Battlefield V Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on PC and Microsoft Xbox One
Battlefield V follows the most annoying trend in gaming to a fault - it employs a bonkers numbering system.
Battlefield V is not the sequel to Battlefield 4 but to Battlefield 1 - which was far from the first Battlefield game, that honour goes to Battlefield 1942 - and is not the fifth Battlefield game but in fact the 16th. The title is in fact a reference to the “V for Victory” sign used by the Allies in World War II, during which the game is set.
Like all Battlefield games, it’s predominantly an online shooter, although the game’s campaign mode is a worthwhile addition given that some online shooters now forgo them. WWII is a hugely popular setting for video games, so developers DICE made the welcome choice to use the game to explore the untold and historically forgot aspects of the war.
There are in fact three campaigns in Battlefield V, all set in non-front-line locations and starring atypical soldiers. Each is fine; the characters are developed enough, and there are some interesting mechanics (especially a few levels that let you ski). None of the stories are amazing however, as they’re all simply too short to tell these untold stories in enough depth to do them justice. You can see what DICE were going for though, and their inclusion is appreciated anyway.
Of course the main draw to a Battlefield game is its multiplayer which is, predictably, fantastic. Games take place over larger maps than typical online shooters, with the push-and-pull of fighting for land and checkpoints an engaging tumult. The multiplayer seems a little faster-paced than previous entries to the franchise - movement and actions seem to be a lot quicker, and maps seem designed with a larger focus on close-quarter gameplay than before. It's by no means anything like Call of Duty - but it's closer than other Battlefield games.
The most significant inclusion to the multiplayer is the Grand Operations mode, based on a similar mode in Battlefield 1, in which three matches are chained together with the results in each informing later matches. This mode is supremely balanced; winning a round and gaining a slight boost in the next never feels like it’s giving the winner an overwhelming advantage, and the pressure from losing always drives the loser to try harder. The addition of slight narrative strains to contextualise each mission in the operation goes a long way to make the battles feel more involving and tense, although the story for each operation is always the same.
The first few rounds of Grand Operations, and the first few hours of multiplayer, are incredibly fun - but then Battlefield V’s main problem sets in. There just isn’t much of it.
There are only eight multiplayer maps, broken up into 4 groups of two that inform Grand Operations. In addition there just aren’t that many weapons, customisation options, vehicles, or game modes. It has the Monster Hunter World problem - it’s maps are ingeniously and carefully crafted yet this means there aren’t enough of them, and they quickly become boring and repetitive to play. After only a few hours of gameplay you can know each map like the back of your hand.
DICE has pledged itself to adding to the game - a new campaign story, training mode, meta-game and expansions have all been announced that will be added to the game over the coming months, so it’s clear even the developers know their game is frighteningly thin.
There are a few other problems with the game too - it has a significant number of bugs and glitches, the progression system is surprisingly cryptic, and there are some hefty loading times when trying to quit multiplayer. None of these problems are enough to ruin the game, but they can be a little frustrating when they occur.
It’s worth addressing the ongoing narrative online regarding the game - one of the campaigns lets you play as a woman, and it’s respectful of the real effort many women in occupied countries. However the actual woman from the trailers that online trolls complained about is curiously absent, which is a shame because playing as her and fighting video game Nazis would be an ironic turnaround.
Another persistent narrative needs discussion too - EA are often highly demonised as money-grubbing opportunists. However at no point were micro-transactions offered for sale - if they are present, they’re well hidden. In addition DICE pledges to maintain the game with free content, instead of paid passes as other Battlefield games have had. It’s almost as if narratives formed by online trolls have little grounding in real life…
There’s a lot to love about Battlefield V, from its commendable commitment to the untold stories of World War II to its famously well-crafted gameplay. When there are more modes available, and therefore more variation for its multiplayer, it’ll undoubtedly be a top-tier multiplayer game.