First Look: Battlefield V
DICE’S Design Director Daniel Berlin sits Down with Play Digital to Explain how a new-found Emphasis on squads, teamwork and Communication will Ensure Battlefield V Is the Best Entry In the long-running series yet
In many respects, Battlefield V is 16 years in the making. The iconic series may have evolved and broadened in scope significantly in that time, but the focus has never once wavered from celebrating the chaos and drama that can emerge out of all-out tactical warfare. Battlefield has always been praised for its massive multiplayer battles, tantalisingly tactical combat and its ability to strike a clear and transparent balance between its aircrafts, armoured vehicles and small arms firefights. That could be said of Battlefield 1942, the series’ 2002 debut, and it can be said of DICE’S emphatic return to World War II as a historical framing device for its action. So what is it that makes V any different, and any more deserving of your time and attention than any other Battlefield game that has come along before it? To put it simply enough, DICE is finally at a stage in which it has the apparatus to deliver a Battlefield that is truly hinged around cooperation and coordination. While we aren’t trying to suggest that team play hasn’t been an ever-present part of Battlefield over the years, we would like to posit that it has only ever been a suggested play style rather than a core attraction of the experience – a support mechanism for those too afraid to wander the sprawling sandboxes as a maverick lone wolf. In Battlefield V, DICE is finally leveraging the potential of squads to improve, broaden and solidify the core Battlefield fantasy. The studio is expanding upon its long-held belief that together, a small group of dedicated players can accomplish anything; that by maintaining tight threads of communication and by utilising dynamic squad interactions, players can complete any task and overcome just about any threat that they may encounter across one of Battlefield’s tightly contested and evershifting frontlines. Of course, you don’t need to take our word for it if you don’t want to. It’s perhaps DICE’S long-serving design director Daniel Berlin that puts it best as we catch him ruminating on how he would like players to best approach Battlefield V when it launches this October: “PTFO: Play The Fucking Objective.”
you are required to DEPEND on your squad mates more so than In Previous Battlefield titles
‘PTFO’ has long been the unofficial mantra of the disgruntled Battlefield player. DICE is taking steps to eradicate it from the lexicon of Battlefield, but that is, of course, far easier said than done. There is, after all, simply no accounting for how an individual player may decide to approach any given situation, let alone whether they will want to work in tandem with another group of players, even in a game so inherently focused around teamwork as Battlefield. While every round should indeed be a tense war of attrition, with 64 players bouncing off of one another in an attempt to gain forward momentum and shift the dynamic of play, that isn’t always the case. And don’t you sit there pretending that you haven’t seen the Battlefield fantasy collapse in front of your eyes time and time again. Too often, games devolve into chaotic scenes of thinly veiled Team Deathmatch as the objective zones remain largely uncontested, causing rounds to slowly draw to a wholly unsatisfying conclusion. Squads have been used for little more than speedy respawn re-entry points rather than an extension of your tactical capabilities or vocabulary. And so it’s here where DICE is making some key changes that, the studio believes, could in fact make this the best Battlefield experience ever – the most faithful to that core Battlefield fantasy DICE has spent 16 years working towards fully realising. “We want you to play together with a squad. We’re always incentivising that. That’s the mentality going through the entire game. This is a squad-based game; you should play together with your squad,” says Berlin, highlighting a key area of focus throughout Battlefield V’s lengthy production. “We’re adding additional ways for squads to actually play together. We’re increasing the amount of dependency between players… you are required to depend on your squad mates more so than in previous Battlefield titles.” With Battlefield V’s multiplayer action once again cast out across huge sandbox areas, the potential for uninhibited and emergent play is indeed massive. DICE hands players incredible tools, systems and mechanics to work with one another in service of finding victory, but it has never quite found a way to drive players to work together naturally. Properly incentivising squad play is right at the top of DICE’S mission statement for Battlefield V. That means some pretty big changes are on the way, and it all stems from the composition of squads, underpinned by the thought that if the studio can get this dynamic right, then players will naturally fall into cooperative play and playing the objective as the standard. “The general mentality here is that we want to make sure that squads are ever-present, meaning that when you’re in a squad, you stay together and you play together, no matter where you go and how you do it,” notes Berlin, who explains that every time you join a match in Battlefield V you will immediately find yourself surrounding by other players and put into a position of relative responsibility. “You will never be put in a position that you are not in a squad. If you want to lone wolf it you can do that; that’s possible, but it has to be an active choice for you as a player.” Berlin says that DICE has approached Battlefield V in a very particular way, designed to quickly get players into the mindset that they are playing as part of a small, autonomous team within a larger company, as opposed to a solo player merely surrounded by others that might steal your kills or get in your way. He notes that the team has put considerable time into reaffirming that squad play is the signature mark of the Battlefield series. This works on a variety of levels, from increasing dependency between players to ensuring that lines of communication are never broken. It’s as he says: “While you’re in a squad, we want you to be able to communicate at all times; if you’re on a loading screen, if you’re in the lobby, or if you’re in-between matches, you will be able to chat and VOIP. We’re never going to be cutting the communication between squads, they always stay together.” This all comes back to that concept we mentioned before, of making each squad autonomous units within the larger whirlpool of action happening on a map at any one given time. Every multiplayer match will be bound by the duelling concepts of scarcity and attrition; spawn into a round, and you’ll immediately notice that you aren’t dropping onto the battlefield with a full complement of munitions. It’s up to individual players to assess the situation in front of them and to then make a tactical decision on how to proceed ahead. “This is a big addition for us,” Berlin teases. “We’re introducing a concept called scarcity. Now, what this means is we’re gonna make you somewhat reduced in terms of what you carry the second you spawn in; you’re gonna have somewhat less ammo and you’re gonna have somewhat less explosives.” The idea isn’t to make you less of an immediate threat, but to push players into being more aware of their surroundings and an active participant in the unfolding theatre of war. Call Of Duty or Titanfall this is not – running and gunning will only get you so far, and every action in Battlefield V should be made with some consideration to the reaction it will incur. “If you just want to dash into combat you’re still going to be capable enough, if you’re a skilled player. If you want to get straight into a firefight you can do just that, but if you’re successful – meaning that you get one, two or maybe three kills – you’re going to find yourself in a situation where you’re actually out of ammo.” “We want to introduce a sense of mindfulness. A meta-game where you’re mindful of your resources at all times,” he continues, noting that this will also lead to increased longevity for player life and a more dynamic playing experience. That classic Battlefield high-octane action is still present and accounted for, only now it’ll be more thrilling and concussive than ever. At the very least, that’s the plan. “The gameplay – in terms of when you’re in action, when you’re running and gunning – all of that is still the same fast-paced gameplay that you’ve come to expect. But what we want to do, in terms of the tempo, is create lulls. We want there to be ups and downs. For the game to go up in intensity, you know, where you fight, fight, fight, fight, fight, and then there’s a moment of pause where you actually need to re-supply and you get ready for the next encounter. You have time to be tactical
and you have time to plan out attacks. The game becomes a more dynamic experience as a result.” Berlin is keen to stress that none of this is coming at the detriment of the core proficiencies of play. In fact, if anything, it’s a counterweight to other areas of the game that are being streamlined. Destruction and fortifications – which we will get to eventually, trust us – create a whole new dynamic to play, while traversal and movement has also been overhauled in order to help improve immersion and tactility. It’s the small details here that really impress, such as the ability to run full throttle at a window and smash right through it without skipping a beat. The days of having to slowly unlatch a closed window before then being allowed to tepidly vault out it after you spot a Panzer tank careering towards the building you’re stationed in are long gone. The tempo is far more energetic than in past Battlefield games. Still, we digress (it’s all too easy to get caught up on the little details here). It’s this shift to the pace of Battlefield V and the introduction of scarcity where we see how the game is subtly pushing players to naturally and instinctively stick with their squads rather than wander off as soon as they spawn back into the game. You will be dependent on your squad to survive, let alone thrive. Making each and every player dependent on one another automatically incentivises teamwork and cooperation, pushing players to actually engage in that style of play. Take, for example, ammunition. You’ll still be able to rely on your Support squad member to dish out ammo pouches, but you’ll now also find two other avenues of replenishment in the form of re-supply stations and ammo drops. All enemies will now drop limited ammunition that can be used to help you get out of a tight spot, but picking them up is also a slow and risky endeavour. So too is approaching the re-supply stations found in key locations across the map due to a newfound sense of physicality in Battlefield V. “The re-supply stations will replenish ammo, they will replenish explosives and gadgetry, and they will replenish health,” Berlin says, noting that other players can in fact destroy these stations, though they can be later rebuilt by Support players through the new fortification system. “Also, together with these re-supply stations, every enemy that you shoot is actually gonna drop ammunition. It’s gonna be up to players to consider the risk-reward, to make that choice and think, ‘Hey, I’m out of ammo, I just shot these two guys, should I dash in there and loot them for ammo, or do I want to stay in the safety of cover?” Why is this a big decision to be made? Because of that physicality we were just talking about. DICE is removing what Berlin calls “abstractions” from the game in an effort to help gate the shifting pace of matches and to give players a physical sense of dependency on those around them. “The [ammo drops] is something you physically move up to and interact with. This game is moving away from abstractions as a whole. You don’t move close to a med pack and then get healed by a magical aura anymore; you actually have to move up to
it, grab the meds and then apply them. Auras are gone. Abstractions are gone. It’s a physical game now.” It’s easiest to understand this shift when you consider the role and impact of the Medic. This has the potential to be one of the most controversial changes to Battlefield’s core gameplay, though it’s one that has been a long, long time coming. “You can’t just flick a syringe in the sky and revive eight people in a row,” laughs Berlin as he explains the shift in mentality to the revive mechanic. “This is a physical interaction now. You actually move up to the person that you’re going to be reviving; you pull out a syringe, you stab them with it, and you physically pull them up. As the person that’s down, you’ll see the face of the player that’s rescuing you – you’ll see their visual customisation and how they have built their character,” he says, adding: “It creates a much more personal and immersive connection.” That physical interaction also has some cool payoffs for moment-to-moment gameplay, such as the ability to actually move downed players in your squad out of trouble while you look for an opportunity to pick them up off the ground. “Say you’re on The End or Locker or something,” says Berlin, dealing in current-map hypotheticals, “and your buddy is downed in an alleyway of death. What you can now do – instead of going in there and trying to revive him, surrounded by gunfire – is you can actually walk up to them, grab them, and then pull them into cover and revive them in safety.” It’s awesome is what that is. How it works in practice – well, it’s too early to say, but we love the idea. It’s a small example of how DICE is looking to make this a more visceral and reactive experience, where treating your fellow squad mates with the attention they deserve can actually create these really dynamic and cinematic moments that are usually reserved for action movies. Still, lets bring the focus back to classes. It’s interesting because, much like Support, the Medic is seeing such a huge increase in responsibility. Embodying the role of the Medic is more important than ever before, and carries with it new lines of pressure, though they are also seeing some duties taken off of their shoulders to ease the stress too. In an intriguing move, every player in a squad can now revive every other player in their particular squad, regardless of their chosen class. It’s still only Medics that can revive a soldier to full health, but a “buddy revive” will give you the opportunity to pick a squad member up off the floor and give you some additional support until proper reinforcements arrive. DICE is effectively making it so that a tight squad can survive anything if they work together and communicate properly. “[Buddy revives] take a long time, and it’s limited to the people within your squad, but
fortifications Is your ability, In Battlefield V, to actually RE-BUILD and shape the Battlefield
it’s part of the mentality that we want to push. We want to keep people playing together with their squad, so you should be able to maintain yourself within a squad and keep a squad alive. That’s a super-important thing because of the squad dynamic in this game,” Berlin says, although he is keen to stress that this isn’t done in an effort to make the Medic less viable. “This is not to diminish the value of the medic. The medic can still revive anyone, and they can do super-quick revives. Plus, once they revive you, you’re also back to maximum health.” Ah yes, the health situation. We foresee this one kicking up a storm come October, but we are in agreement with DICE; it feels like a necessary change to help support the style of cooperative game the studio wants players to pursue. “Another thing that is interesting here is that no longer in Battlefield will you be able to fully replenish your health. You cannot fully regen to 100 per cent health in Battlefield V on your own. That’s something that you need to actually look to your teammates to do,” says Berlin, giving us just a small hint as to how the role of the medic is being enriched. While resupply stations can be used to take you back to full strength, they will of course be high-risk danger zones due to their huge utility benefit. Instead, you’ll need to look towards the medic to keep on top of the overall health and strength of the squad they have been charged with protecting – the improved level of responsibility will drive them to fulfil the role too, believe us on that one. “All of this opens up player choice. I’d say, in previous games, you spawn and then you’re in an encounter and then you’re behind a rock, and then you wait for 10 seconds as your health goes up to 100. You always have a good amount of ammo on you anyway, so your tactics don’t change and the situation doesn’t change, but in this game that exact scenario is going to go differently. If you’re sitting behind a rock after you’ve been in an engagement you’ll think, ‘Hmm, I’m running low on ammo, and my health is not at max, and I’m not gonna get anything back by sitting here, so I need to change my tactics. I need to
look to my friends, to have dependency on my squad-mates.” It’s important for DICE to make being a part of a squad feel important and impactful, regardless of whether you are playing with friends or have just dropped into a game via matchmaking. In an effort to foster this feeling of camaraderie between perfect strangers, Battlefield V will feature a brand new respawn flow. When you are mortally wounded the camera will zoom into the soldier or vehicle that killed you before darting back to your own bloody, covered body, giving you the opportunity to scream out for medical attention while surveying the situation with 360 degrees of control. Should you bleed out you’ll immediately be put over the shoulder of one of your squad mates, cycling through them in an effort to decide where and when to spawn – letting you choose where you can be most helpful, be it laying down suppressing fire, dropping ammunition, or popping open the syringe pack to help bring another back into the fight. “You don’t actually go back through the Deploy Screen when you die. Again, this is designed to incentivise squads; play with your squad and stay with your squad,” Berlin insists, although he is also keen to stress that you can still access the Deploy screen if you want to, giving you the opportunity to spawn at friendly objective marker, in a vehicle, or back at the main base. But, he insists, it’s by dropping behind a squad member’s shoulder where you’ll be most effective. “You get that type of instant awareness like, ‘What is my squad doing? What point are they attacking? Are they in combat?’ and I can see it all, instantly. If they’re in combat I’m like, ‘Ah, that’s why I can’t spawn in,’ and it’s not just an icon blinking on the Deploy screen. It always comes back to that mentality, to stay with your squad and play with your squad right to the end.” That’s a dour and important note for Berlin to pause on. Once a squad is wiped out they will have to work incredibly hard to regain the ground that they have lost. DICE anticipates that we will see huge and dramatic swings in the position of frontlines in Battlefield V thanks to how damaging a full squad wipe can be to the wider team effort. “As an enemy, that’s gonna be my goal: to take out the full squad. If you are that last surviving squad member it’s going to be very important that you stay alive at this point… when you get a squad wipe, you know that you’ve knocked that entire squad out from this position. They’re now back at the Deploy screen, and they’re gonna be pushed back to whatever point they can re-spawn on.” Of course, those that do take to working with their squad mates will also find other advantages presented to them. One of the most impressive of these are Squad Reinforcements, which Berlin promises are: “a reward that we give to squads that play together.”
It’s super Important to work with your squad BECAUSE the stakes are so high. when you’re Done, you are Done
Battlefield V is taking the action back to World War II and is set to launch on 19 October 2018 for PS4.
War Stories will make a return from Battlefield 1, with the single-player campaign vignettes looking to explore new and exciting stories of World War II that will give players a different perspective on the war.
DICE has made a bunch of really small, but pretty cool, changes to the movement systems. You can now throw yourself from a sprint into a prone position with more control and intensity, and you can also roll over when prone to be on your back instead of your belly. Battlefield V won’t feature any premium loot boxes, and the Premium Pass is out too. This is done in an effort to keep squads together, and so all players will have access to the same maps and the same modes. There’s no gating to be done here.