Review: Battlefield V is an amazing game with great value
It’s been said that history repeats itself. Nearly every shooter in the late ‘90s and early 2000s took place in WWII, before Call of Duty came and set modern warfare as the new standard. It now seems like we’ve gone long enough for the WWII fever to heat up again, this time in Battlefield V.
Unlike Black Ops 4 (our review here), which unwisely chucked the series’ campaign mode to the winds, Battlefield V sticks by their usual route of having multiple chapters in the single-player campaign. It’s now called called War Stories and takes place across four different theatres: Africa, France, Norway, and what I assume is Germany. That final War Story only releases on 3 December, but since the thumbnail is a Nazi officer it seems like a reasonable bet.
These War Stories are self-contained tales of heroism that offer a sliver of insight into what went on during the war. All of them have multiple acts, and the best thing is that some of these stages are wide open so you can complete objectives in your own way. Stealth is actually a very viable option in most of them, though it can sometimes be tricky as you won’t always have suppressed weapons.
I thoroughly enjoyed sneaking around, spotting enemies with my binoculars and then silently killing or avoiding them. It’s a novel idea for Battlefield V and I sure hope that future installments would follow suit, so long as it remains optional; players shouldn’t be penalized for wanting to run and gun their way through, either.
It wasn’t until the third War Story, Tirailleur, that I realized that the earlier War Stories were the exact opposite of what previous single-player experiences were like. There were no big battles with friendly AI charging alongside you, no huge battlefields with chaos reigning all around — it was war, but the stories were smaller and more intimate.
That’s what makes the Tirailleur War Story so memorable. It’s a throwback to old-school Battlefield as you and your allies rush enemy entrenchments under heavy fire. It’s dirty, it’s chaotic, and it’s sorely missed. However, it does bring back a stupidly archaic design choice: the endless waves of enemies. During sections where you capture or destroy positions, enemy troops will continuously spawn unless you push on. This doesn’t add to the challenge in any way and only serves as a source of artificial difficulty and frustration, especially on higher difficulties.
Locations ranged from the desolate deserts of North Africa to the frozen wastelands of Norway and the lush countryside near Provence, France. They’re all different enough to make viewing and playing in them interesting but they’re still subject to some pretty bad pop-in. With the new binoculars to spot enemies with, I could also see muddy, low resolution textures on far away objects and environments. The ground textures are particularly irksome, as they can look really bad when zoomed in from a distance.
Another issue I encountered was the unnaturally accurate AI. They can be excellent shots, even when they’re using machine guns from far away. It seems like they can even nail you through smokescreen, leaving you the only one handicapped. All of this happened on Medium difficulty, too.
Still, playing these War Stories makes for a great companion activity to the multiplayer modes, since some of the stages are converted for multiplayer use as well. It’s just a shame that DICE didn’t integrate the two modes better, like what was done in Sniper Elite 4. Nothing you do in War Stories has any major bearing on the multiplayer, which severely lessens their replay value once you’ve finished the various difficulties and nabbed all the collectibles and unlockables.
A system that awards cosmetics for your multiplayer soldier would have been much appreciated, even if they came at a vastly reduced rate. Coupled with the fact that there are only nine acts currently (three per War Story) and the whole mode does fall a bit short.
There’s no issue with the premise, only the lack of content. The acts aren’t that long individually, taking me about four hours in total to complete on Medium difficulty. That’s pretty disappointing. I’ve yet to complete some challenges or find all the collectibles but that’s just busywork. As they stand now, the War Stories are pretty much a play-and-forget deal for most.
Then again, one wouldn’t buy Battlefield V for the single-player, no matter how compelling it is. I’ve talked at length about the multiplayer beta and the release version is simply more of it, but better. The weird animation glitches have been fixed for the most part, and issues such as clipping and falling through floors seems to be resolved as well.
There are dedicated servers for Singapore, too! Needless to say, lag is no longer a concern. Even slowdowns are pretty much non-existent. I’ve yet to notice any glaring framerate drops, even when stuff is blowing up all around me. The pop-ins issues still persist in multiplayer, but the framerate on a PS4 Pro with an FOV of 90 has been buttery smooth so far.
Visuals are only a part of the package; how the game sounds is just as important. In that aspect, Battlefield V gets two-thumbs up from me. I played with headphones most of the time and the sound effects are teeth-rattlingly excellent. Props definitely needs to be given to the score as well. It’s hands-down some of the best Battlefield music ever I’ve heard, particularly the main menu songs.
All’s not rosy on the gameplay end, though. Grand Operations mode is sorely underplayed, which is a shame considering it’s just as fun as, if not more so, than the series stalwart Conquest mode. Even with a custom search, I only found three Asian servers running Grand Operations and none of them were full. Still, it’s early days for the game and the player population should pick up once the early access period is over and the holiday periods come.
Conquest doesn’t suffer from the same issue. There are a ton of Asian servers available, and in fact it’s quite hard to get into a local server since they’re almost always full, especially if you’re searching for 64 player games.
There’s a lot to unlock in multiplayer: Weapon Specializations, Class, and Rank. You don’t have to do anything special for these three paths; simply playing the game gets you XP, whether it’s using a weapon, playing as a class, or just completing a game. On the other hand, the menus could do with some streamlining as it’s a huge mess trying to see the unlockable rewards.
I’m against the idea of vehicle unlocks, though. It seems unreasonable to gate off some vehicles behind ranks, making fights feel lopsided against newer players. It’s a good thing that none of them are unbalanced so far, but I prefer the older approach where everything was available for everyone.
I found that the maps in Battlefield V are much better than the previous game. My favorite is Devastation on Conquest, where you fight for control of a cinema and a cathedral in a ruined city. It’s an awesome blend of close-quarters street fighting with long sightlines and chokepoints. Coupled with the ability to build fortifications, the fighting gets thick and heavy fast. It’s fun and heavily reminiscent of my past highlights such as Battlefield 3’s Operation Metro.
However, the maps are more static now. I loved how the Behemoths in Battlefield 1 and the massive terrain destruction in Battlefield 4 mixed things up, affecting both the visuals and gameplay. In Battlefield V, maps end in pretty much the same condition as when you started.
On the subject of maps, they made an awesome decision by having all upcoming Battlefield V content free. One of the reasons past games dropped off the radar was due to the fragmented player base, whether they were separated by expansions or maps.
It goes without saying that Battlefield V is a must-buy if you’re into shooters. The great gameplay, the tons of multiplayer unlockables, the local servers (woo hoo!) and, best of all, the free post-launch content makes it an amazing game with great value.
Battlefield V is out now for Deluxe Edition / Origin Access Premium users.
Full release is on 20 Nov for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Developed by EA DICE. Published by EA.
A PS4 copy was provided for review.
Battlefield V (PlayStation 4)
was reviewed on the Samsung QLED Q7FN 65-inch TV.