Bat­tle­field V

For­mat PS4, XO, PC Pub­lisher Elec­tronic Arts De­vel­oper EA DICE ETA 20 Novem­ber World War II has sto­ries to tell, and we’ve played three of them

Games Master - - Contents - Robert Zak

Back to World War II for EA’s se­ries, fo­cus­ing on the less fre­quently told sto­ries from the con­flict.

Bat­tle­field 1’s War Sto­ries cam­paign was one of the most pleas­ant sin­gle-player sur­prises of 2016, show­ing a sen­si­tiv­ity we had no rea­son to ex­pect from a mul­ti­player-first shooter, mak­ing ob­ser­va­tions about the tragedy of war amid its vast set-pieces. Bat­tle­field V gives this el­e­gant treat­ment to World War II. There are four sto­ries in Bat­tle­field V’s War Sto­ries cam­paign, fo­cus­ing on less-ex­plored parts of the war. Nordlys fol­lows a Nor­we­gian re­sis­tance com­mando look­ing to take out the Axis heavy wa­ter sup­plies, Ti­railleurs is about the un­sung sac­ri­fices that Sene­galese troops made for France, Un­der No Flag pits you as a cock­ney crim­i­nal re­cruited for the Bri­tish Spe­cial Boat Ser­vice, and The Last Tiger charts a Ger­man tank com­man­der stuck deep be­hind en­emy lines in we-want-to-say Ber­lin.

Un­sung non-he­roes

Of these, the only one we didn’t play was The Last Tiger, which will be avail­able as a part of the still-mys­te­ri­ous ‘Tides of War’ ser­vice. We do know it’s about a crew forced to face the con­se­quences of their ac­tions, and it’s def­i­nitely ‘not a heroic tale’ (speak­ing with the devs, we got a sense that they’re pick­ing their words care­fully about what could be la­belled a Nazi War Story).

It’s not easy to pack an emo­tional punch into each of sev­eral rather short sto­ries (we played through the Nordlys cam­paign in one-and-a-half hours), but

“On the ground, there are im­prove­ments in level de­sign, which at this point feels al­most far cry-like in its open­ness”

af­ter blitz­ing through sev­eral mis­sions, we can say that Bat­tle­field V man­ages it us­ing the same tricks as its pre­de­ces­sor.

Like be­fore, each tale zooms right into the psy­che of its pro­tag­o­nist, blink­ered from the macro-scale ide­o­log­i­cal and po­lit­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance of the con­flict. All are told with a well-writ­ten de­gree of in­ter­nal mono­logues – be it a Sene­galese war vet­eran re­call­ing mixed feel­ings about fight­ing for a coun­try he never knew, or the deliri­ous mem­o­ries that haunt the Nor­we­gian com­mando over­come by hy­pother­mia.

Of­fer­ing a coun­ter­point to these stern nar­ra­tives is the story of Billy Bridger, a bank rob­ber who signs up with the Spe­cial Boat Ser­vice to avoid jail time. His first mis­sion – to plant a bomb on a Ger­man war­plane – sug­gests it’s go­ing to be a buc­ca­neer­ing tale rife with cheeky Bri­tish ban­ter. Sure, the pre­sen­ta­tion of pro­tag­o­nist ‘Billy Boy’ Bridger as a whin­ing cow­ard sort doesn’t re­ally fit with the fact that he’s your con­duit for tak­ing out half a Ger­man air­base, but the dy­nam­ics be­tween him and his team of vagabonds of­fers some wel­come chirpi­ness in a cam­paign that looks set to be heavy-go­ing in other ar­eas (such as the sober­ing Ti­railleurs story).

Play­ing War Sto­ries soon af­ter re­play­ing the Bat­tle­field 1 cam­paign, it’s ev­i­dent how much this is a di­rect trans­fer of that for­mat, which isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing. Even the pro­logue re­peats the ap­proach of cast­ing you as dif­fer­ent sol­diers in dif­fer­ent places, who duly get over­whelmed or blown up. The im­pact may be less­ened through fa­mil­iar­ity, but it still feels like World War II de­serves this kind of nar­ra­tive treat­ment.

Cry free­dom

On the ground, there are im­prove­ments in level de­sign, which at this point feels al­most Far Cry-like in its open­ness. Dur­ing the Nordlys cam­paign, we skied down to Ger­man strongholds nes­tled amid the fjords, where we were at­tempt­ing to res­cue a fel­low Re­sis­tance mem­ber. Early on, we spied some sol­diers fix­ing up a truck. We con­sid­ered swoop­ing in, thank­ing them for their hand­i­work with a knife be­tween the ribs, and charg­ing in over the bridge with the truck (pop­ping some dy­na­mite in the back while we were at it). But, seek­ers of se­cret paths that we are ( not cow­ards), we sought other routes. A nar­row path over a chasm led us to the un­der­side of the main bridge into the fort, where a si­lenced pis­tol in a crate awaited us, and a me­tal sup­port­ing beam un­der the bridge took us across silently.

The stealth sys­tem is rudi­men­tary: en­emy alert­ness gauges fill up at a for­giv­ing pace, and melee kills can be ac­ti­vated from a few feet away, send­ing you glid­ing to­wards your vic­tim’s throat. Guards will hear you the same whether you’re walk­ing on snow or steel grat­ing, and nei­ther fo­liage nor shad­ows seem to ham­per their all-see­ing eyes. Given a stealthy ap­proach is en­cour­aged in many mis­sions, it still feels like a bit of a bolt-on rather than a care­fully crafted sys­tem.

Af­ter a few botched at­tempts that lit the snow red with alarm lights and led to a good few build­ings be­ing blasted down, we snuck into the build­ing where our tar­get was held. The level of in­te­rior de­tail was im­pres­sive, and af­ter ad­mir­ing the scat­tered pa­per­work, gleam­ing type­writ­ers and other 1940s tit­bits, we got her out of there. In­stead of tak­ing the quiet way out, we strapped on the skis and slalomed through en­emy ter­ri­tory, bul­lets and wind whistling in our ears.

We went on to play sev­eral other mis­sions, from clas­sic con­trol point cap­tur­ing in Ti­railleurs to a some­what con­trived sur­vival se­quence where you need to seek out fires be­fore you freeze to death (which ap­par­ently hap­pens in un­der a minute in Nor­way). Cru­cially, War Sto­ries is hit­ting the tar­get much more of­ten than not. With the prom­ise of longer, fully fleshed-out sto­ries where be­fore some felt like vi­gnettes, there’s plenty here to salute.

A stealthy ap­proach is of­ten en­cour­aged, though it’s fair to say we’re not tak­ing it this time.

The War Sto­ries cam­paign is in­cred­i­bly mov­ing, but that doesn’t mean you’ll want for ac­tion as you play through it.

You get a gen­uine sense of the per­son be­hind ev­ery War Story: ev­ery num­ber was a hu­man be­ing.

Had enough of the beaches of Nor­mandy in games? Then re­joice, be­cause Bat­tle­field V is fea­tur­ing some lesser-cov­ered the­atres of World War II.

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