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Battlefield V

Battlefield V

DICE had plenty to tell us about Battlefield V as new features reinforce a fresh charge into WW2.

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Battlefield 1 brought us into the Great War two years ago, since then bolstering its offering with expansions showing us new sides of the war, but now the time has come to move on entirely, as we saw firsthand when we attended a private presentation for Battlefield V, where DICE revealed that ever since Battlefield 1942 they've yearned to go back to WWII, and that's exactly what they're doing in what they call the "richest, deepest, and most immersive Battlefield" to date.

In fact, the whole world has seen the reveal livestream now, where we got an insight into what this new entry in the long-running FPS series is bringing us, and we actually had an in-depth behind-the-scenes hands-off session in London's Gfinity Arena earlier today. DICE was keen to let us know that this game is all about the unseen, untold, and unplayed sides of WWII, a conflict which has been arguably overrepresented by video games over the years, and a big part of this has to do with the War Stories.

Like in Battlefield 1 the War Stories will give us insights into the catastrophic war through very focused narratives seen from one point of view, and while we know we'll be journeying to the city of Rotterdam, the heat of North Africa, and the luscious French countryside, what caught our eye most was north of the Arctic Circle, as we'll get to see a story play out in Norway. Here we'll get to experience the life of a Norwegian resistance fighter in 1943 who is fighting to save her family during the German occupation, and like DICE emphasised, this isn't a story about heroes; this is intended simply to make you feel.

When you're not getting your heartstrings pulled by the stories you'll also get the chance to play a new co-operative mode called Combined Arms, which the developer says was created with the intention of training people for multiplayer; for those who feel a little overwhelmed jumping into Battlefield's huge sandboxes for the first time. Here a team of four friends can jump into the shoes of paratroopers being dropped behind enemy lines, with the focus firmly on teamwork as you approach objectives together, with an emphasis on stealth also mentioned.

Of course, there'll also be classic multiplayer action to enjoy as well, and connecting this with single-player War Stories and Combined Arms is the Company, a system which everything feeds into. Basically, progression isn't just limited to your time shooting other real people, but everything you do works towards a goal and unlocks new content, meaning there's more incentive to play everything, not just keep yourself to one side.

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We really got into the nitty-gritty of things when DICE started talking about the finer details of in-game action that are being tweaked, all showcased with work-in-progress video clips and built around this idea of reinforced immersion and improved realism. Movement animations are just one part of this, as we saw a soldier wading through water with high knees and holding his arms high, but when on loose rocks we saw him slip and adjust his weight as he was unbalanced. We were also promised more material-specific movement alterations like slips on mud, all of which will hopefully get that immersion level way up, especially since the environment also reacts to us now too, like foliage moving as we push through it, making it easier to spot a crawling sniper from miles away if he's being a rustly mess.

The spotting system has also been reworked, with one of the team mentioning as an aside that he always found his finger resting on the spot button rather than the trigger, as there was a tendency in Battlefield 1 to simply scan the battlefield (so to speak) and see enemy icons pop up, which DICE says creates a mentality of shooting icons, not enemies. Now, then, it's all about actually examining the scenery which, while not specified in such words, implies the removal of spotting entirely, or at least that it's stripped back in a major way.

Realism also comes in the form of physical interactions taking the place of automated processes. For instance, when playing as a medic you can't just squirt your needle all over piles of dead soldiers, you now need to physically pick them up, as you do when you pick up ammunition from resupply points. To adjust to the added risk of being shot to pieces when picking your allies up, DICE is now allowing us to drag our allies out of danger before reviving them - a welcome feature for when gormless warriors rush into an alleyway of death.

Part of what separates, and always has separated, Battlefield from its contemporaries is the sophisticated destruction in the games, and that has been revamped here too. We were witness to a video of a tank driving through the corner of a house, which showed us some very nice-looking damage being dealt, with pieces breaking off of the building as it was crushed. Indeed, the new physics-based system is all about making damage unique each time, with houses even collapsing over time if they sustain enough damage. What's more is that the damage is all directional, so if you're shooting into a building then debris will land inside, while explosions on the inside will subsequently send wreckage outwards.

As an interesting little aside, we were also shown a video of some improved player animations when it comes to transitioning to prone, as the player can now slide left or right when dropping down on their front, skidding the ground as they do so, and can even dive backwards (not totally dissimilar from what we've seen in Call of Duty, we should add). What's more is that you can actually turn on the spot without moving your legs while lying down at long last, like you can in Rainbow Six: Siege, meaning your legs won't push you off a precarious ledge if you turn around while lying prone.

Battlefield V

Playing together as a squad is a huge part of Battlefield V's philosophy and the devs are looking to encourage teamwork in a number of ways. A major factor is that you can now revive your squadmates even if you're not a medic which, despite restoring less health and taking longer, makes it beneficial to stick together. What's more is you can never actually get back to full health on your own, meaning you need to rely on your allies and/or on supply points to fully recover if you take a hit.

As part of this emphasis on squads you'll never be put into a game alone on Battlefield V unless you make a conscious choice. You automatically get dropped into a squad in each game, where the squad leaders can now use more tactical options to guide the action - important when you consider that all members of your team dying will put you way back to the starting spawn point. A system called scarcity is also in place now too, meaning that when you spawn you'll get a reasonable amount of resources like ammunition and grenades, but not loads. This means you will run out. Again, relying on your allies becomes important because of this, although you'll also want to pay a visit to enemy corpses too, since they always drop ammo.

There are other incentives for playing as a squad though, on top of the mere fact that it'll help you stay alive longer. There are rewards for squads who play together, play the objective, and obey commands, and those who do will get access to special weapons like the V1 rocket, smoke barrage, and even a tank to carry your entire squad, something you won't get if you choose to abandon your allies.

The presentation there was an interesting point made, and when the host asked about concerns people may have about the intensity of the action being dulled with these measures making players more vulnerable if they're not careful, DICE explained that this isn't the case. To paraphrase, while this may mean that the action isn't a million miles an hour all the time, this isn't a bad thing, because the lulls it creates when you're visiting supply points, healing, or anything else for that matter, will complement the explosive action nicely, with ups and downs like a rollercoaster. Like the team says, having the action at 11 all the time depreciates the value of 11.

Battlefield V

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One big new feature coming with Battlefield V is fortifications, which we can imagine is perhaps the most risky of inclusions, since it means all players can use their build tool (which isn't restricted to a specific class) to build things from sandbags, machine guns, barbed wire, trenches, and even offensive instalments like machine guns, letting you dig down and protect a tactical point like an objective. What's more is that you can also repurpose destroyed buildings as tactical bases too, repairing them a little, at least enough to make them usable once again. We say this is risky because it's perhaps the biggest change to the series we've seen, and looks set to change the strategy significantly.

A slightly less drastic feature is Grand Operations, which builds upon the existing Operations mode in Battlefield 1, this time making the epic battles even grander and more ambitious, changing the format to take us to a battle that spans multiple days. Each day equates to one match (they're all played in one session, like current Operations), similar to phases in the current Operations, and these are inspired by actual historical conflicts. Each of these will be active for a limited time and grant exclusive and unique rewards, introducing gameplay variants like no vehicles in one day or only being able to use certain vehicles during another.

For example, one Grand Operation that DICE is working on takes place in Rotterdam, wherein the first day you'll drop in as a paratrooper behind enemy lines tasked with sabotaging long-range artillery, and every time you spawn you'll be standing at the foot of the aircraft waiting to parachute down. What's more is that defenders can even shoot down these aircraft for a huge number of kills, and the number of artillery units destroyed determines how many respawn tickets the main invasion force has on the second day. The next day they then try to push the defenders back from the sector and into the new map on Day 3. The third days takes place in the ruins of Rotterdam, which could be a mode like Frontlines. If you really blow it as the attackers, the Grand Operation could be lost on this day, but if it's close then it's sudden death in Day 4, called Final Stand, which features limited ammunition, no respawns, and high-stakes, mirroring the final days of a real battle when resources and manpower are depleted.

Gunplay is incredibly important with any first-person shooter, not just Battlefield, and changes have been made here too, as DICE want to encourage a mentality whereby the bullet goes where the gun aims. That means the removal of random bullet deviation, so bullets will only fire where your scope is pointed and you won't spray bullets all over the place. This move should allow you to control and master weapons without any random elements, only focusing on things inside your control (such as recoil). The process of setting up a bipod has also been made more seamless now, and that can improve your aim somewhat, and bullet penetration is back in full force and weapons like the aforementioned LMG can tear through cover whereas other guns will have a harder time of it.

Slightly smaller changes include the respawn flow, as you won't immediately go back to the map overview when you die. Instead, the camera will go to your killer after you're murdered, before switching back to you lying on the floor screaming, giving you a 360 view as you plead for medical assistance. When you then die for good the camera follows a squadmate over the shoulder (so you can see where they are before spawning right on them). The map overview screen will be available if you want it rather than being automatic. What's more is that dynamic weather also returns, which is welcome a feature, especially in the Grand Operations.

Battlefield V

During the event Tides of War was also introduced. It's the live service in the game that's all about incentives to play, progression, and customisation, which also includes the aforementioned Company which ties things together across all the game modes. By playing and enjoying the game you get to level up your profile, unlock gear for the soldiers, and unlock attachments and skins for weapons and vehicles, and what's more is that live events will also grant you access to new and unique content.

In terms of the soldiers, you get different perks and abilities to tailor how they play, and you can see how each plays with the in-game archetypes that offer a guide on how to handle them and what each is useful for. As you play and progress you'll unlock more gear for your loadout, but this doesn't just apply to your soldier, as the example of a tank was also given. By using, say, a Tiger tank you can upgrade to give it armour plating for greater damage resistance, but you can also have two versions at a time; one that's slow with the armour, and another that's quicker but more delicate. Weapons work in the same way, with attachments like scopes, stocks, muzzles, and more available to help you in-game.

Visual customisation options were labelled "unprecedented" too, as you can decide how your soldier looks, including gender, face, war paint, torso, jackets, and paints, including a mohawk. At the mere mention of this haircut we were worried this would be like when Call of Duty was mocked for its particularly weird cosmetics in Infinite Warfare, but seeing the examples given to us they still all looked lore-friendly, which was a big relief. In the same way, weapon skins can be unlocked, and vehicles can be customised with their own paint jobs and camouflage too.

One last thing to keep you hooked is the assignments, as there are three daily orders each day that will keep you coming back for rewards, but there are special assignments as well, providing long-lasting challenges for iconic loot. What's more is that completing progression paths unlock new special assignments too, so every time you run out of stuff to do more comes in its place. It sounds like the studio is trying to offer plenty of things to do for the most dedicated players.

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Perhaps the most welcome news of the entire presentation is that the paid Premium Pass for Battlefield 1 will not be returning this time around. DICE is once again following the precedent set with the last Battlefront, a decision that aids the heavier emphasis on squad play in BFV. As the devs said themselves: what's the point if everyone in the squad can't access the same content? This means new game modes and maps will be coming for free, and that there'll be no community segmentation.

Every few months we'll be getting so-called Chapters, each of which brings new activities like limited-time events and new War Stories to take us to different parts of World War 2, not to mention skins, vehicles, dog tags, and more, all of which has been dubbed as the "future of Battlefield".

More good news is that Battlefield 4 and 1 players will get free content to celebrate the game in the months leading up to launch, but the even better news is that Battlefield V is coming this October, with the Standard Edition releasing on October 19, the Deluxe Edition coming on October 16, and EA/Origin Access players getting to try it on October 11 as part of the Play First Trial.

For now, though, we're thoroughly impressed with all the care and attention DICE has shown to the franchise, even if that's not a surprise at this point. Concerns will no doubt hover over elements like the new fortifications, but as for the rest of the large-scale warfare that defines the series, we have high hopes that DICE can deliver an engaging experience again, bringing us a new side of a very famous conflict along with a ton of new stuff to keep us hooked.

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REVIEW. Written by Kim Orremark

"All the work DICE has done in renewing the core mechanics has resulted in an experience that feels tighter than it has done for many years."

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