No man’s land
The tide has turned and we’re back for another swoop into the depths of the historical war shooter. Battlefield’s previous visit to the Great War has laid the foundation for a much-awaited return to the 1940’s, but even with a delay to release Battlefield V doesn’t feel like its final form, at least not quite yet.
The series entered the fray back in 2002 with Battlefield 1942 and it’s been a sweep through different modern conflicts since, all with various tweaks and evolutions on a singular idea – expansive, destructive warfare. Putting the ‘levolution’ gimmicks aside from previous games, when Battlefield V is playing to its strengths, it still captures an intensely visceral feeling during gameplay.
What initially strikes you, however, is what isn’t here, rather than what is. The game was delayed into November, yet still, there’s a plethora of visual glitches, broken mechanics and absent content. The much-hyped Battle Royal mode won’t be appearing until early next year, just like the co-op mode also missing on launch. Even one of the four War Stories single player campaigns is AWOL, which makes you wonder what kind of product would have been launched had the delay not come into effect.
The War Stories themselves may feel a bit stingy in quantity but they have been lengthened which works to their benefit in creating a more consistent and engrossing narrative, as opposed to the many mini-tales of Battlefield 1 which felt a bit throwaway. The three stories will take you through the Norwegian Resistance, Senegalese soldiers liberating France and British Special Boat Services. The focus on the not-so-well-known parts of WWII is quite interesting and the tone is well executed, thankfully ditching the party-time nonsense of the pre-launch trailers.
Battlefield V’s multiplayer generates fun that hunts you down and slaps you in the face when you’re least expecting it.
The levels themselves are a mixed bag of shoe-horning in Battlefield mechanics, awkward AI and tiresome stealth scenarios. The large-scale areas work perfectly, and the multiple objective-based tasks give you a little freedom with how you’d like to approach them. There’s fun to be had if you absolutely dedicate yourself to finding it – during one mission to destroy several supply caches, I sneaked onto a plane and proceeded to set off pandemonium in the base by swooping back and forth, raining down gunfire on particularly aggravated AI enemies. I could have just fired a few bullets into some barrels from the spawn area and be done with it, which you’ll most likely do because having to find fun isn’t always particularly fun. The narrative remains far more interesting than the gameplay itself.
In contrast, Battlefield V’s multiplayer generates fun that hunts you down and slaps you in the face when you’re least expecting it. Buildings crumble around you, fields become charred from flames, artillery shakes foundations and genuinely frightens – it’s glorious. Moments that surprise and wow you that have always been a part of the series but felt largely absent in Battlefield 1 are back, and perhaps as prevalent as they were in the brilliant Bad Company games, such is the potential for its signature craziness.
Unsurprisingly, Conquest is Battlefield’s pièce de résistance where the epic sense of the large-scale maps really shines as two teams fight for objectives. Tanks imperiously rolling over hill-tops, planes fighting and diving from the skies, infantry in a continuous push and pull, all on some of the finest maps I’ve played in a Battlefield game – namely Rotterdam, Twisted Steel and Arras being amongst my favourites. They don’t all hit the mark, but there’s a classic map or two in the making you’d feel.
Overall there’s a lot of similarities to the game’s predecessor Battlefield 1, however, there has been some notable improvements. Ammo and health are in far shorter supply to the benefit of the game’s flow, but you’ll be able to stock up easier thanks to stations dotted around objectives, same goes for restocking vehicles when needed creating an interesting situation of having to vacate areas to keep going. Fortifications are also a new and welcome addition and add a completely new gameplay element. By building defensive structures you’ll be able to secure vulnerable positions, also creating opportunities to funnel enemies where you want them and change the tide of mini-battles for control points.
You’ll also now be able to revive teammates in your squad unless you’re a medic, and it’s solidified the squad play much better than it’s been previously as has most of the changes – a very good thing. The attrition of ammo and health also means you’ll be leaning on your squad to play their roles effectively, especially seeing as classes have been switched up to not be quite as useful by themselves such as medics only having SMGs now, being a prime example. Whilst all these aren’t massively sweeping changes they are largely satisfying and improve the core gameplay enough to warrant their inclusion.