Developer EA DICE unveiled Battlefield 5 today during a lavish livestreamed event. Earlier this week, Polygon was invited to a private, in-depth presentation on how the game will improve on the series’ classic formula. There was a lot to take in, but I’ve broken it down into six easily digestible categories.
In Battlefield 5, every player will be able to outfit and customize a number of different soldiers in their stable, referred to as the Company. Every soldier will be fully customizable, including characteristics such as gender, race, facial features and hair. Each character will have a designated class, pulled from the four traditional Battlefield roles of assault, engineer/pilot, support and medic. As characters accumulate experience, they will be able to unlock different subclasses, referred to as Archetypes. That will allow players to specialize down a certain path, such as an anti-tank role for a particular class, although DICE’s presentation was light on details.
What is certain, however, is that whenever a player steps into any multiplayer game mode, they’ll be playing as one of the soldiers in their Company. Progress is accrued and carried over between every mode.
DICE was explicit in stating that gameplay progress has been completely divorced from cosmetic unlocks. Anything that alters the performance of your soldiers must be earned through play.
The Company will also include a player’s own personal motor pool and airstrip. Vehicles will be customizable just like soldiers, and there will be gameplay and cosmetic unlocks for each.
Finally, players will be able to kit out both the weapons and the vehicles in their Company arsenal. So you can, for instance, have two versions of the same rifle — one with generic parts, and the other outfitted with a bayonet for close combat. Either or both may also have their own distinct cosmetic look. Tanks and airplanes can also be similarly purpose-built. How or if you’ll be able to swap between different builds during a single match wasn’t made clear.
New game modes
DICE confirmed that Battlefield 5 will retain Battlefield 1’s “war stories” model for its single-player campaign. The goal, however, is to take players to overlooked or lesser-known theaters of the Second World War.
“We have played all of the games. We’ve seen the movies. But, we wanted to do something different,” said creative director Lars Gustavsson. “Finding those stories challenged us, that made us excited. [...] We’re going to take you on a journey around the globe.”
At launch, Gustavsson said, players will experience combat in areas such as Norway, where they will fight battles north of the Arctic Circle. There will be fighting in the French countryside, Greece, in the ruins of the city of Rotterdam and in the North African desert.
In addition to the traditional multiplayer sandbox warfare that the series is known for, Battlefield 5 will introduce two new modes. Combined Arms will feature teams of up to four players all playing cooperatively. Grand Operations will be massive, multi-match engagements that tell the story of a lengthy, multiday battle with 64 players. The outcome of each match will have an impact on the gameplay in the next successive match and, in some situations, can even conclude with a brutal sudden-death playoff.
Enhanced squad mechanics
In Battlefield 5 multiplayer, players will always be attached to a squad. There’s no longer an option to join a match as a single player and go it alone. To that end, DICE is leaning into the squad mechanics in several important ways.
First is the idea of scarcity. When you enter a match, you won’t be fully topped off with ammunition and supplies. You might have enough rounds of ammo to eke out a few kills, but you and your squadmates will have to plan ahead to resupply. Additionally, every player in a squad will be able to revive every other player in that squad. Medics will be the only class capable of bringing any player back to life, and the only class capable of bringing players back to full life.
One interesting addition is that players will now have the ability to see over the shoulder of their squadmates before spawning back into the game. This will make intelligent use of spawning into the game more important than ever. On the flip side, when an entire squad is wiped out in the middle of the map, they’ll need to work hard to regain the ground that they’ve lost.
DICE is extending the squad model to the social aspects of Battlefield 5 as well. Once in a squad, players will stick together regardless of what game mode they’re in. That means voice and text chat will be available between you and your squad at all times, even from inside loading screens.
Destroy the environment, build fortifications
DICE detailed new and improved environmental destructibility.
Many buildings on the map can be damaged, both by gunfire and by physically crashing vehicles through them. Debris will break away and scatter realistically, meaning that if a tank shell passes through a building, debris will first fly into the building as it enters and then out of the building as it exits the other side.
But, if the same tank shell explodes inside that building, debris will fly out of the structure into the field around it. The impact will have multiple phases, starting with the flash and the flame and following with the ejection of larger pieces that can strike and injure players. Finally, bits of the structure will dangle, potentially posing a risk to any players underneath.
These deformations aren’t scripted, but are calculated and animated in real time based on how a projectile or vehicle impacts a structure.
Every player in Battlefield 5 enters the game with a toolkit. In building mode, players will be able to spend resources to build fortifications like sandbags, camouflage netting and even gun emplacements. At certain points on the map, and at certain points in existing and destroyed buildings, players can turn on the build mode and see what structures are available, and then place them.
In this way, players can fortify a flag or other objective to harden it against the enemy. Fortifications can be destroyed as well.
An ongoing story
At launch, Battlefield 5 multiplayer will begin by exploring the earliest parts of WWII. But new battlefields and new fronts will open up over time.
Just as WWII expanded and changed, so too will the multiplayer experience of Battlefield 5. DICE refers to that system as Tides of War.
What it will do is give players a sense of momentum and a reason to stick with the game over time. Certain cosmetic items, such as vehicles, weapon components or component skins, will only be available at certain times. As the Tides of War roll over, you’ll be able to prove that you were there for a pivotal engagement based on the items that your soldier wears into combat.
The end result, DICE said, is to keep players interested and engaged in the multiplayer aspects of the game over a longer time frame. The side effect will be that everyone on the battlefield will look completely different.
Most importantly of all, there will be no Premium Pass this time around. Every map, every mode and every expansion pack will be completely free.
Refined gunplay and movement
Finally, longtime fans of the Battlefield series will notice a host of subtle refinements to the way that players move and shoot.
First off, random bullet deviation (RBD) was removed. Players will be able to place their shots more effectively, and in time, they will be able to learn how different weapons fire.
Developers used the example of a submachine gun fired at medium range. The first few rounds of each burst land in the exact same spot every time, but when the trigger is held down longer, later rounds spread out. That early pattern will be nearly identical each time the trigger is pulled, while the later pattern will be much more predictable than in previous Battlefield titles.
There will be at least two tiers of weapons, including an entry-level set that is easier to use. More powerful weapons won’t be hampered by RBD. Instead, the developers said they’ll be balanced by tweaking the damage that they do or the amount of ammunition that players are given.
For movement, players will have more options than ever before. That includes the ability to throw themselves into the prone position and slide forward, but also facing to the right or left. Players will now also be able to fall backward, going prone onto their backs, where they will be able to fire their weapon while crawling backward.
While prone, players will also be able to turn to face in any direction, a 360-degree freedom of movement that will allow them to occupy tight spaces and set up hasty ambushes with ease.
The rule of thumb is that if your gun is up and visible, you will be able to fire. That includes while mantling over obstacles.
Movement will also be much more fluid. Options for egress include flinging yourself out a window, even on the second story. When you hit the ground, your soldier will take some damage, to be sure. But if they survive, they simply tuck and roll and get back into the fight.
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.