Battlefield 5 Breathtaking, disappointing, and encouraging - Review Game
EA's latest Battlefield game suffers from a rushed development but still manages to knock your socks off if you give it a chance.
EA has declared that Battlefield 5 is ready for release, but even after a month-long delay from its original release date, the game still feels rushed. The foundation of the game is incredibly solid, with tight gunplay, jaw-dropping visuals, and unmatched sound design but after hours of engaging in the often sublime experience, I find myself wishing that the development team could have been given an extra year to turn Battlefield 5 from a great game into an absolute classic.
War never changes
If you’ve ever played a Battlefield game, you know what to expect from this year’s entry into the franchise, even if it’s been fifteen years since the franchise visited World War 2. You select one of the four infantry classes and drop into expansive battlezones with 64 players split into two teams, all vying to emerge victoriously. Depending on the specific map, a host of vehicles and aircraft are at the player’s disposal, along with stationary countermeasures to keep the playing field balanced.
While Battlefield 5 shares much in common with its World War 1 predecessor Battlefield 1, some changes have been made to the design, most of them for the better. I’m not a big fan of reducing squad size from five to four, as it can be difficult to work as a unit if one of the members takes to the air or armor during a round. The adjustments to the time to kill, ticket systems, and player movement are all welcome. DICE added new prone positions, allowing soldiers to lay flat on the ground to the left, right, or on their backs, offering additional ways to fight more effectively and keep safe from incoming fire.
Infantry versus armor confrontations feels much more balanced this time around, with neither option feeling overpowered. A well-coordinated tank team can wreak havoc on a disjointed opposing force. On the flip side, an infantry squad of tank hunters can quickly and effectively make life hell for anyone who tries to roll across the maps solo. New for Battlefield 5 is the squad revive option, allowing dead soldiers to be resuscitated by squadmates without the need for a medic. This type of revival is slower but makes coordinated squads more effective. Medics still offer the most efficient revives, but having this option is a great addition to the game. A new health system removes regenerating health and is also a welcome improvement to the balance of the game.
The gunplay sees a slight evolution from Battlefield 1, though many of the weapons from that game make a return for World War 2. Sadly, a few stalwarts of the war are noticeably absent at launch, like the M1 Garand and Thompson SMG, though they are expected to arrive with post-launch content. Grenades get some real improvement this time around, with players now able to pick up and throw back enemy explosives. Grenades can also be shot while on the ground or in mid-air to prevent death or as a tactical strategy. Smoke grenades are incredibly helpful in Battlefield 5, thanks to their obfuscation of sight lines and because they are now server-side so that the smoke appears the same for all combatants. Popping smokes allows medics to revive downed soldiers safely and effectively. Thanks to the removal of the 3D spotting mechanic, enemy scouts can no longer just aim for the orange Doritos in the mist and must actually see targets to get kills.
An unfortunate misfire
While the in-game action is arguably better than it’s ever been, Battlefield 5 suffers from a rash of bugs and quirks that feel like the result of a rushed production. Dead bodies will often fail to ragdoll and remain floating in mid-air, animation glitches appear a little too often, and structure destruction sometimes fails to appear properly. Thankfully, most of these types of issues fail to negatively impact the gameplay in any meaningful way, but will regularly kill the immersion that the cutting-edge visuals and sound work so hard to achieve.
While things are mostly straightforward for solo queue players, groups of friends, especially large groups, will be in for loads of disappointment. While the game has a server browser, getting into a match with a full squad is nowhere near as straightforward as it should be. The browser won’t surface empty servers (if there are any), so my large group found it difficult to get into the same session. Some of us got stuck waiting in matchmaking queues for more than 15 minutes at a time. Beginning with Battlefront, DICE shooters have grown more and more hostile towards large groups or clan players. These games have a recent history of poor server admin tools (if they were even provided) and the promise made for Battlefield 1 was never kept. There is no way to run or even rent private servers for Battlefield 5. The Shacknews community had a thriving Battlefield community built around these servers for years that has all but evaporated because the recent games make it so difficult to play together. When considering the attention to detail for all parts of the game, it feels like the lack of accommodation for dedicated communities is no oversight.
Every frame is a painting
Battlefield 5 is gorgeous. It is (save for Forza Horizon 4) the best looking game of 2018 and uses its graphical prowess to great effect. Each of the maps is stunning in their level of detail, quality of lighting, and in their ability to be blown to bits. The combination of alpha effects, particles, and post-processing work in concert to provide a cohesive look that rivals pre-rendered footage. If you disable the in-game HUD, it becomes easy to suspend disbelief. The frantic “Battlefield Moments” play out with such ease that you may take everything that is happening on screen for granted.
Being a DICE game, the sound design is second-to-none. Each bullet crack, artillery strike, and flyby is recreated with accuracy and believable aural positioning. The score kicks in at all the right moments to heighten the tension during the climax of closely-contested rounds. Headphone users are in for a treat with the new 3D Headphone sound preset that offers superb positional audio placement that can give you an advantage in the fight. Battlefield 5 also leads the competition when it comes to options and controls. Everything can be rebound and virtually all parts of the experience can be customized to your preferences, right down to individual sensitivities and controller dead zones.
Frustratingly close to special
When taken as a whole, Battlefield 5 can offer an exceptional experience. It betters its recent predecessors by nearly every measure and offers the controlled chaos that made the franchise famous. Some may find the package to be lacking in content at release and the highly anticipated Firestorm battle royale mode is not present in the launch version of the game. Only 8 maps make the cut for release day, but they are enormous and are effectively used for multiple modes. Battlefield 5 has a campaign, but really only counts as a sideshow to the featured multiplayer. I have found myself hitting the highest of Battlefield highs during my play sessions, along with growing so frustrated that I shut down the game in anger. I keep coming back, but I wish the game could be so much more.
This review is based on the PC Origin release. The game was purchased by the reviewer. Battlefield 5 will be available for PC, Xbox One, and PS4 on November 20, for $59.99. The game is rated Mature.