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

Play (UK) - - Contents -

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.

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