To understand the success of the “Battlefield” series is to know the balance to its dissonance. The games tend to be represented realistically but play with the panache of a “Fast and Furious” action movie.
For example, the GIFs and videos that would circulate online of past “Battlefield” games would include players jumping out of a speeding jet, and landing on and commandeering an opponent’s jet mid-air
So when the first trailer for “Battlefield V” dropped, a World War II setting with a soldier wearing a prosthetic hook arm and another soldier wielding what appeared to be a samurai sword, it proved that “Battlefield” simply couldn’t be ridiculous, but the right kind of ridiculous.
It’s an interesting balance that Live Producer for “Battlefield V,” Ryan McArthur, is trying to find again. Because as he and the team realized when they unveiled the game last year, that by making its alternative World War II reality too outside the scope of people’s visions of history, they had crossed this blurry line into an area that fans felt was against the ethos of the series.
“I think it’s been now sort of trying to rebuild that trust; start on your back foot and try to push forward,” McArthur told Variety at EA Play, an offsite outdoor video game experience that took place the weekend before E3 in Los Angeles.
Earlier in the week, EA unveiled a new trailer for “Battlefield V” that showcased a slew of new goodies entering the game. Titled “Chapter 4: Defying the Odds,” it includes four new maps taking place in the Mediterranean front, more elite characters, weapons, and skins. Players can also rank up beyond 50 to 500, with new dog tags being awarded every 50 ranks. The trailer also teased the Pacific theater of World War II, with a fluttering Japanese flag and callbacks to the battle of Iwo Jima. And Operation Underground, a map from “Battlefield 3,” will also be returning later this October.
“Yesterday was I guess the first big step in moving in a positive direction,” McArthur said. “I think we’ve done the best we can to try and win back as much of the community and giving them the features that they want.”
According to McArthur, the team has been listening to its most hardcore fanbase online and in person. They’ve been sitting down with fans at conventions to try and rekindle the same magic that was found in previous “Battlefield” games, most notably 2016’s “Battlefield 1,” which launched to tremendous success and fan acclaim.
“They love the ‘Battlefield’ sandbox. They love the opportunities to feel smart, to feel that they can do things differently,” McArthur said. So the challenge for the team has been to create that World War II sandbox that feels both like a historic representation — regardless of how shakily that might be defined in the context of a video game — while also making it gamey enough to where it doesn’t feel arduous and difficult, as the real World War II likely was.
“In BF1, the guy riding the horse with a flamethrower, and in BF4 the guy jumping out of a jet into another jet. That kind of stuff. I think we started to get back towards that. Just look at some of the things that you’ve seen guys do with a tractor in Firestorm,” McArthur said. Firestorm is one of the multiplayer modes available in the game.
The tractor and the Schwimmwagen, an amphibious swimming car made by Volkswagen in 1942, captures what McArthur is talking about. Both of these vehicles can realistically exist in the world of “Battlefield V,” but are also incredibly stupid. There’s no reason why using a farming tractor on a field or a slow and arduous Schwimmwagen would ever prove to be advantageous in war. But fans like these types of silly toys, and sometimes funny things occur in the middle of a firefight.
McArthur was unwilling to discuss the state of the current player base but did admit, somewhat obviously, that he would love as many people to be playing the game as possible. And it’s completely possible to rebuild a following around a game after a flailing first impression. Look at titles like “Rainbow Six: Siege,” “For Honor,” and “No Man’s Sky.” These are all titles that failed to be massive hits at launch, but with persistent updates and communication with fans, started to rebuild a hardcore following.
The team at EA Dice is far from done with “Battlefield V” as there’s clearly a chapter 5 on the way later this year. It, however, remains to be seen if players will give the game a second look. For McArthur, his singular focus will be to bring back what the “Battlefield” series was known for.
“We see players do things with the things that we create that we didn’t expect to see. And I think that’s something we pushed really hard for — create the atmosphere of fun.”