Ever since the series’ last release, Battlefield 1, we’ve seen a new side of EA’s acclaimed shooter series. Gone are the days of blinding lens flare, dirt-covered cameras, and futuristic encounters. Instead, we were offered a mahogany-tinged recounting of the Great War, focusing on historical accuracy and paying homage to those souls who fell in one of the world’s most horrific (and needless) battles. Gone were the cool blues of Battlefield 4, replaced with warmer color palettes and much-needed readability. It was a more delicate retrospect of war as opposed to a full-blown embrace.
Battlefield V, obviously, takes place in World War V. Wait, that’s not right, it takes place in World War II. But it’s the follow up to Battlefield 4, a modern war shooter. Hold on, that’s not right either.
Battlefield V, the follow up and spiritual successor to Battlefield 1, takes place in World War II. From the onset, it promises a heartfelt recounting of “War Stories,” the game’s single-player campaign, and a more team-based approach to the classic Battlefield formula. What’s really here is roughly 3 hours of single-player content and maps and modes that are, while good, to be expected. EA could’ve also named this one Battlefield: Earth Defense Force since a lot of your time will be spent fighting bugs.
The War Stories campaigns, of which there are inexplicably three out of four unlocked (until December 4th), are fine. In one, African soldier Deme fights for France in a tale of unbridled and unpunished lone-wolf heroism. He’s told more than once, “Don’t be the hero,” and we all know what that means. The other shoe never really drops, though, and any consequence of naive heroism is downplayed in order to give each of these tales an uplifting silver lining. The horrors of war are rarely greatly explored, since you’ll know the characters in each hour-long campaign for.. an hour. There’s just not much time to get emotionally attached to anyone in particular.
But when Battlefield V drops the act and decides to be a little silly, we get the wonderful War Story of bank robber Billy Bridger, enrolled into the British army straight from prison to destroy vehicles at an airstrip with a senior commander. Their relationship is written extremely well for the limited time we see them together, and the more open environments give this campaign some much-needed player freedom. I wished for more of this lighthearted but impactful writing, because it meant slaughtering hundreds of soldiers single-handed didn’t clash so harshly with whatever conceited narrative I was meant to be invested in.
The real value here for many fans will be, as usual, the multiplayer. The standard modes are here, like Conquest and Grand Operations, all taking place over eight maps and with various team sizes and rule sets. The most popular mode, Conquest, is made a little more anchored by the new requirements for healing and ammunition. To discourage lone wolves (ironic, considering the story doesn’t), health and supplies must be obtained from other members of your team. No more auto-healing and no more deep ammo reserves; your supplies must be restocked regularly from crates laid down by their respective classes. This fixes the biggest problem I had with Battlefield 1: a firing-line of snipers all huddled up on a perch somewhere blasting everyone in sight. Now they need to crawl down from their cliffside every twenty shots or so to resupply, meaning the action is more focused and grounded.
What this system also encourages, unfortunately, seems to be the entire team sticking together and running like a swarm of rats from one objective to another. I once played an entire match where both teams were globbed together, nipping at each other’s heels in a tail-chasing circle around the map. When we did clash, the result was bloody and exciting, but the lack of any dug-in progress made it feel more frustrating than fun.
Squad revives are another new feature in Battlefield V that further encourages team play in a smaller sense. These are a smart inclusion, because compounded with the need to resupply, it means squads are even stickier than before. I found complete strangers huddled together under enemy fire, resupplying and supporting each other. During these moments, Battlefield V is at its absolute strongest, and I can say without a doubt that this is the best the series has done in regards to team-based gameplay.
During my time with the game, I encountered hit-detection bugs, one-way invisible bullet barriers, checkpoint bugs, egregious pop-in, crashes, and more. I’m not sure if the Frostbite engine is showing its age in bizarre ways, or if the delay to release wasn’t just about dodging the Red Dead Redemption 2 launch. One player in an online match lamented that he had to contact support in order to unlock the Tommy gun because a bug had prevented it from being available. As a medic, my most played class, reviving other players resulted in strange clipping and camera stutters on almost every occasion.
Overall, it feels like the trade-off EA has made for free content updates in the future is to release a sparse and unfinished game at the onset and patch it as time goes on. Battlefield V feels like an early access title at times and doesn’t have the guts to make it feel like a complete package. With just a few hours of single-player campaigns and eight maps, there’s only enough here to keep those truly invested in the multiplayer busy until future additions. While the commitment to team-play is admirable, the lack of polish is starting to roughen the experience. I recommend fans wait a few months until all the content has been released and (hopefully) all the wrinkles ironed out.
This review is based on the PC version of the game. A copy was provided by Electronic Arts.
Low on content and rough around the edges, Battlefield V feels like it was butchered for the sake of future "free" updates. What's here is fun, but it isn't a full-fledged experience, and it feels like an investment in an incomplete game.