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Battlefield V Review

DICE returns to where it all began.

by William Schwartz

The Battlefield series has long been the king of online conflict on a massive scale.  Nobody has done it better than DICE over the years, at least not at the scope that they strive for.  What we have with Battlefield V is something that’s wholly expected.  DICE has turned out another fantastic online multiplayer shooter, has crafted another single player offering that pales in comparison, and has left some unfinished business that could make this good game even better.

Despite issues that arise at launch for the Battlefield games, they’ve ended up turning out all right for the most part.  DICE generally gets the game where it needs to be, when they are given enough time.  With Battlefield V, it looks like they’re going to need it.  This game feels like something that had to be out by a certain deadline and no amount of bugs, issues, or missing content was going to stop that.  The delay earlier this year appeared to be the developer trying to get out of the way of a very crowded October video game release line-up.  It turns out, the game just wasn’t finished.  And it still isn’t.  Yet, despite missing some key components and features that were promised and having some rough edges, Battlefield V remains an unparalleled experience in online gaming even if you judge it just by the launch day content.

Exactly what we’ve come to expect from the Battlefield franchise

It has been a while since DICE has revisited the war that the Battlefield franchise started with.  There’s not much that sets the stage here for the developer’s take on World War II.  Battlefield V is attempting to tell different, lesser known sides of the war.  While most will come for the multiplayer, DICE continues down the “War Stories” path when it comes to single player content.  These are bite-sized campaigns that have players hopping into the shoes of three diverse scenarios that each look to tell one small story while serving as a bit of a primer for multiplayer.  DICE has never been a great single player studio, and they didn’t make much progress on that front with Battlefield V’s single player offering.

battlefield-v-medic

With War Stories, DICE tries to put a human face on World War II, but ultimately creates a boring slog of a campaign that is little more than a demonstration of the game’s beautiful visuals.  Everything else is all over the place and feels cobbled together in a way that lacks the quality of a AAA holiday release.  Beautiful as they may be, even the three hours that it’ll take to get through them feel unrewarding.  Thankfully, there aren’t any real crucial multiplayer items to be unlocked through playing it.  Generally speaking, with all three War Stories missions there seems to be a strong focus on a message that DICE is trying to convey to player, but they try to do this without giving a compelling reason on the gameplay front to stay invested.  That message is basically that there was a lot more to World War II than white men defeating the Nazi regime.  This is mostly pushed by bookending the rote combat with high quality cinematics and calling it day.  Battlefield V has not surpassed any of the previous games in the series when it comes to single player.

War Stories are bite-sized single player scenarios

Multiplayer is the bread and butter for the Battlefield series.  DICE offers something incredibly unique in their shooter, that no one else offers.  It features massive maps, destructible environments, land and air vehicles, high player counts, and class-based gameplay that focuses on squad tactics.  There isn’t anything like it on the market today, and it continues to be a ton of fun.  Although, DICE has started to shift away from the sandbox roots of the franchise.  There are far less of those “Only in Battlefield” moments in Battlefield V.  What’s taken their place is a multiplayer that often times leaves you saying that ‘I can’t believe WE just did that’, instead of ‘I can’t believe that just happened.’  There are great moments to be had in Battlefield V with a focus on squad gameplay that gives you a great Band of Brothers experience.  That said, these moments are almost exclusive to when you are playing with a group of talking players that you actually know and have partied up with.  Battlefield V multiplayer remains to be a game that is best played with friends.

battlefield-v-plane

DICE follows a very familiar and predictable pattern with Battlefield V.  Some small things have been tweaked, but the classes are largely the same as from Battlefield 1 and the games before it.  There’s an assault class, a medic, a support class, and a sniper.  Each one has a role to play on the battlefield and DICE gives you class-specific weapons and tools to use as progression unlockables.  The moment to moment gameplay of Battlefield V is incredible as always.  Any match can turn out in different ways with the so many options when it comes to classes and vehicles.  One game you can be dominating the battlefield in a tank, the next you can take to the skies, or you can be pushing objectives shoulder to shoulder with your teammates.

Online multiplayer is incredible as always

With different game modes giving you different objectives to complete, you’ll work both as a squad and as an overall team to get these objectives completed and either win or lose the match.  Your class specific abilities can turn the tide of the battle.  Depending on the class you pick you can help in different ways.  With the medic, your core job is to heal your squad mates and teammates around you.  With the Recon Class your job is to scout the battlefield and thin the herd with your long range capabilities.  As an assault class your job is to take objectives.  The support class can drop ammunition to keep players in the fight.  All of these classes can partake in the biggest change that Battlefield V offers in Fortifications.

This is something that’s completely new to the Battlefield series as players can build temporary structures to help fortify and hold an area.  Alongside the traditional gadgetry that classes will have, they’ll also have a tool box that can be used to throw down sandbags, build walls, and other items that can make it much harder for an enemy to topple a strategic position.  All in all, this new fortification system is great.  It adds a new wrinkle to the well established gameplay of the Battlefield series.  It’s not too powerful as to completely change things, it’s not too weak to be ineffective. One of the classes, the Support class, can build additional static elements into a fortification.

battlefield-v-fortifications

Battlefield V has a less compelling multiplayer offering at launch than it will likely have in the months ahead.  There are six multiplayer modes to choose from, including the mainstay Conquest Mode and Grand Operations mode that has players participating in a large scale conflict that takes place over multiple days (rounds).  The highly anticipated modes, Tides of War and the Battlefield V Battle Royale mode are nowhere to be found at launch, and they are somewhat missed if just for the variety that it could’ve brought to the table.  Still, the multiplayer modes available at the moment are a lot of fun to play as the core gameplay is just as fun as it ever has been.  That is, despite DICE’s continued shift away from the sandbox nature of the Battlefield series into something with slightly less chaos.  There’s no big feature that’s been introduced here.  In Battlefield 4 it was the map changing Levolution effects.  In Battlefield 1 it was Behemoths.  Battlefield V is more straight shooting when it comes to the extras.

There’s no real replacement for the gimmicks of previous games

Where the love has been poured into Battlefield V is on the progression front.  DICE obviously wants to keep players engaged in the game and they’ve introduced a brand new system of unlocks which allows you to customize a company of soldiers with different outfits and gun skins.  Everything has its own progression tree in Battlefield V.  You’ll be leveling up your career as a whole like in previous Battlefield games.  You’ll also level each soldier in your Company on the Axis and Allied factions. Each weapon and vehicle also has its own progression path.  The rewards for this progression varies.  As you level your overall career in the game you’ll earn “Company Coins” that can be used to purchase different cosmetic items.  Leveling your soldiers will allow you to unlock new gadgets and guns, as well as unlock proficiency and mastery challenges which can unlock gun skins and outfits.  On the weapon front, you’ll be unlocking new skins pieces for your guns as well as specialization perks for each gun that will change the features of that weapon.  For those that enjoy the grind and the ‘game within the game’ of unlocking new things, there’s plenty in Battlefield V.  It can get to be a little bit much though.  With DICE breaking gun skins into pieces, there are multiple challenges that must be completed to unlock the more rare and epic skins and to complete the set.  It’s yet to be seen exactly what EA is going to do with this system in terms of microtransactions, but it would be hard to imagine them not rolling them out shortly after launch.  The good news is that they’ve promised that the skins and outfits will offer no in-game benefit other than cosmetic.

battlefield-v-recon

Despite not having one big feature to hang its hat on, and a lack of inclusion at launch for the features and modes that were highly touted in the announcement and marketing for the game, Battlefield V also has some issues when it comes to the smaller details.  The level of quality is far less than what we’ve come to expect from the Battlefield series.  Players will encounter a number of different problems and irregularities in the game itself.  From freezing and hard crashes, to progression items not unlocking or working as expected, there’s a lot that players will need to put up with until a patch is issued.

Battlefield V at launch really feels rough around the edges and incomplete.   The core gameplay is still great, but there’s quite a bit that feels like it needed another pass or some fine tuning.  Looking past those rough edges, Battlefield V feels like only a sliver of what it could be.  What it could be is yet to be seen. The small things that could’ve taken this series from good to great just aren’t here and it’s unclear why.  Dragging squad mates to revive them would’ve made this game feel incredibly different.  Battle Royale would’ve given Battlefield owners even more multiplayer content to sink their teeth into.  Tides of War promises to be an ever-changing live Battlefield experience.  It’s hard to think anything other than Battlefield V would’ve been better had this content not gotten pushed back.  Battlefield V could’ve gone down as the best shooter of the year had it launched with all of its content.  As it stands, it’s more Battlefield with a fresh coat of paint, new maps, some familiar modes, a new progression system and a ton of potential.

The Verdict

Battlefield V doesn’t do anything spectacularly better than any of the recent games in the series.  It meets the bar of quality in terms of presentation and gameplay that DICE has set in previous releases, but there are many areas that will likely need emergency patches at launch.  It’s still baffling that DICE can create something with so many moving parts in-game that fails at the lowest levels like menus and progression.  Battlefield fans will still enjoy the moment to moment gameplay, but Battlefield V ultimately feels like a lateral release with little pushing the franchise forward when you judge it by what’s here and not what may or may not come.

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Battlefield V

  • Available On: Xbox One, PS4, PC
  • Published By: Electronic Arts
  • Developed By: DICE
  • Genre: Shooter
  • US Release Date: November 20th, 2018
  • Reviewed On: Xbox One
  • Quote: "Battlefield V ultimately feels like a lateral release with little pushing the franchise forward when you judge it by what’s here and not what may or may not come."
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