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Battlefield 5’s new multiplayer modes, explained

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The fine details on Combined Arms, Grand Operations and the Tides of War

Key art showing character customization in Battlefield 5 EA DICE/Electronic Arts

Battlefield 5 is a return to World War II, but developer EA DICE isn’t interested in making its next game a throwback. Instead, the team has created two brand-new modes to supplement its signature lineup of large-scale battles.

Here’s everything you need to know about Combined Arms and Grand Operations.

Combined Arms

Combined Arms is DICE’s new cooperative game mode for up to four players. Creative director Lars Gustavsson told the press earlier this week that the purpose of the mode is twofold. First, it’ll be a great way to onboard new players into the series’ squad-based approach to multiplayer gameplay. Second, it will provide challenging engagements for the most skilled players.

“Every now and then we do hear that, for new players, this can be an extremely daunting experience — almost overwhelming,” Gustavsson said. “To get in there, into that creative, all-out war sandbox can be challenging. Isn’t there something more focused, a bit more intimate, almost, yet social, that I can do within Battlefield that fits me and my friends?”

Gustavsson said that Combined Arms will occupy a space between single-player and multiplayer. DICE didn’t show much to the press, but gave one example: the classic airborne assault, something the team calls the “paratrooper fantasy.”

“You go in behind enemy lines — preferably undetected, but I guess it’s up to you,” Gustavsson said. “The only one you really can trust is the soldier next to you, so you’re in it together. You die together. You win together.”

He went on to describe a scenario in which players work together to push forward toward a series of objectives. The final goal of each Combined Arms mission will be extremely difficult to achieve, but if players are unable to reach their goal, they’ll still need to get out alive, so each mission will give players the option to extract.

“The choice is yours, but think fast or you might all get wiped and you lose it all,” he said. “This experience is really what we want friends to have together, and in that, we have a new system called the mission generator. It creates dynamic objectives and narratives in order to constantly keep that cooperative experience feeling fresh and challenging.”

A squad stands in front of a tank in Battlefield 5 EA DICE/Electronic Arts

Grand Operations

Building on the success of the asymmetrical Operations mode from Battlefield 1, Battlefield 5 will introduce Grand Operations. These are 64-player, hourlong, multipart battles that will take place over a series of in-fiction days and can culminate with brutal, sudden-death last stand engagements.

Key to the game mode, and Battlefield 5 as a whole, will be the concept of attrition. Whenever a player spawns into the game in any mode, they will not have the full complement of ammunition and other supplies. They will need to make the tactical decision then and there to either press the attack and scratch out a few kills with limited resources, or immediately find a source from which to resupply. That could be an allied supply dump, an enemy corpse or an enemy installation of some kind.

But attrition will also apply to each day of the Grand Operation. If your side is victorious on day one, you will likely have more resources the next day — in the form of ammunition, vehicles and respawn tickets — than the opposition.

During a private press briefing, representatives from DICE once again used the example of an airborne assault. In that scenario, on day one the attackers dropped into battle with the objective to take out four artillery batteries in advance of the main invasion force. The number and type of vehicles that the attackers could access on day two was directly influenced by how many batteries they were initially able to take out. Day three would be the final push on the objective.

In Grand Operations, a fourth day can trigger if there’s a draw on day three. Day four will be sudden death — each player gets one life. If you aren’t revived by a member of your squad, or fully healed by a medic, you’re out.

With a new over-the-shoulder cinematic camera that allows players to see the action from their allies’ perspective, DICE wants players to be invested in the outcome and able to share in the fun from beginning to end.

The developers don’twant every Grand Operation to hinge on these kinds of last-ditch, nail-biting engagements. Rather, the team said that the goal is for them to be a novelty that’s only encountered once about every three times players run through the mode.

Tides of War

Tying everything together will be Battlefield 5’s ongoing live service, Tides of War. When the game launches later this year, all of the modes will center around the early period of WWII and the fall of Europe. As the game ages, new battlefields and new fronts will open up for multiplayer modes. The goal, DICE said, is to tell the story of WWII over the entire lifespan of Battlefield 5. That means there will be entirely new Combined Arms assets to create missions from, and entirely new Grand Operations to play out.

Most importantly, DICE and publisher Electronic Arts are ending the Premium Pass. Every new map and new mode that is released for Battlefield 5 will be free for all owners.

Battlefield 5 is expected to launch simultaneously on PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One. An early trial of the game will be available to EA Access and Origin Access members on Oct. 11. The deluxe edition of the game will unlock on Oct. 16, with the standard edition coming out on Oct. 19.