Review: Battlefield V

I think Battlefield V might be the best Battlefield game. I haven’t played any of the PC ones so this is coming purely from a console point of view, but it’s really, really good.

The obvious benchmark is Bad Company 2, regarded by many as one of the most ‘fun’ Battlefield games, namely because of the destruction. The good news for fans is that Battlefield V may have some of the best destruction of the series. It was my first impression as I dipped into a game, that stuff was getting destroyed all over the place. It feels more dynamic and realistic too – in previous games, wanted to take a wall out? Fire an RPG at it, and a hole appears almost predetermined. In BFV, bits crumble away to reveal the bad guy prizes inside, and it’s not clear that an entire wall will fall, sometimes only partial, sometimes you get lucky and the whole building crumbles down.

This is the Battlefield experience then, refined over years and iterations of takes on the formula. It’s fitting and ironic then that BFV returns to the series’ roots – World War 2. Yes, it’s another WW2 game. After Call of Duty did it last year, I wasn’t sure if I was quite prepared for another brown and grey slog. Thankfully, and surprisingly, Dice have managed to include a wide colour palette that helps mitigate this risk. Remaining realistic, environments feel brighter and cheerier – one of my first battles was in a field of yellow flowers, amidst burning fiery patches and then into a little town bathed in bright sunlight. We’re not conditioned to expect such images from war. Sandy maps make an appearance which isn’t new – desert maps were in Battlefield 1, but here they feel warmer. Obvious attention has been paid to the colour palette.

Gameplay is another staple of the series and again, refinements have been made to make this one of the best feeling Battlefield games, but also one of the best first-person games I’ve played in years. It’s smooth, quick, precise and clear. In Battlefield 1, I never really managed to grasp all of the various sensibilities and sensitivities of the controller map – here it feels perfect out of the box. This is subjective of course, and thankfully there’s a wide, wide amount of options to tweak and play with things like sensitivity, dead zones, aim acceleration, coefficients and more. The options in fact don’t just stop at controls, as you can change colours and sizes of crosshairs, opacity of all of the various on screen indicators independently, colour schemes for goodies and baddies – if anything there is too much option here. It’s good then that (for me) I didn’t really need to change anything except a slight increase in sensitivity but of course this is personal preference. A recent update adding into a firing range/practice mode provides the ideal opportunity to test out and play with your preferred setting.

Whilst a single player is included (more on that later) the multiplayer is the obvious appeal. A variety of modes are on offer, and are the usual suspects. Deathmatch, domination and conquest would be the ones to expect, but Breakthrough is a nice play on rush. The map is divided into sectors and you push through once all objectives in one are complete. This is essentially the mode from Operations in BF1 but as standalone mode. This is complimented by Frontlines – a tug of war to capture points and push back the enemy before having to complete (or defend) a final objective.

Grand Operations is the big mode on offer here, spanning multiple ‘days’ (rounds) comprised of different sorts of modes. One is Airbourne where you have to parachute in to take out the anti-aircraft weapons on the ground. Another is Final Stand which triggers if two teams are evenly matched and essentially becomes a last man standing tie-breaker. It takes a while to play but is good fun as it adds some variety but sadly isn’t available on all of the maps. The twist is that the winner of each ‘day’ receives a bonus for the next fight, which can range from extra ammo to vehicles spawning faster.

Modes range from 24 to 64 players and the maps (or sections of map) on offer seem to all provide a decent mixture. I haven’t played any I really dislike and despite a few instances of spawn camping I don’t have any which I must avoid. Even the spawn camping is a bit symptomatic of the type of mode you play really – if you get pushed back then you’re going to be camped. It’s kind of the point.

One of my favourite things about Battlefield V is that it’s simply just a huge joy to play. It feels amazing, and pleasingly a lot of feedback from the Beta has been realised. Ammo is now not as tight, and every class feels viable. The Assault is your bread and butter class, your run-and-gun with some high explosives for vehicles. Support has your back with higher powered weaponry for suppression, and can refill ammo for your team. Medic is obvious, and Recon is your longer range. Pleasingly, the Recon sniper has a giveaway with lens glare which will deter campers as it’s clear where they are (to a degree) but the Recon has another bonus – spotting.

The spotting mechanic in Battlefield has always been push R1/RB to highlight an enemy on the Minimap. Now, an enemy is only highlighted if they are shot at when aiming down sights. The Recon has a spotter tool which highlights the enemy for your teammates (with points for spotting and points for assisted kills). This turns the Recon class into more of an actual reconnaissance role. What I like about this game is that even if you’re not the best shooter in the world, you can still take part and have a vital role in the success of your team. Some of my most fun moments have been holding back and covered my team whilst supplying them with ammo, scouting the map for my advancing squad and calling out (via scope) the enemy positions or running into the fray to rescue my downed team. Anyone can revive anyone on their squad, but Medics can revive anyone at all (and faster). The balance here is excellent.

Another nice little touch are the feedback indicators you get from contact. The crosshairs changes shape and colour when contact is made, and pleasingly when you get a headshot you get a colour change, a little broken head indicator and a lovely squish-pop noise. Mmmm.

Single player modes build on War Stories from the previous game, and can be played in any order. They clock in at around 2 hours each and there are three (at launch). The first (or leftmost since you can play in any order) tells the story of an elite regiment made up of reprobates in the war sent on dangerous missions. As you play what is basically Eggsy from the Kingsman films, open world stealth action is crossed with well acted cutscenes blending humour to tell the story of a lesser known feat in the war in Greece. I love stealth gameplay (and thankfully you can go guns blazing) but the open-world progression added a nice tough. If anything, across all of the stories, stealth is probably a bit too heavy a requirement but given the multiplayer gives you an all out explosive experience, I didn’t mind the difference.

More content is on the war. Modes for multiplayer (including Rush!!) and more war stories, including one telling the side of a German tank operator in the final days, focusing more on vehicular conflict. New maps are also coming and for the first time, EA have done away with premium passes or even battle passes. Everything is free, cosmetics can be earned through in-game progress and we will see if micro-transactions follow for this. But a key point here is the community will no longer be split which will surely pay dividends for Battlefield in the long term (take note, Call of Duty). The other obvious omission is the Battle Royale mode, slated for March next year. Given how this plays, I’m sure it will be a success but time will tell how this crowded space can handle the big players joining the craze (especially with an upfront price of entry).

Given the roadmap, you may be forgiven for feeling like Battlefield V is a bit too bare bones. It’s not that it isn’t fully featured, its that so much is coming out later. Was it rushed? I’ve seen reports of bugs and glitches but honestly aside from a few small niggles I’ve not see anything gamebreaking. One which did freeze the game upon checking challenges has been fixed already.

It’s a bit hard to find fault with Battlefield. Most of the criticism I think will come from those who aren’t already fans of the series. If you like action multiplayer games, or like the previous games in the series I can’t see how you wouldn’t be seriously pleased with Battlefield V. If I were to sum it up in two words, it would be “most excellent” and I with the content rollout, it should only continue to get better.

Reviewed on PS4

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