By now you've surely picked up the buzz on the Internet since Battlefield V was announced earlier this year, as well as gamers yelling about things being realistic and historically correct. If there are two things (except war) that have defined the conversations around the game during, it's these two aspects. Battlefield V contains women, a lot of women actually, both in the campaign and in multiplayer. The impact on playability? Zero. Did women participate in the war? Absolutely. Does it matter that they're in this game? No, not for us. Whether these things are important or not, we leave for you to decide for yourself, but this review is about Battlefield V as a game - not about gender or gender politics - and it's one heck of game. As a mandatory note, we were invited by EA and DICE to play Battlefield V for two days before the official servers were running, and this review is based largely on that experience.
Battlefield V is, in many ways, the direct sequel to Battlefield 1, despite the incredibly strange numbering, and the first apparent change is, of course, that we find ourselves once again in the middle of the Second World War. It is an era of familiarity to most of us, an event in our near history which still has many stories to tell. The difference between the First and Second World War at a glance (Battlefield 1 versus Battlefield V) isn't very big, but obviously, there are things like tanks, planes, and weapons constantly evolving. It's still raw and dirty, stuffed with suffering and death, just in some different ways.
Although it's easy to glance at Battlefield V and instantly recognise it, there's more than meets the eye when it comes to game mechanics. The core has been broken down at its foundations, and although it isn't obvious at first look, it feels completely different. The best way we can describe is that it feels more forgiving now. Weapons are handled in a way that feels more logical than before; feedback, recoil, and how the bullets land is easier to predict and gone is that feeling of randomness that was often present in Battlefield 1, something we truly appreciate. The speed of the bullets has increased too, and it's faster to aim and change weapons. The whole game feels tighter and, more or less, more like Call of Duty than ever before. This makes Battlefield V much easier to pick up and instantly start learning, but at the same time, it gives the best players the tools to master the game in new ways. It's a good thing, we think, but the side effect will inevitably be that the gap between really good and less skilled players increases significantly, something that should solve itself by the game's matchmaking systems as they separate players based on skill.
Two big new things in Battlefield V are the new Fortification mechanic and the fact that you constantly have limited resources in the form of ammunition and a life meter that doesn't recharge itself. The fortification mechanic is a clever feature that's used to reinforce strategic points to make it difficult for the opposing team to get through. Sandbags, barbed wire, armour protection, and stations for supplies can be built at designated locations to help increase your odds. Whether this feature will be as widespread as DICE hopes when the servers open is hard to say today, but certainly, it has a point, especially in some more control-based game modes.
To regain life on the battlefield, it's no longer possible to dive into the nearest bushes and wait until the life meter has recovered. Instead, like this year's Call of Duty, you're equipped with a life pack that you can heal yourself with. Then it's up to the team's medical classes to constantly throw the life packs on teammates to make it possible for everyone to continue. The same applies to ammunition; you don't start fully equipped with thousands of bullets which means you are rather limited and have to rely on different stations around the maps or on your team's Support classes who, like the medics, can throw ammunition boxes on teammates. This creates the constant feeling that things can actually end with you running out of bullets in the middle of a firefight, and it works well. It's another stress factor and tactical consideration that you need to take into account.
Along with the changes in how weapons feel and resources work, the game's classes have also been overhauled in terms of how they work and interact with each other. It's still the same structure - Assault, Medic, Support, and Recon - and the basic premise remains. It feels more important than ever to have a varied selection of classes to really take advantage of features such as marking enemies, blasting armoured tanks, or placing items that teammates can spawn on to quickly get back to an important position on the map so as to not lose ground to the enemy. The Assualt class is for run and gun types, and they're equipped with explosives to do damage to vehicles, while the Medic ensures that the troops are equipped with constant medpacks. Support can easily help and break protection, and Recon can mark and pick off enemies at long distances. It's possible to specialise each class to perform certain tasks more efficiently, and all told we thought that there was lots of depth and something for all play-styles.
In Battlefield V, it's more important than ever to play in a squad with three other players and it's encouraged in more ways than before. For example, everybody in a squad can revive a fallen soldier (previously, it was entirely limited to the medic class), making capping points much easier if you play and communicate with your peers. The team that wins will definitely be made up of well-oiled squads made up of players who complement each other well with classes and equipment. Like in Battlefield 1, squads have the advantage of being able to spawn on each other, which can be crucial in tight situations at Conquest control points or in defence in the Grand Operations mode. However, there are only four people per squad now, versus five in Battlefield 1, which makes it easier to fit in the different vehicles and overall the change offers better cohesion in the group. Each squad also has the ability to trigger reinforcements when enough points have been gathered, much like how Killstreaks work in Call of Duty, as you can call in special tanks, V2 rockets, or supplies if you happen to be far from the nearest base, or maybe just missing the required class. The function gives further depth, especially to the ends of matches where a rocket in the right place can be the deciding factor between a win or a loss.
If we take a look at the game modes, the classic Battlefield mode Conquest is back and feels like it usually does - large-scale maps with control points to be taken and held. The team that can control the most zones for the longest time will come out as the winner. In Battlefield V, Operations have changed to Grand Operations, and these are sprinkled with some narrative and mechanical twists. One team will attack different targets such as air defence cannons and the other team's goal is to defend them. Depending on the outcome, the match is changed at various points and the odds are constantly changing with it, and the defenders are always pressed. It's like a mix between Rush and Conquest and it's extremely explosive and addictive, but the games tend to be a bit long because they play over several days (in game time) so it's not a mode where you just "play a quick game before dinner". The other modes are fairly standard and what we have come to expect from games in the genre. One thing to note is that the behemoth and leviathan moments are all gone for now, which is kind of sad, but DICE says they might have plans to introduce mechanics like this in the future.
However, on release Battlefield V feels somewhat short on content. There are no game modes like Rush, Collaborative mode, or the Battle Royale mode yet, and instead, we get just a handful of multiplayer modes and four single-player War Stories (another one is coming later). This campaign, like in Battlefield 1, consists of stories which cover the war from different perspectives, taking us from the Norwegian mountains to the sand dunes of Northern Africa via the fields of France. These are okay for what they are, but they're not a beefy campaign in the traditional sense, although they are a good introduction to various game mechanics and tactics you can benefit from when you go online.
Battlefield V houses a new and expanded progression system where everything from weapons to skins and clothes can be unlocked gradually, feeling much more elaborate than in its predecessor. There are different types of clothes to unlock, and if you want to dress your German soldier so they look like a regular nazi you can do that. As expected, weapons have different sights, scopes, perks, and skins to unlock. Even though we would have liked more weapons than those offered here, and more variety in them, those available are fun to use and satisfying to master.
Another reason why the content feels lacking is due to the fact that EA and DICE want to make Battlefield V a so-called "Live Game"; a service that constantly evolves and fills with new things and timed events. It's called Tides of War, is completely free, and offers new content at short intervals. Of course, it's hard to say how much added value these updates will bring to the game in the end, and we can only review what's actually in the game when the servers open and nothing else, but all content coming to Battlefield V will be free and it's a very welcome change that means that the player base need not be separated. The huge maps in the base game all feel well-designed, expansive, and varied, and of course, they're all destructible to the point where what starts out as the perfect sniper tower at the beginning of a match might have been turned to rubble by the end. Battlefield V is as dynamic as ever.
It's probably not a surprise that Battlefield V's graphics are gorgeous and detailed - to see sparks fly as you run through rubble in a demolished part of Rotterdam or see snow falling from a rooftop in Norway after a grenade pops nearby is enough to make anyone stop and stare. Details like when rain hits the leaves on a bush and slowly flows off made us just sit and stare just long enough to get us killed - and the visual team has really outdone themselves. The same is true of the sound design. Here DICE is usually best in class and Battlefield V is absolutely no exception. Bullets that fall and hit steel when shooting a machine gun in a tank, the banging artillery on the horizon, and injured soldiers roaring to attack all adds up to really build atmosphere. The music is toned down but is bombastic at the right moments, and when it starts we feel our muscles tighten as we get ready to push on and hopefully win the match.
Battlefield V is a really good game, and all the work DICE has done in renewing the core mechanics has resulted in an experience that feels tighter than a game in the series has done for many years, and we feel that you actually can get better without relying on bullets behaving how they want and the touch too realistic bullet drop; both improvements in our book. We also like that you actually need to rely more on teammates to have a good defence, more lives, and the ability to continue firing your weapons. It needs more content right now, and some matches run for too long, but on the other hand Battlefield V should do well as a regularly updated service with a constant flow of content, and the fact that Tides of War is free really feels like the right way to go for the series. Battlefield V is a must for the multiplayer fan.
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