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- Battlefield V
One of the most surprising announcements from Electronic Arts’ Battlefield 5 reveal was that it would feature a four-player cooperative campaign mode called Combined Arms. This isn’t the first time that DICE has gone the cooperative route, but traditionally they’ve been more throwaway modes. Battlefield 2 had a co-op horde mode that was competently made but nothing special, and Battlefield 3 had some tacked-on missions that could be played with a friend. Combined Arms, though, looks to be the studio’s potential redemption on that front as it’s being poised as one of the game’s three main pillars alongside traditional campaign and multiplayer efforts.
The Swedish developer hasn’t fully detailed just what the cooperative mode will entail, but what is currently known is certainly interesting. The mode will put players in the role of paratroopers, and they’ll be able to fly in from the sky into an active battlefield. This will lead to plenty of experimentation with regards to trying different strategies, as players will be able to plan their own attacks and strategies as they work together to battle enemy armies.
What’s most exciting, though, is how much of a Left 4 Dead vibe I got from what was unveiled of Battlefield 5. DICE made it a point to mention that the mode is meant to be infinitely replayable thanks to a mission generator that will create dynamic narratives and randomized objectives. In theory, this will provide fresh and challenging missions each time the player jumps into a match.
Randomized objectives can go one or two ways in games. Either they wind up being no match for carefully crafted missions and feel like disjointed parts of what could’ve been a more focused experience, or everything magically clicks and it all works as advertised. More often than not, I feel like randomized titles miss the mark, but DICE is certainly a talented enough developer to make it work.
One game that absolutely nailed it was Valve and Turtle Rock Studios’ fantastic co-op shooter, Left 4 Dead. Despite the fact that I was running the same handful of levels and killing the same types of zombies repeatedly, I easily put in hundreds of hours into the title. This was due to its great randomizer, which guaranteed a different experience each time. Small things, such as different enemy placements and various boss characters, really made all the difference and made sure that my group had to constantly adapt to the situation at hand. That’s exactly why it’s one of my favorite games ever released.
Now it’s expecting a lot from Battlefield 5 Combined Arms to mirror Left 4 Dead’s triumph, but I think there’s a real opportunity here. Mainly because of how much teamwork DICE says the mode will require. They want the shooter to feel like you’re behind enemy lines, and that means it will be a heavily challenging mode. In order to overcome the odds, players will have to carefully communicate and work out strategies to get an advantage. Just like with dealing with the zombie hordes in L4D, players can’t beat a larger group of soldiers by being reckless, but they can certainly outsmart their foes.
The mode also plays into two of Battlefield’s biggest strong suits: an open sandbox and giving players the ability to improvise. Anyone that has played the multiplayer shooter will know how the game has a knack for creating memorable moments that start from a typical firefight and then escalate into something completely ridiculous. Be it a gigantic building crashing down or jumping on a horse with a flamethrower, Battlefield players are only limited by their own creativity. It’s easy to see how emergent moments could pop up during cooperative play, and it would be these type of memorable affairs that keep players coming back to the mode for more.
DICE is also making sure that this mode is more accessible than the standard multiplayer. One of Left 4 Dead’s best aspects was how easy it was to get new players involved as there wasn’t any sort of learning curve. The studio described the mode as a “safe haven” for players, as it essentially bridges the gap between solo campaign and the 64-player competitive multiplayer. That means it’ll have all of the sandbox gameplay that players expect from Battlefield, but it won’t be overwhelming to newcomers. This is a great compromise, and one that I think perfectly fits the co-op mold. I want to be able to play a good cooperative game with all of my friends, not just those that have time to master a specific game.
Left 4 Dead also had its own competitive multiplayer, and it was also a very different experience from what players got out of the co-op play. It had a much higher skill ceiling, and only more dedicated players that got hooked on the core gameplay loop of the shooter found much success. Battlefield 5 Combined Arms will hope to serve a similar purpose and help players transition into the hectic action of its multiplayer. I’ve tried to play Battlefield with some friends in the past, but most of the attempts wound up falling flat. With vehicles, a ton of weapons, and an entire squad to be looking out for, it can become overwhelming very quickly. This gives DICE a chance to really introduce these concepts before the player has to deal with getting yelled at online for messing up.
I can’t wait to learn more about Battlefield 5’s Combined Arms mode, and it’s the most excited I am for one of the shooter’s three pillars. Electronic Arts has a chance to provide players with a new spin on the Battlefield formula that builds upon the already great gameplay. Hopefully they’ll learn from Left 4 Dead’s artificial intelligence director and craft a mode that will go down as one of the great co-op experiences.