“The Great War ended with a deafening silence. The world moved on; and in the silence, we forgot.”
After months of controversy and numerous delays, Battlefield V is finally here having launched on the 20th November 2018 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows. While the game has had a bit of a rough ride after its disastrous advertising campaign and lackluster beta, the final product is one that has had some semblance of a face-lift in response to the community’s feedback, across numerous fronts. Now after spending two weeks with the game, I’m going to be giving my in-depth analysis on the latest entry of DICE’s shooter franchise, detailing the new war stories, the multiplayer as well the general state of the game at launch, while ultimately discussing if it’s worth the £59.99 asking price.

In terms of controversial titles in recent months, none rank quite so highly as Battlefield V. Initially revealed back in May of this year, the title has had a steady decline in both pre-orders as well as its general reception by the community, with many boycotting the title based on some initial concerns that were raised about the historical authenticity of the game (as well as women being present in a WW2 game). This all came to a head when EA’s former Chief Design Officer: Patrick Soderlund took to Twitter, calling those who were complaining “uneducated” and telling them to “either accept it or don’t buy the game” sparking a pretty strong reaction from the community. The knock on effect resulted in pre-orders for Battlefield V being down 85% compared to its direct competitor: Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. While the drop in sales cannot be directly linked to Soderland’s comments, it’s pretty clear that the community backlash has had some effect, standing as a textbook example that even the best game can become a commercial failure if it isn’t marketed properly. Following the initial controversy was the game’s multiplayer beta, showcasing new gameplay features such as the Attrition system, which saw players spawn with limited ammo and health (as well as numerous other small changes) resulting in the gameplay feeling all the more tactical than ever before. Overall the reception to the beta was a mixed bag, being praised for its solid moment-to-moment gameplay while generally being received as a somewhat buggy and broken mess, which was concerning seeing as it was so close to the games’ October 16th launch date. Thankfully the game’s release was pushed back to November to update and refine the gameplay based on community feedback, which (to DICE’s credit) has removed most of the issues that people had with the Beta, while leaving the game as a somewhat bare bones experience at launch as a result.

First and foremost, it’s worth addressing the elephant in the room which is the ‘controversy’ surrounding Battlefield V, specifically in regards to the inclusion of females in the game’s WW2 setting and the lack of historical context in some of the multiplayer maps. While I’ve spoke at length in my previous articles (which can be seen here and here) about how I’m a fan of the balance of historical accuracy and revisionism that was used in Battlefield 1, the beta for Battlefield V left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth as it seemed to throw this entirely out of the window, as there are a plethora of examples of women in combat roles during WW2 that would have been far better suited within a historical context than an Asian female sniper fighting for the British army, as well as other inaccuracies such as battles taking place between opposing armies in locations where such battles never took place (the battle for Rotterdam was between the Netherlands and Germany, with no British involvement whatsoever). With the release of the full game however these concerns have been alleviated somewhat, as the option to choose what your avatar looks like (male or female) is exclusive to the multiplayer customisation only, leaving the game’s war stories intact within a historical context (even if DICE has decided to censor the Swastika altogether) which more than make up for the lack of historical context found in the multiplayer (which is honestly a personal preference sort of thing).

Game Hype - Battlefield V

Historical (in)accuracy: While the direction with customisation in Battlefield V leans heavily towards revisionism over realism, it is contained solely within the game’s multiplayer, facilitating player choice as to what their avatars look like.

One of Battlefield 1’s biggest strengths was its ability to inform and immerse the player in the history and brutal nature of the Great War, especially so within the game’s single player war stories, which exemplified the notion of a global conflict, showcasing the personal struggles of the men and women of WW1 across the globe. This is something that Battlefield V has built upon (within the single player at least) opting this time around to showcase some of the lesser known stories of those involved in WW2, opposed to the usual D-Day landing/liberation of Europe campaign that we’ve seen a thousand times before (although Call of Duty: WW2’s campaign was nothing short of exceptional). At launch, Battlefield V comes with three distinct war stories: Under No Flag, Nordlys and Tirailleur with a fourth story: The Last Tiger coming on December 4 which will be told from the perspective of the Panzerwaffe (DICE being controversial? What?). The three that are currently on offer are probably the least likely options one would opt for in a World War 2 game, but to DICE’s credit, that’s what allows them to shine. The first story: ‘Under No Flag’ follows a squadron of the Special Boat Service, going 500 miles behind enemy lines in North Africa on a ‘butcher-and-bolt’ campaign against the Luftwaffe; the second: ‘Nordlys’ follows Solveig Fia Bjørnstad, an eighteen year old woman who is part of the resistance in occupied Norway in 1943, on a mission to rescue her mother from a factory occupied by the Nazis, later being embroiled in a plot to destroy the production of heavy water (a key component of the atom bomb). The third war story: ‘Tirailleur’ follows a squad of Senegalese Tirailleur as they storm an artillery battery during Operation Dragoon in 1944, while simultaneously tackling the silent racism that was often present among allied troops at the time.

All three stories offer something different in terms of narrative and gameplay, but by far my favourite of the three was ‘Nordlys’ which could have quite easily been a 10 hour campaign on its own. Showcasing gameplay elements such as skiing and hypothermia, Nordlys offers an experience that stands out when compared to the other two war stories, and is ridiculously fun to boot (killing Nazi’s with throwing knives while skiing around is my new favourite way to dispatch the bastards in Battlefield V) over the course of its three chapter story, offering large open-ended levels that allow you to either tackle the enemy head on or opt for a more stealthy approach should the situation call for it. While the writing in both Nordlys and the other two stories is solid, they suffer with the same problem that the war stories had in Battlefield 1, in that they just aren’t long enough to truly convey any emotional engagement, aside from showcasing the horrors of the conflict on a global scale (which was also more aesthetically implemented in Battlefield 1 with the inclusion of the world map). In addition, all three stories contain both collectibles and challenges that offer unique melee weapons for the game’s multiplayer upon completion, which is a nice little bonus offering some amount of replay value for each of the hour-long stories. Overall the single player is engaging enough to be played through at least once, as each of the stories are an interesting tale told from the perspective of some of history’s forgotten combatants. While there has been confirmation that there are no current plans to add any more war stories after the release of ‘The Last Tiger’ on December 4th, DICE haven’t completely ruled out the idea, which at least gives us some hope that we can see even more perspectives of the war as part of the ‘Tides of War’ live service that the company has planned for Battlefield V.

Game Hype - Battlefield V

“Vi gir oss ikke frivillig, kampen er allerede i gang”: Nordlys is by far the best of the war stories on offer with Battlefield V, but all of them are too short to convey any kind of solid emotional engagement.

While single-player has always been a staple of the Battlefield franchise, the standout feature has always been the multiplayer, and in that regard Battlefield V does not disappoint (even if it is a bit content-light at the moment). The game comes packaged with 6 standalone game modes (Airborne and Final Stand are tied in with Grand Operations) and 8 multiplayer maps at launch, making this the smallest Battlefield at launch to date. In terms of it’s game modes, the usual suspects have made a return: Domination, Team Deathmatch and Conquest, which has adopted the old-school ticket bleed system, with catch up mechanics woven into its foundations should the score between teams be overly significant. Operations (or as they were in Battlefield 1) return in the form of the game mode Breakthrough, which sees attacking and defending forces go head to head over common ground before being pushed back to the next sector, offering frantic ‘hold-the-line’ gameplay that is just as tense and exciting this time around. In direct contrast is Battlefield V’s supposed ‘Grand Operations’ which sees the formula that was introduced in its predecessor shaken up with the inclusion of different game modes, taking place over numerous days and maps. While the mode offers some solid cinematic moments (diving out of a plane during Airborne is still amazing) it generally feels like it’s lacking a decent layer of finishing grease both narrative and gameplay wise, paling in comparison to its predecessor. Alongside Breakthrough and Grand Operations is the return of Frontlines, which has been a personal favourite of mine ever since its release alongside the They Shall Not Pass expansion for Battlefield 1; while the mode is still a hell of a load of fun, the final clash when attempting to destroy the opposing team’s artillery battery is currently broken, with the attacking teams explosives regularly not appearing, alongside other bugs such as the round continuing far past it’s countdown at 0:00, breaking the match and making it go on indefinitely.

Broken  and unpolished game modes aside, Battlefield V is probably the most fun I’ve had in a mainline Battlefield title to-date, offering a very interesting meta this time around, raising the skill cap significantly in comparison to its predecessor. For starters is the lightning fast TTK (which has been increased significantly since Battlefield 1) has changed both the way guns feel as well as the way they perform; couple this with the removal of 3D spotting and it currently makes the battlegrounds of Battlefield V a very intimidating place for newcomers, with a gunplay system that is easy to pick up but hard to master, rewarding player skill (very similar to the system found in Battlefield 3). While the new system is solid, it isn’t without it’s downsides as there is currently massive issues with the TTD, making it appear like the TTK is all over the place, making people drop like flies as soon as a bullet flies past them. DICE have made it known on Twitter that they are actively looking into the issue, as well as the mention that TTK changes are coming; a decision which has been universally slammed by the vast majority of the Battlefield community online via Reddit and the official forums. Mirroring the new gunplay are the revised class systems, which sees weapon allocation work a little differently this time around. The current meta is being dominated by the Assault and Support classes, using weapons such as the KE7 light machine gun and STG-44 assault rifle, which are both highly versatile within the plethora of situations one can find themselves in. While the Medic class absolutely dominated the Beta with its signature British Sten, SMG’s have been universally gimped across the board, something which is apparently being addressed in the December 4th patch which will finally bring the ‘Tides of War’  live service into the game alongside numerous gameplay fixes and improvements.

Game Hype - Battlefield V

Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol: While Battlefield V’s Grand Operations are full of tense gameplay moments and are equally cinematic to boot, they are lacking some degree of finishing grease in both gameplay and narrative, especially when compared to its predecessor.

In terms of performance, Battlefield V is a technical powerhouse in terms of it’s aesthetic innovation, and is a testament to the power of the Frostbite 4 engine. Across the board the game shines in ultra crisp 3840x2160p at 60fps, offering HDR options to boot if you have the applicable hardware. In conjunction with the top-notch visuals is the stellar animation work, which plays right into the new interactions within the game world; such things as picking up ammo, healing and reviving squad mates all have contextual actions that take you out of the fight for a number of seconds making your decisions all the more tactical. Alongside the stunning visuals and gameplay animations are the new ‘microtransactions’ that EA have placed into the game, offering period authentic gear to customise your avatars with as well as camouflage paint jobs and attachments for your weapons, which is a swan song compared to the over-the-top customisation options that were showcased initially within the reveal trailer (it’s nice to see DICE can deal with some criticism constructively). While the new cosmetics are actually somewhat appealing and the move away from loot boxes is an admirable one, the decision to make the currency for unlocking weapon specializations the same one that you buy cosmetics with baffles me, which is something that needs to be looked at heavily by DICE before giving players the ability to purchase company coins with real money, especially so when the ‘grind’ aspect of the currency is way too harsh as it currently stands.

Overall Battlefield V has the foundations of a great shooter; the new gunplay and revised classes are solid, the game looks absolutely stunning in HDR and the carnage of all out warfare that the series is known for is better than ever, only to be held back by the fact that so much content is missing at launch. With that said however, the removal of the premium pass model ensures that the player base won’t be split post launch, with all of the new content being a part of the ‘Tides of War’  live service, which will be completely free for every player that owns a copy of Battlefield V. Definitely not one to miss down the line as it’s only going to get better and better as time goes on, but it’s somewhat of a hard sell at launch with the £59.99 retail price tag, and I would advise waiting until it drops in price a bit before taking the dive.

A review code was provided by Electronic Arts. 

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