“V for Victory.”
On Wednesday this week at 1pm PT (9pm BST) Battlefield V was revealed to the world live from London, sticking with a historic setting and going back to its WW2 roots after the success of its WW1 epic: Battlefield 1. While the trailer for Battlefield 1 is still one of the most popular video game trailers of all time (bordering on 60 million views, with over 2.2million likes on YouTube) the reaction to the reveal of Battlefield V has left a decisive split in the community with many voicing their frustrations online over a plethora of issues. Over the course of this article I’ll be going over the reveal stream, voicing my opinions on the artistic and gameplay direction of Battlefield V, as well as well as attempting to address the ‘elephant in the room’ when it comes to some of the issues surrounding the games’ initial reception.
If you missed Wednesday night’s stream it can be watched live on Battlefield’s official YouTube channel here.
As I’ve stated across many of my articles in recent months, I’m a long time fan of the first person shooter genre, doubly so when it comes to those set within a specific period of history. When Battlefield 1 was revealed back in May 2016, I was both amazed and stunned (like many others) at DICE’s decision to refresh the series with a gritty, raw and realistic depiction of WW1 that (for the most part) has kept the Battlefield community as strong as ever (even if the numbers have dwindled slightly over the last few months). While there are purists out there that prefer their Battlefield games a tad more modern, it can’t be denied that DICE refreshed a somewhat stale genre, even prompting its main sales rival: Call of Duty to go back to a historic setting with the less than sub-par Call of Duty: WW2 (although the campaign was actually pretty good). With Call of Duty jumping on the Battle Royale bandwagon with Black Ops 4 this time around, all eyes were on Battlefield 2018 with many ‘guessing’ (leaks over the last few months have been plentiful) that the game would remain within a historic setting, with Vietnam or WW2 being the two strongest contenders. It seems most were able to see it coming, as Wednesday night’s stream confirmed that Battlefield V is returning to WW2 for the first time since 2009’s Battlefield 1943. While the return to WW2 is a welcome addition for some, the reveal resulted in a reaction that could be described as somewhat lukewarm to say the least.
The stream consisted of comedian Trevor Noah as well as panel of DICE’s production staff talking about Battlefield V, more specifically how the game is going to be the most immersive Battlefield yet, and is “going back to where it all began” for DICE sixteen years ago with Battlefield 1942. While DICE and the Battlefield series are no strangers to a World War 2 setting, the conversation seemed to hint at an entirely fresh perspective for WW2, with Andreas Morell (Senior Producer of Battlefield V) stating that the game will be about “delivering a WW2 experience that no one has ever seen before… hitting on the unseen locations, the untold stories and the unplayed moments.”. Further adding to this was the confirmation of the return of Battlefield 1’s ‘War Stories’ which (in place of a linear narrative) focused on the smaller stories of those engaged in World War One from around the world. While the anthology method of storytelling worked extremely well at making the war truly feel like a global conflict, it ultimately fell short as the stories were far too short in length to develop any sort of emotional attachment or impact, something that Battlefield V has the potential to build upon and excel at (if done correctly). Interestingly, the only war story that was detailed to a small degree was one that takes place in Norway, north of the Arctic Circle in 1943, following a young woman trying to protect her family as part of the Norwegian resistance fighting back against Nazi occupation.
War Stories: One of Battlefield V’s many cinematic tales will follow a young Norwegian woman fighting for her family against the Nazis in occupied Norway in 1943.
Being powered by the illustrious Frostbite engine, Battlefield 1’s representation of the series staple of ‘all out war’ is a sight to behold, keeping consistent frame rates (without downgrading the aesthetics) whilst literally everything and anything could be going on in the series’ traditional 32×32 open-world-esque maps. Battlefield V is surely going to follow suit in this regard, being billed as the most ‘immersive’ Battlefield in the series to date. Sticking with the theme of immersion was Daniel Berlin (Lead World Designer at DICE) revealing how Battlefield 1’s signature game mode ‘Operations’ is returning in Battlefield V, under the moniker of ‘Grand Operations’ which have been extensively reworked to focus more on the high-profile moments (such as parachuting over Normandy) and narrative behind some of the most iconic battles of World War 2. Grand Operations will feature multiple game modes over multiple maps, whilst simultaneously weaving together a continuous story with branching paths over multiple ‘days’ in-game that is sure to reinforce the immersion tenfold, which is honestly one of the biggest things that I’m personally looking forward to with Battlefield V. Other news that was sure to please fans of the franchise is the removal of the ‘Premium Pass’ system that has been present since the days of 2011’s Battlefield 3; removing expansion packs in favour of seasons of content called Tides of War, similar in scope to the model found in games like Fortnite, offering maps and modes for free (no longer splitting the player base in half) but adopting a microtransaction model surrounding nothing more than cosmetic items (EA can’t afford to fuck up again like it did with Star Wars Battlefront 2). The first one titled ‘Fall of Europe’ will focus on the German war machine making it’s onslaught across Europe in the early days of the war, and will launch in November 2018, one month after the game’s October 19th launch date.
Following the panel was the reveal trailer (which I’m sad to say) paled in comparison to Battlefield 1’s reveal. Right up until this point of the stream, the momentum and hype for myself was strong, there was some solid information regarding the games’ mechanics and game modes, as well as the artistic direction that DICE are taking with the latest iteration for the shooter franchise. The trailer unfortunately shot the momentum build-up dead in its tracks, presenting an almost wacky retro-camp ‘alternate’ WW2 rather than the ‘fresh perspective’ that was harked back to so much during the panel talk. The trailer sees a plethora of things that would make even an amateur historian think ‘WTF?’ with numerous ‘out of place’ features (such as a fleet of tanks ramming through a farmhouse) squashed together to make the trailer as Michael Bay-esque as possible, somewhat killing the vibe of what seemed to be a ‘gritty’ WW2 shooter. Quite possibly the most controversial point of the trailer is the squad that features within; featuring British soldiers in over-the-top steampunk-esque outfits (prosthetic arm, crackshot snipers were a thing in WW2 apparently) and weapons (a barbed wire wrapped cricket bat, really?) that really sets the wrong tone for what DICE were trying to push with the initial conversation during the stream panel. Thankfully, this was alleviated somewhat by Nathalie Ek (UX designer at DICE) who went into detail just before the trailer regarding the level of personalisation and customisation that will be present in Battlefield V. Titled ‘The Company’ Battlefield V will feature a plethora of cosmetic attachments, skins and enhancements that will make your connection to your character all the more personal, being purchasable with real money or an in game ‘grind-currency’ that will allow you to work towards rewards as an alternate option. While it’s yet to be confirmed, I hope that this is where the wacky looking outfits and weapons come from, rather than coming from the tone of the game itself, I’m a buff for historical accuracy, but the game has to be fun too.
This is my Company: The characters seen in Battlefield V’s reveal trailer seem to place the game somewhere between Steampunk and a hilariously bad retro-camp version of WW2; hopefully the outfits are purely cosmetic options.
If you’ve read this far, you may be asking yourself “Where is all the hate I’ve been hearing about coming from when everything so far seems so positive?” well dear reader, the problem lies with certain people on the internet, who are offended by literally f*cking everything. Being somewhat of a history buff myself, I like playing games that are grounded in reality (except for horror, but that’s a whole different kettle of fish) which makes the gameplay experience all the more immersive in my opinion. Battlefield 1 had a very nice mix of realism and historical revisionism (e.g. many weapons and vehicles in the game never saw combat in WW1, but were at least present/in development within the era). However, the issue that (some) people seem to have with Battlefield V doesn’t lie within historical accuracy, as most of the hate surrounding Battlefield V’s reveal trailer is focused on the fact that a woman was present in the trailer, with the comments section of Youtube and posts on Reddit both filled with the usual sexist rhetoric (which is kind of disappointing given that we’re living in 2018).
While I’m against pandering to SJW’s in a bid to make a game safe from offending anyone (don’t get me started on COD: WW2’s removal of the Swastika and their black female Nazis) DICE have always represented everyone fairly within their games without throwing historical context completely out of the window. The ‘issue’ with Battlefield V also came to light back in mid-2016 (no doubt from the same people) when it was revealed that the box art for Battlefield 1 would feature a black soldier, which was done in honour of the Harlem Hellfighters of whom war hero: Henry Johnson was a part of (the guy killed 24 members of a German raiding party with nothing more than a bolo knife; dude was an absolute beast). DICE did the same for the women of WW1, with the Bedouin tribeswoman Zara Ghufran (a lot of women took part in the Arab revolt) fighting alongside T.E. Lawrence (more commonly known as Lawrence of Arabia) against the Ottoman Empire, as well as the 1st Russian Women’s Battalion of Death being honoured as the Scout class for the Russian Army in The Name of The Tsar expansion. Both of these are great examples of honouring the women of WW1, without throwing historical accuracy out of the window. The same context will likely be taken with the female British soldier from the reveal trailer; while British women in WW2 typically didn’t fight on the frontlines, there are a few cases that would have kept a decent number of women close to the action (e.g. the ‘Ack-Ack’ girls who operated many Anti-Aircraft batteries across the UK) meaning there is definitely going to be some level of historical cohesion present when it comes to the character. Overall I was impressed with the stream for Battlefield V, the gameplay direction that the game is taking seems to have improved upon Battlefield 1’s already grand structure tenfold, even if it is let down slightly by some questionable (and hopefully cosmetic) design choices regarding period themed uniforms. If you still have doubts, it’s best to remember that it was only a two minute trailer, and a lot can change between now and October 19th when the game eventually launches. In the meantime we will get a hands on look at the game’s multiplayer at EA Play 2018 (June 9th) for the first time, definitely worth marking on the calendar folks.