Our previous feature for Battlefield V was our Technical Review. In it, I noted that it was a gorgeous cinematic experience. While there might be some hiccups with regards to ray tracing, we could probably point fingers at Nvidia for that and not necessarily the game itself. Still, as the old saying goes, “Beauty is only skin deep.” Looks can only get you so far before everything starts to unravel. How far will that take Battlefield V? Let’s find out.
Welcome To Beautiful Norway
Launching the game for the first time will give you a taste of what Battlefield V is like: massive firefights, gorgeous visuals, and overall superb presentation. World War II has never looked and felt better in a game. And that is perhaps the first disappointment you’ll taste. Experiencing the game’s introductory sequence, finding out all the characters and locations you might fight in… and then ending up with Billy (Fucking) Bridger.
The mission “Under No Flag” is probably the first War Stories chapter that most players will try. While North Africa is represented in supremely sublime detail, Bridger’s story with the Special Boat Service (SBS) is probably the least effective way you can kick off the rest of the single-player campaign. The character’s just so unlikable and dweebish, and you suddenly expect him to mow down the entire Afrika Korps?
Thankfully, we move on to “Nordlys” with a tension-filled cinematic where we meet Astrid Bjornstad. This story centers on Astrid’s and her daughter Solveig’s attempts to sabotage German plans to develop “heavy water” (uranium) for their atomic research program. By Odin! “Nordlys” — which means “Northern Lights” — takes place in Norway and is one of the most beautiful, scenic locations I’ve ever seen depicted in an FPS. The night sky, the freezing cold, the snow blowing around you, and yes, even skiing! All of these make for a most welcome experience in the campaign.
Unfortunately, it also falls flat halfway through because of the same issues. Solveig, the playable character, is a teenager who single-handedly saves Western Europe and the world from Germany’s atomic ambitions. She’s either as good as Medal of Honor‘s Manon or the Soviet Union’s Lyudmila Pavlichenko.
After “Nordlys”, I started “Tirailleur” which is the third War Stories chapter that’s available. It should be better, right? Sadly, the harrowing experiences of Deme and the Free French Forces alongside him were marred by how the rest of the mission panned out.
What exactly is the biggest downside of Battlefield V‘s single-player campaign? Well, in spite of providing you with locales that make you feel as though you’re watching a war movie, you don’t necessarily feel that you’re at war. Yes, there are lots of explosions; yes, everything is loud. Buildings crumble. The environment is destructible. The music soars as you move one step closer to your goal. But in the end, you may well feel that you’re playing Counter-Strike solo with bots, just set in World War II.
That’s because most of the time, you fight all by your lonesome or perhaps with another NPC. In Bridger’s case, it was with his commanding officer, Mason. In “Nordlys,” Solveig was the playable character and you followed Astrid around before going on your own. Finally, in “Tirailleur,” Deme may have had a squad fighting alongside him, but the entire action felt ridiculously restrained.
In fact, missions tend to follow a formula. The first act is more like an intro, which is followed by an even bigger world space for you to explore. Seriously, some locations are so vast that you might think you’re suddenly playing Black Ops 4‘s Blackout battle royale mode! There might even be an intermission level as well. Still, that also means the single-player campaign becomes too formulaic.
The fourth and final mission, “The Last Tiger” is due for release in December, and hopefully, that will deliver a truly gripping experience. You are playing as a German tank commander, after all. It’s the first time that players will ever get to experience war from the perspective of an Axis soldier in the Battlefield series.
Are You Not Entertained?
Don’t get me wrong. I do appreciate what DICE has tried to do with War Stories. I also enjoyed the fact that the single-player campaign focused on the outcasts and the lesser-known heroics of the Second World War.
- Bridger was a bank robber who had to go on suicide missions to avoid a prison sentence.
- The mother-and-daughter duo of Astrid and Solveig were resistance members.
- Deme and his Senegalese squad were barely recognized for their heroism.
- As for “The Last Tiger” and its panzer squad which we’ve yet to meet? Everyone knows how the victors (and history) felt about the majority of those who served in the Wehrmacht.
These were either the outcasts of society or people who made an impact despite being on the fringes of the greater conflict that’s happening. There’s a narrative style there that you cannot deny, and I respect the developers for weaving it into the game.
However, all that poignancy is lost when you’re turning these missions into “one-man-/woman-against-the-world” types of affairs. The intro and each mission’s cutscenes provide “heart” for the story, and yet the gameplay itself just devolves into your character turning into Rambo.
While there are moments where you can stealthily make your way past enemies, nine times out of ten you’ll still end up in a firefight. Turns out, most of these firefights are just minor engagements instead of all-out offensives or raids. I have to wonder why additional SBS commandos or Norwegian Resistance members weren’t accompanying you.
The intro/prologue/tutorial should’ve set the tone for what you can expect for the rest of the narrative-driven campaign. It shouldn’t be the high point.
We March To War
Battlefield‘s campaign provides a cinematic, action-packed experience, yet most of the action comes from you since there’s often no one else around. I guess that’s why the action in the single-player campaign feels restrained — because the massive gunfights are all on multiplayer.
Yes, Battlefield V still delivers that insanely action-packed gameplay that fans have known and loved all these years. It’s not as fast-paced or arcadey as Call of Duty, that’s for sure. It’s also not so realistic or tactics-oriented as Arma or Rainbow 6 Siege.
The game is right in the middle. It’s in that sweet spot that you want from an FPS depicting the greatest conflict in human history. You still have the series’ trademark gunplay, which is very easy for casuals to adjust to. At the same time, you also have an extra layer of depth by way of the fortifications mechanic. You can build various defenses (such as sandbags), as well as turrets and ammo stations, to prepare against an enemy assault. Think of it like Fortnite‘s build feature, except Battlefield‘s is infinitely better and more detailed.
There are various modes you can choose from via Advanced Search. You can also select from the eight maps that are available. To make everything faster, though, you could just select from the three quickplay matchmaking options.
Infantry Focus centers on the small-teams combat of up to 32 players. All maps are in the rotation and the modes tend to be Frontlines, Domination, or regular Team Deathmatch. Vehicles are also disabled.
Conquest, meanwhile, is the classic Battlefield multiplayer mode that everyone knows and loves. All maps are part of the rotation, and it’s a 64-player fragfest. Planes whizz high in the air, while tanks and half-tracks rumble through the blasted landscape. Multiple capture points are up for grabs, and teams play a tug-of-war until one team runs out of tickets.
I do believe the third needs a section of its own.
Grand Operations tries to add a narrative of sorts to traditional multiplayer. It’s divided into “three days” — or three consecutive matches that you’ll need to play. Day 1 tends to start with an airborne para-drop for attackers while defenders try to stop their assault. Attackers have to capture/destroy objectives while defenders need to prevent them from doing so.
Days 2 and 3 follow, and, depending on the results of preceding days, teams could get a bonus. For instance, if you mauled your opponents badly during the previous day, you might have faster respawn time for your vehicles. The maps can also change to reflect the brutality of the fighting. It’s an evolving multiplayer mode that provides an exhilarating experience.
The only downsides to this mode (and the other MP modes, for that matter) would be:
- The fact that some of your teammates are braindead and would hardly notice when someone’s downed right beside them.
- That you could end up shutting down the game midway through because of certain bugs.
There are a number of issues in Battlefield V that can truly hamper your enjoyment of its multiplayer. No, I’m not just talking about riding a tank and the top gunner’s machine gun disappearing into thin air though you can keep firing. I’m talking about random disconnections, a bug that prevents you from deploying, and even a timer glitch that turns it into a neverending match.
No Deploy? No Ending?
For the deployment bug, I was in the middle of redeploying when the match began. Suddenly, I found myself unable to deploy again no matter how much I clicked on it to start. It didn’t matter whether it was deploying right next to a squadmate (I love this feature, by the way), or at a control point. On both occasions that it happened, I had no choice but to end the game’s process.
Here’s another one — getting stuck after clicking Server Status. Yep, that happened as well. I was checking the various options before a match started, and poof, I couldn’t even go back to the menu. All I could do was chat while the rest of the screen stayed unresponsive. That’s another Alt+F4, folks.
Oh, and there might be a couple of times when just using quickplay options sends you to a match that’s hardly filling up. You could wait quite a while before even getting enough people. Fun fact: I actually had to switch to connect to North American servers at times since the Asian servers didn’t have as many players or matches.
As for the neverending match due to the timer bug? Well, I actually enjoyed it for the laughs. That happened during a Frontlines match when the opposing team had their C4 bugged and the clock wound down to zero. The match did not end at all, and everyone just kept sniping one another. In fact, it was a great way to finish some assignments and level up my guns. But yes, to be fair, it’s still a bug — and an acceptable one at that. Since it was a regular Frontlines match, I was willing to let it slide. Had it happened during a variation of Grand Operations like in Day 3, however, I’d probably have blown a gasket.
Just so you know that others have been experiencing this issue, here’s another example from Reddit user Joe0243:
Two’s A Company; Three’s A Cosmetic
If there are facets of Battlefield V which I cannot criticize, it’s the Company and Armory customization options. Your Allied and Axis soldiers can be customized in a variety of ways. You can change their looks as well as their uniforms. Some of these could be obtained via leveling up a particular class or gun. Others you can buy with Company Coins (CC), which come from completing Daily and Special Assignments (think daily quests, bounties, or milestones from other games).
Many of those you unlock as you progress in Battlefield V are purely cosmetic — face paint, vehicle paint jobs, gun camo, and so on. Others, directly tied to leveling up, would be unlockable weapons and specializations for your particular class. The Assault, Medic, Recon, and Support all have varied styles of play. You can focus on one the entire time, or you can give all of them a try. I personally preferred the Recon class, and my goal was to unlock as many self-loading sniper rifles just to see how they’d all fare. The Support class is also another favorite of mine due to inherent bonuses to building fortifications.
Later on, the premium currency will be introduced. Still, we don’t know yet if entirely new or cooler sets of cosmetics will be made available for that, or if it’ll still be the same ones obtainable through regular play.
One last thing of note about customization options is you can change your character’s gender as well. Honestly, I never found any problem with Battlefield V‘s inclusion of female characters in the game. I found that, in the middle of a hectic firefight, the last thing you’ll care about is what’s inside your teammate’s pants.
You Complete Me?
Sadly, I’m not Tom Cruise and Battlefield V is not Renée Zellweger. There are still a few more things that the game needs to fix or add to actually make it a complete experience. As mentioned, the final chapter in War Stories is coming on December 4. Even the game’s Practice Range, where you can test your weapons and vehicles, is set for the same date. Tides of War, which acts as the game’s seasonal content, will also start on December 6. The highly-anticipated battle royale mode, Firestorm, won’t even be out until March 2019.
I cannot even begin to wrap my head at this bold (and perhaps audacious) strategy to release a game that’s not yet complete and that does have a number of issues, though it’s already been delayed by a month. This is in spite of major FPS titles, including its main competition — Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 — having released with all three of its multiplayer modes available. On one hand, this strategy could prove to be a bold risk. It’s like hiding something up your sleeve, knowing that players have something to look forward to. On the other, I remain cynical about how long the player base will remain engaged if they have to wait for a number of things.
In the end, I’ll reiterate my previous statement in our Technical Review: “Battlefield V is a gorgeous cinematic experience.” I’ll even go so far as to state that Battlefield V is the most visually stunning FPS game in the market today. Everything from the pounding explosions to the orchestral score, the destructible environments, and the keen attention to detail show you that EA DICE has crafted something that would make your eyes open wide and your jaw drop.
Still, that does not change the fact that looks can only get you so far. You need to have depth and a personality to match. Battlefield V‘s single-player campaign, in spite of the magnificent presentation, sorely lacks the large-scale action that its introduction had set up. Its multiplayer, meanwhile, is on another level. While there are a few hiccups, Battlefield V‘s multiplayer redefines what the franchise can bring to the table.