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Anybody seen my grenades? ‘Battlefield V’ shows up late and unprepared
Battlefield 1 helped reestablish the DICE shooter franchise as the king of large-scale combat, with its multi-day Grand Operations mode and emotional single-player War Stories offering experiences you couldn’t get anywhere else. It’s unsurprising that the studio and publisher Electronic Arts opted to take a similar approach with Battlefield V, which moves the action back to World War II for the first time in years. Battlefield V still has much of what made its predecessor great, but its rough edges are pretty hard to ignore.
THE UNTOLD TALES
EA chose to tout Battlefield V’s single-player campaign as a major advantage over competitor Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 in the months leading up to release, but what’s available in the final game is a decidedly mixed bag. Split into individual War Stories telling lesser-known (or made up) tales from World War II, the mode puts us in the shoes of three very different heroes, plus a short prologue mission similar to the beginning of Battlefield 1. A British bank robber is sent on a near-suicide mission Dirty Dozen-style, a Norwegian freedom fighter uncovers Nazi research secrets, and a colonial Senegalese soldier fighting in the French army helps to liberate a country he doesn’t know. It’s a refreshing change from the Stalingrad and Normandy settings we typically see in World War II shooters, but DICE’s execution doesn’t always live up to its exciting ambition.
DICE’s execution doesn’t always live up to its exciting ambition.
Under No Flag features some very high difficulty spikes not seen in the other two War Stories, but more frustrating than the enemies were the number of bugs and glitches that weren’t ironed out before release. Enemies flip and flail long after being killed. Rocks load on the ground mere feet from your location. If you pause the game for more than a few seconds and then resume, your game will hitch like you’re experiencing some sort of offline lag. None of it is enough to completely ruin the experience, but it’s pretty evident that the fourth campaign mission was held back because some more bugs need to be squashed.
Fortunately, the other two War Stories fare much better, both in their structure and in their storytelling. In Nordlys, we’re put in the boots of a young resistance fighter and her mother as they attempt to destroy the Nazis’ heavy water supply and prevent the creation of a functional atomic bomb that would change the course of the war. Though it’s fiction and the game even mentions that the mission was actually conducted in a bloodless raid (the last member of which died last month), it’s a harrowing and gripping series of missions, culminating in some fantastic set-pieces near the end.
War Stories is ultimately supposed to be the appetizer to the multiplayer main course in Battlefield V, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that it was cobbled together pretty quickly. Only including three missions at launch makes it feel incomplete, and if the German-focused fourth episode is as long as the original three, we’ll still be left with a campaign that takes maybe four hours to complete from start to finish. The stories we have are certainly more memorable than the typical World War II campaign, but we have to say goodbye to characters just as we’re getting to know them.
Battlefield has lived and died by its multiplayer more than any other shooter on the market, and Battlefield V delivers the over-the-top action we’ve come to expect from the series, albeit with a distinct lack of polish. Once again, Conquest mode is the star of the show, with several different objectives scattered across enormous maps for teams to capture, and the basic gameplay loop works as well as it ever has in the series.
Tanks and half-tracks speed across deserts and fields, planes dive down for targeted strikes and infantry charge forward against screaming gunfire. The map design is among the best DICE has ever done, with locations from bombed-out cities to snowy mountaintops. These diverse locales occasionally see dynamic weather events as well, requiring players to change their strategy. In one instance, we found ourselves unable to snipe after a huge snowstorm came in, forcing us to get up close and personal with another weapon.
If you’ve played Battlefield 1, you know what to expect. Battlefield V has almost identical controls and bullet drop that’s inconsequential enough for newcomers to succeed, but a few changes have been made that help to mix up the formula and keep the momentum going. The Attrition system provides your team with health and ammunition stations after capturing objectives, meaning you’ll rarely have to steal another soldier’s weapon in order to stay in the battle. Fortifications also give you the ability to build defensive structures at key points, making your position less vulnerable to enemy fire. In some cases, this could mean boarding up a window, or building a sandbag pile that gives your sniper the perfect nest.
These tweaks provide more flavor to the Battlefield formula than drastically alter it, and this is also true of the many multiplayer modes. Frontlines is a massive reverse tug-of-war match, where teams throw everything they have at single objectives as they move toward their enemy’s base. Breakthrough is similarly hectic but with an emphasis on planning and defensive positioning.
A few options, such as Airborne, are only available as part of the multi-stage Grand Operations mode, which returns from Battlefield 1. Over several maps and modes, your team must complete objectives and stop the enemy from making significant progress. Doing this increases your advantage for subsequent rounds, such as shortening vehicle spawning times, and small narrative blurbs help to give you a sense of the stakes for each fight. A town hammered by German planes after one round can be torn to shreds in the next one, making it almost unrecognizable, and with Grand Operations taking around an hour to complete from start to finish, you feel like you have some skin in the game by the conclusion.
With the lengthy playing time, however, comes the possibility for disappointment, and this is caused far too often by Battlefield V rather than your own abilities. One extremely close match was supposed to end with the player-count and timer both at zero but failed to do so. We were left with no other option but to quit entirely. Other times, textures took too long to load, the rumble in our controller stopped working, or we were inexplicably unable to spawn. After we did quit, it took an alarmingly long amount of time just to return to the main menu. None of these issues straight-up ruined the multiplayer experience, but they felt like they probably could have been avoided if the game had a month or two longer to cook.
It’s a little remarkable that Black Ops 4 feels like it has more to offer even though it nixed its campaign.
That feeling is reinforced when looking at what isn’t in the game yet. Battlefield V will get its live service component, Tides of War, in December, but we’ll have to wait until 2019 to play the battle royale mode, Firestorm. All future maps will be free and the game will only use microtransactions for cosmetic items, but it’s a little remarkable that Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 feels like it has more to offer even though it nixed its campaign entirely this year.
Battlefield V is a fine World War II shooter and it has the potential to turn into a great one with a few updates and the addition of its post-launch modes, but with Black Ops 4 providing such a rich and engaging competitive experience and last year’s Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus offering a better (and more upfront) Nazi-shooting campaign, there’s little reason for this game to be your first choice. That’s partially a testament to the strength of its competition, but Battlefield V fails to impress the same way Battlefield 1 did. By all means, give it a try if you’re a fan of DICE’s previous work, but know that you’ll have to put up with some pretty glaring faults.
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Battlefield V is now going live for subscribers to EA or Origin Access, after a long wait punctuated by a last-minute delay. This one takes the series back to the iconic setting of World War 2, but does a return to the Greatest Generation make for a great game?
While reviews are starting to roll in, some sites are publishing early impressions or reviews-in-progress, including GameSpot. And in a year when Battlefield's major competitor, Call of Duty, has eschewed a single-player campaign, the presence of one in Battlefield V seems to be standing out. The consensus agrees that the package as shipped already has a lot to explore thanks to the campaign and multiplayer, even knowing more is on the way. Its battle royale mode Firestorm is coming next year, and DICE has built a reputation for long-term support.
GameSpot's Battlefield V early impressions found it maintained the scale we've come to expect from a Battlefield game. "There's a lot more to dig into, like the fortification system, squad reinforcements perks, and how destruction may change map dynamics, and spending more time with the game will paint a better picture," wrote critic Michael Higham. "At the end of the day, it's still Battlefield, and Battlefield V is shaping up to be a good one at that."
Read on for more reviews from around the industry, or check GameSpot sister site Metacritic for more reviews.
- Game: Battlefield V
- Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
- Developer / publisher: DICE / Activision
- Release date: Out now (limited) / Wide release November 20
- Price: US $60 / £50 / AU $69
GameSpot -- No Score
"As of now, it feels as if Battlefield V is a variation on a well-established theme. It maintains the series tradition of grand spectacle with incredible sound design, impactful weaponry, and large-scale multiplayer chaos." -- Michael Higham [Full review]
Gaming Trend -- 9/10
"After spending quite a while with the game, I'm blown away that there's still so much to discover. With dozens of collectibles to find in the single-player campaign, a seemingly-unlimited number of weekly challenges, and the Tides of War looming large on the horizon, Battlefield V is the best this series has ever been, and easily the best FPS of the season." -- Ron Burke [Full review]
PC Games N -- 9/10
"Battlefield V delivers the series' finest single-player campaign yet, painting the horror of war from rarely seen perspectives. That tension carries through to the multiplayer, which has been tuned to hammer home your vulnerability in a firefight." -- James McMahon [Full review]
CG Magazine -- 8/10
"Despite the bad press at the start, I have a lot of faith in DICE as a developer and they have delivered a fantastic shooter this year with Battlefield V after listening to their community and taking their feedback seriously." -- Cole Watson [Full review]
Digital Trends -- 6/10
"Battlefield V is a fine World War II shooter and it has the potential to turn into a great one with a few updates and the addition of its post-launch modes, but with Black Ops 4 providing such a rich and engaging competitive experience and last year's Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus offering a better (and more upfront) Nazi-shooting campaign, there's little reason for this game to be your first choice. That's partially a testament to the strength of its competition, but Battlefield V fails to impress the same way Battlefield 1 did. By all means, give it a try if you're a fan of DICE’s previous work, but know that you'll have to put up with some pretty glaring faults."