cosmetic and includes perks. Each character class has different archetypes you can purchase with the grind currency to unlock new play styles, and the same goes for tanks. Maybe one of your Tiger tanks is outfitted with heavy armor plating to take more damage, and your other one is outfitted with upgrades that improve its speed and handling.
All your various class characters, weapons, and vehicles can be accessed via your Company page. This is the all-in-one customization hub where players will spend a significant amount of time.
Yes, EA plans to allow players to buy a currency to unlock customization options, but some items will only be achievable by completing specific tasks in-game. DICE also assured us there are no pay-to-win microtransactions that could give a player a leg up on their competition.
This new system spells the end for battlepacks. Instead of these random loot drops, you can buy what you what when you want it.
The expanded Assignment system gives you a lot of ways to earn more currency, including daily orders and more time consuming special assignments. Since not everyone always had the skill to meet special assignment objectives in previous Battlefield games, DICE offers multiple ways to meet the objectives.
Players can show off their customized look in more places than the killcam in Battlefield V. Now when you go in for a melee kill, your opponent sees the whites of your eyes (and your immaculate fashion sensibilities). You can also get an up-close look at your teammates when they rush to revive you.
War Stories Return
Battlefield 1's approach to single-player content won over fans and critics alike with its focused, short-story-style war missions that gave you a deeper glimpse into the lives of the various soldiers fighting the good fight across many fronts. War Stories return in Battlefield V as well, though DICE isn't going into much detail about the breadth of content available just yet. All we know is they are inspired by real events and intended to "make people feel something," as senior producer Lars Gustavsson says. We did get a brief tease of one story featuring a Norwegian woman who puts her life at risk to save her family. Expect to hear more about War Stories as we get closer to launch.
Introducing Combined Arms, A New Cooperative Mode
For years, DICE has searched for a new way to onboard players to its impressively deep but sometimes hard to understand intricacies of Battlefield multiplayer. This year, the studio hopes to bridge the gap between single player and multiplayer for good with a new four-player cooperative mode called Combined Arms. DICE built a mission generator that allows the team to customize new experiences quickly in a variety of environments. One mission may have you parachute behind enemy lines and try to stay undetected as your squad moves through objectives. When the mission gets hairy, you will have a tough decision to make: Do you extract to keep everything you have gained to that point, or tough it out to try and retrieve the big reward at the final objective?
By introducing squad mechanics in a PvE space, DICE hopes this properly acclimates new players, while giving veteran soldiers a fresh experience at the same time. All the things you unlock in Combined Arms feed into your company.
Classes Are Being Rebalanced
Battlefield V introduces some significant changes to the class system because of the new systems being introduced in the game. "We're adding stuff to the sandbox, meaning the fortification system and towing, and we're adding more abilities to the player – how they can interact with the world and they can shoot grenades in the sky or throw them back, or backpedal and all these things," Berlin says. "With these new ingredients added to the sandbox, we are doing a rebalancing phase as well to make it fit this new formula."
The Battlefield V Play First trial begins October 11 on Xbox One and PC. Players who buy the deluxe edition can join the fray on October 16, and the standard edition launches on October 19 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.