Not a fully trained trooper… but there’s plenty of potential here
Will it be a medal or a court martial for the controversial latest Battlefield?
Battlefield V isn’t finished. The whole thing feels incomplete; work-in-progress; a few bullets short of a full clip. If this were a single-player experience, designed for players to fire up and forget eight hours later, it’d be a crushing disappointment. As it stands, it gets a pass thanks to the wealth of potential woven throughout. Its most complete aspect is its solo campaign although, hilariously, a quarter of the single-player is missing at the time of writing. What you get out of the box is the Prologue, plus three other War Stories. It lasts about ten hours, so it’s a decent chunk of game, but we’re still missing the ‘Last Tiger’ mission, which goes live this month. The Prologue is a neat mood-setter; its sombre voiceover narrates a series of battles that you fight in until your soldier is killed in any number of horrific ways. It’s a comment on the brutality of war, which is tonally at odds with the gamification inherent in the rest of Battlefield V, but as its own slice of interactivity it’s moving.
CHAPTER AND VERSUS
Battlefield V’s War Stories are all entertaining in different ways. Nordlys follows Solveig, who is attempting to rescue her mother from a Norwegian ‘heavy water’ plant. The officer holding the prisoners is presented as a human being, rather than a faceless Nazi, and Solveig as a reluctant resistance fighter. There are some neat gameplay moments, and a satisfying conclusion to the story. The action is open-world, kind of. You get to play through large hub areas any way you choose – although stealth, all-out-action, or a mix of both are the only true options – and strategy plays as big a role as shooting.
The other stories are variations on the theme. Under No Flag is a buddy story focused on the British Special Boat Service (SBS) and featuring some terrible Cockney accents. Tirailleur follows Demi, a French-African conscript who’s been sent to fight for a country he’s never even visited. Of all the War Stories Tirailleur is the standout,
its set-pieces more explosive, its story beats more poignant, and its characters more likeable. Battlefield V’s single-player stages are well made, smartly paced, and enjoyable. Hopefully, that can be said of the Last Tiger too.
MORE IS HELL
But Battlefield’s reputation is built on its online multiplayer – and that’s where the problems lie. Even getting in and out of multiplayer to the main menus is flawed; once I had to wait over a minute for the main menu to load, and another time it crashed completely. Load times when navigating the menus are unacceptably lengthy, even after the Day One patch. The XP/currency system is more confusing than it needs to be, and there are shades of Star Wars Battlefront II’s overly complex progression system here.
This is the sort of stuff that will be patched in coming months, but for now it creates the illusion that you’re playing a posh beta rather than a £50 finished game. This becomes more evident when you notice many of Battlefield V’s online features are currently absent. Tides Of War isn’t ready at launch, there is no Combined Arms co-op mode, and most of the Live Service features feel very placeholder. What you do get is a raft of core Battlefield multiplayer modes, with a few new ones thrown in, and a slick online shooting experience.
Online the action is fastpaced, and more deadly than in Battlefield 1. Respawns are frequent, although the new revive mechanic – where anyone can heal a fallen ally – keeps the action moving.
Weapons are pleasingly varied, although certain classes feel slightly anonymous. There’s little real difference between the Medic and Assault in terms of primary firepower, and because anyone can revive the Medic feels underpowered. Maps allow much more scope (pun intended) for the Recon class to shine, and Support gets the ability to build, which feels redundant in a game that relies heavily on respawns and chaos.
In terms of modes, Breakthrough is the newest. It’s basically Rush on a wider set of maps, plus the opportunity to take back objectives. Rush remains the better mode because of how permanent it is to lose an objective, despite the fact that Breakthrough feels less like you’re battling down a narrow corridor of death. Retained from Battlefield 1, Frontlines is a neat mode that still feels unbalanced. Once momentum is with one of the teams, it’s tough to stop, and the inevitable grind to defeat is rather deflating if you’re on the wrong side.
Smaller modes like Team Deathmatch and Domination are back, and just as compelling as in previous games. However, it does feel like the Domination maps are a tad too big – probably to help the Recon players feel included – and as such the tight, close-up nature
“A STUMBLING START FOR A GAME THAT’S MADE PROMISES IT CAN’T KEEP.”
of the gameplay is less chaotic than in previous games. On a larger scale, Conquest remains king, and the large-scale action is as much of a treat as ever. Even the slightly anonymous maps can’t spoil the fun.
The other new mode is Grand Operations (we’re not counting the forthcoming Battle Royale mode because – surprise! – it isn’t finished). It’s an extension of Operations from Battlefield 1, and offers large-scale conflict with more of a story and fresh objectives. It’s here where the game has the most potential to become great, but right now Grand Operations doesn’t feel as coherent as Conquest or as compelling as Breakthrough. When Tides Of War starts to add new Grand Operations, and mix up the rules, it’ll be brilliant. Again, though, that’s a few months down the line.
Overall, Battlefield V is a great shooter with a lot of problems to patch out. The War Stories deliver a sizeable single-player offering that satisfies far more than any previous solo efforts from Battlefield. And while multiplayer feels rough around the edges, the core gameplay is engaging, wonderfully violent, and nicely balanced. New maps and modes are unspectacular, but Conquest and Domination still shine.
It all feels like a safe, yet stumbling, start for a shooter that’s made promises it can’t keep. However, DICE is known for the support it has given past Battlefields and it seems certain that six months from now this will be a different, rather brilliant war game.
Ripe with potential but riddled with problems, the new Battlefield will be brilliant six months from now. Right now, however, it’s merely a good shooter. Andy Hartup
FORMAT PS4 ETA OUT NOW PUB EA DEV DICE
Right You’re rewarded for playing as part of a squad, so team players will end up with more points than lone wolves.
Left Prepare to die a hell of a lot online. Battlefield V’s conflicts are extremely chaotic.
Above Flicking through the customisation menus, most stuff looks the same.
Right You’ll be surprised by just how tricky some of the single-player missions are.
Above Battlefield V tells emotional human tales through War Stories.