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.
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.
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.