Electronic Arts, the much maligned and oft tone-deaf publisher behind some of gaming’s most high-budget shooters, have been attempting to re-brand their image following Battlefront II‘s abhorrent progression systems and predatory loot boxes. EA, much like Ubisoft with regard to The Division 2, promise free content updates to their upcoming title Battlefield V. This serves not only to save players money and provide them with new maps and game modes, but also keeps the community from being splintered into those who buy season passes and those who don’t. After having played Battlefield V, the tight, team-oriented gameplay is a constant reminder of this vital philosophy.
On a first pass, Battlefield V tends to look pretty similar to Battlefield 1, if only because of the gorgeous Frostbite Engine and antiquated war aesthetic. But the longer I played, the more minor changes surfaced, and the more fun I had when cooperating with my squad. Ammo, for instance, is highly toned down. You’ll spawn with about three magazines of ammunition, and have to resupply either from stationary supply stations or from your squad’s Support class. Similarly, health no longer regenerates, meaning you’ll be relying more than ever on saintly medics to patch you up. These two small changes made a world of difference in how matches were carried out. Rather than lone wolves attempting to flank entire batallions, skirmishes took place at a more even keel along fronts that naturally formed at the map’s choke points.
The only available map in the closed alpha, Narvik, is a frigid, Norwegian coastal town complete with docks, houses, and a railway station. In true Battlefield fashion, you can wedge yourself into any nook and cranny available to get the jump on unsuspecting enemies, or blow their cover (literally) leaving them naked to every sniper this side of the Atlantic. The main difference here is the fortification system, which allows players to craft rudimentary sandbag walls and other structures in place of these blown-out openings. It’s a system that I personally chose to overlook, especially since our squad did so much scurrying from point to point, but I imagine in more anchored game modes like Operations these will prove invaluable on defense.
Other minor tweaks are abound: vehicles no longer have infinite ammo, you can’t skip the “bleed-out” phase of death, and there’s a new crouch-run for when you need to get somewhere fast and look stupid doing it. A more significant alteration is that to reviving, which takes a lengthy animation to complete and can also be performed on any squad mate regardless of class. The guiding hand of DICE reaches far and wide in Battlefield V, gently pushing players to work closer together than ever, leading to a more satisfying and strategic game.
One more change I’d like to give some breathing room is that to the spotting mechanic. In Battlefield 1, a sniper could perch on a cliff and wait for teammates to mark enemies, casually picking them off without ever really laying eyes on them. Luckily, snipers aren’t quite as powerful as they were in past games, because rather than marking a target you’ll be marking an “area” where that target was last seen. A more vague idea of where enemies are, rather than shooting at orange Doritos, makes the action feel more grounded and unpredictable.
This isn’t to say Scouts are useless, however. Every class has its pivotal function on the battlefield: Gather three buddies and diversify your functions to become a multi-armed capture-point contesting machine. The Battlefield classes are tried-and-true, all with kits that feel satisfying to use and weapons to compliment them. But rather than sticking to the same old formula DICE have implemented a new system for further depth. Sub-classes, called Archetypes, allow players to diversify themselves even more within a single class. Time will tell how exactly these affect squad makeups, as only a few were available in the alpha, but here’s hoping running a squad of four battle-medics is a viable option in the future.
Battlefield V is undoubtedly “more Battlefield,” but it does wonders in bringing its teams of 32 players closer together than ever. Narvik isn’t a small map by any means, but it felt almost claustrophobic because of how closely the game’s systems brought me to other players. Gone are the days of the lone hero, as DICE have made a push for every person to be playing not only the objective, but also their role in the battle.
This preview is based on hands-on gameplay of the Battlefield V Closed Alpha. Access was provided by Electronic Arts.