The Price of Freedom
Nearly a year removed from Star Wars: Battlefront II’s microtransaction mess, developer DICE and publisher Electronic Arts are attempting to mend fences, and Battlefield V showcases some of their efforts to repair the damage. Of course, it is also a decent FPS as well, with tight combat controls, a tear-jerking musical score, and an homage to unsung stories of World War II. However, it also fails to do anything creative and fresh for the genre and, despite a robust progression system, it leaves plenty of features on the back-burner for future release, without anything substantial in the vanilla tub to pull shooter fans away from other games.
Solo campaign enthusiasts will appreciate the inclusion of War Stories, bite-sized vignettes that loosely portray unsung campaigns, rather than the epic confrontations we’ve seen reenacted ad nauseam in past WWII-centric games. These episodes are personal and poignant, introducing a handful of protagonists with varied personalities that are all worth rooting for. It’s a shame that each story lasts only a few hours, closing each one-act tale just as I’m getting emotionally invested. More War Stories are planned as DLC, but it would have been nice to have a cohesive narrative that intertwined the characters into a connected plot.
The War Stories are good primers to get you comfortable with the controls and the various urban, arid, and frigid terrains, but the bulk of your Battlefield V experience will likely be spent in the numerous multiplayer modes. The most populated matches will undoubtedly be the 64-player Conquest and infantry-focused Domination, both of which utilize the standard capture points format. The pace is quick, but dashing from one flag to another, then circling back around to recapture a lost one, lacks originality. I much preferred the Frontlines and Breakthrough, which has you push back or press forward against the opposing team. It’s a more linear approach, but the intensity and need to cooperate with your allied company makes for a more engaging experience. These and few other options can all be found in Grand Operations, the campaign-style multiplayer that could last a few hours in itself, capped off with the Final Stand mode, a no respawn fight to the finish that is the closest thing to a battle royale. That is, until the official battle royale mode, called Firestorm, releases in March 2019.
The maps cover a variety of climates and population densities, but most are unremarkable. There is a mix between large and small area coverage, and the more rural, open maps leave a lot of barren space between objective points that require tedious sprinting to get back to the action. I was personally more partial to the urban sprawls, especially the Dutch Devastation map. It is a condensed battlefield littered with crumbling buildings and narrow alleys and loaded with walls to duck behind and windows to snipe from. DICE has done a fantastic job with the destructibility of structures, allowing environments to be completely reshaped from bombardments, rockets, grenades, and straight weapon-fire, forcing players to adjust their defensive tactics on the fly.
Win or lose, you’re always awarded with experience and Company Coins, Battlefield V’s in-game currency that replaces any sort of microtransactions or loot boxes. Only a few cosmetics are available for purchase using real cash. Weapons, vehicles, and character classes all have their own progression systems, and the freedom and breadth of customization is substantial, albeit bland, given the limited color palette used to keep the game somewhat grounded in realism.
The four classes: Assault, Medic, Recon (sniper), and Support, each have their own strengths to suit individual playstyles. I personally prefer playing healer and support roles, so being able to quickly revive fallen allies as a Medic or hastily erect fortifications as the Support and having my final score in the leaderboard reflect my assistance outweighs any kill tally for me. Leveling up classes will unlock different combat roles that gives each one different offensive or support preferences, but the class paths aren’t very expansive, making each succession pretty narrow in scope. Hopefully, class options will broaden with further content updates (which will all be free, by the way).
This is the part where I usually discuss the graphics, but I have to acknowledge the sound of Battlefield V first, as it is simply phenomenal. The composition in the brief tutorial campaign is enough to make you choke up, and the orchestral mix throughout the rest of the game is worthy of an award. The cacophony of explosions and bullet fire had me whipping my sights around in search of the origin points, but it’s the subtle sound effect details that really deserve the credit. Hunkering down in a building will soften the outside noise, but shots fired within will audibly ping off of walls with deafening proximity. Battles fought in the Norwegian winter will be muffled by the snowy landscape, and crumbling buildings in the Rotterdam maps accentuate the urban devastation. It is all incredibly immersive, and I strongly suggest tuning out the real world by playing with a good set of noise-cancelling headphones. The voice acting for the War Stories is passionately delivered, albeit slightly muddled with regards to the accents, and the tutorial scripts explaining each multiplayer mode are rough and grainy, needing a little tweaking in the editing room.
For the most part, Battlefield V looks beautiful. The landscape design for the maps may be generic, but you’ll quickly appreciate the strategic elements it offers. Whipping blizzards and billowing black clouds from an exploded oil tank will limit visibility, fields of grain make great spots to be prone and snipe from the ground, and structures suffering from varying degrees of destruction will test your skill by offering cover. The World War II-era weaponry is exceptionally authentic, with the reload animations not only looking good, but requiring some memorization, lest you be caught fumbling with ammunition at the wrong time. The camera is also spot-on, tilting side-to-side as you dash along the countryside and jolting when close to an explosion. The character models are the only thing detracting from the visual cleanliness. The facial features are fine, but the overall profiles are outdated, with movements that sacrifice fluid animations for tight controls.
2016’s Battlefield 1 was a refreshing revisit to the first World War that introduced new elements to the genre. Battlefield V refines some of those features, but doesn’t break any new innovative ground. It has enough content to keep you occupied, possesses a decent progression system that keeps you invested, and will receive free future DLC without a whiff of loot crates or microtransactions. However, it follows an expected blueprint that may quickly grow stale for players looking for a fresh FPS experience.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.3 Graphics
The landscapes play with climate and density, with dynamic destruction reshaping maps mid match. Animations are smooth, except for the somewhat jarring character models 4.3 Control
Camera controls and shooting mechanics are tight and responsive. Dealing with wounded allies, installing fortifications, and climbing ridges all could use a broader hitbox 4.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound design on almost every level is award worthy. Just a few muddles in accents and narration keep it from perfection 3.8 Play Value
There’s enough content on the platter with space for extra helpings, but I’m curious how many bites most will take before craving something other than the same old steak 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best