November 11, 2018
After covering the gruelling World War I era, there was really only one place that DICE could take the Battlefield series next. And while we hoped that Battlefield 1 might be followed up by a new Bad Company game, Battlefield V instead takes you through some of the lesser-known tales of World War II, across North Africa, Norway and France. And it's good. Really, really good.
Unlike this year's Call of Duty, Battlefield V embraces the single-player campaign with a triumvirate of untold or forgotten War Stories that cover a range of objectives from differing perspectives. As ever, the campaign serves as a neat primer for the main meal of multiplayer with several intense scenarios to tackle, and although certain sections place slightly too much of an emphasis on stealth, they're well-paced and well-executed.
The first of BFV's War Stories, 'Under No Flag' sees you playing as tearaway convict and cockney geezer Billy Bridger, attempting to deal a major blow to the Axis by destroying key enemy sites with his mentor, which boils down to quietly slitting throats during the first act, before striving to stay alive as the enemy bears down on you in the third. Second story 'Nordlys' is a stark contrast to Under No Flag's black humour, more sombre in tone but far more compelling, as commando Solveig Fia Bjørnstad infiltrates a snowy enemy facility to rescue a captive freedom fighter, then strives to stay alive in the midst of a swirling blizzard.
Third chapter 'Tirailleur' is more traditional Battlefield fare, as you take on the role of black soldier Deme Cisse in a non-stop assault against the last vestiges of occupying forces amid the bucolic French countryside. Each of these three War Stories have their highlights, but they're quite short-lived, even when you factor in collectibles, challenges and difficulty levels. Arguably, Battlefield 1 did a slightly better job in delivering its War Stories, but there are more to come (and co-op in Combined Arms), as the campaign menu teases.
Multiplayer remains the main draw in Battlefield V then, and as such, there are a range of modes to delve into including series mainstay and likely your first port-of-call: Conquest. Still the go-to Battlefield mode (personally, I prefer Rush, but hey-ho), Conquest has you battling over zones, raising your team's flag to mark your territory, but then you probably already knew that. In BFV, Conquest battles can often come right down to the wire, despite the absence of BF1's momentum-shifting 'Behemoths' like the zeppelin, battleship or armoured train. You can call in reinforcements as a squad leader, though.
Clearly, Conquest is a well-balanced affair, as is evident in the majority of matches being so close-fought, even if you may still run into the occasional total whitewash, whereby you end up winning or losing by a ridiculous margin. Either way, BFV has taken things back to basics somewhat, also doing away with Elite classes, which in turn ensures a level playing field. Largely gimmick-free, Battlefield V's multiplayer is simply about playing the objective and working together as a team. In that vein, it's not only Medics who can revive fallen allies (Support engineers can too), keeping your squad alive and kicking for longer. At least that's the idea. You have to rely on your teammates to actually revive you.
Lengthy Conquest battles can grow a mite dull after extended periods of play, however, and if you're on the receiving end of a total battering with no chance of turning things around, it can be especially grating. Should you grow wary of Conquest, you can mix it up by jumping into 32-player 'Infantry Focus' modes like Domination, Team Deathmatch and Frontlines, dispensing with vehicles and other fripperies in favour of more intimate and grounded skirmishes, or choose to go even bigger with the multi-day all-out war of Grand Operations. Whichever mode you opt for, you'll feel vulnerable in the heat of a firefight, making smart, considered play and a sound strategy of paramount importance. Choosing the right class, pared down to Assault, Medic, Support, and Recon, also proves vital, as always.
Conquest and Grand Operations deliver Battlefield at its most unadulterated, a vast maelstrom of chaos and action in which you push to attack the opposing team's position or hold and defend your own territory. DICE has boiled Battlefield V down right to the essence of what really makes it unique, while evolving the destructible elements of the previous game – albeit with some limitations - making for dynamic and exciting engagements, be it across the epic, all-encompassing Grand Operations, Conquest or the smaller Infantry Focus matches. Nowhere is safe.
Suffice it to say that Battlefield V doesn't skimp on large-scale multiplayer modes and heightened tension, and while the base game's eight maps might not sound like a lot, taking into account the sheer scale and level of detail in each, it never seems like there's a dearth of environments. The quality of the maps is superb too, taking in picturesque pastoral French vistas, snowy Norwegian mountain passes, and the war-torn Dutch city of Rotterdam. It offers a new slant on the depiction of World War II in video games to date, moving away from predictable locations and scenarios that have been visited in WWII games innumerable times, to seldom explored theatres of conflict.
There are new multiplayer mechanics too, like the self heal, so you can slink away and administer a medical pouch to your wounds, and there are fortifications you can build to help shore up and defend captured positions with sandbags, makeshift barriers and barbed wire. It's another neat wrinkle to Battlefield V's multiplayer that's more than welcome, much like the increased emphasis on customisation in the game's Company menu, with all manner of weapon components and attire to earn as you level up.
DICE has done a pretty bang-up job with Battlefield V, and although there's a few too many greyed-out 'coming soon' menu options (like the 'Firing Range' – who's going to use that two weeks after launch?) and the upcoming Tides of War, there's still plenty here. There are very minor bugs, like the odd instance where you have the inability to vault over a tiny rock or tree trunk, or being able to see through the floor while dying and screaming for help in multiplayer, but they take nothing away from the experience.
Managing to up the ante after Battlefield 1 is no mean feat, but DICE has pulled it out of the bag for Battlefield V, delivering more compelling single-player War Stories and arguably the most visceral and exciting large-scale multiplayer around. While not a exactly a huge leap over DICE's previous WWI effort, Battlefield V is another superb entry in the series that hits all of the right notes with a respectful take on World War II.
A soaring, cinematic orchestral score and remarkable sound effects make Battlefield V an exemplar of what this kind of game should be. Superlative.
Utterly stunning, BFV is drenched in detail and conjures some incredible vistas. Its destructible maps look sensational too, even if they're not entirely bug-free.
On-foot and in tanks, Battlefield V is never anything but a joy, save for the odd traversal-based annoyance. I'm still rubbish at piloting planes though, which is a shame, as I quite fancied myself as a Spitfire ace.
Single-player and multiplayer both have a lot to offer, with a glut of cosmetic rewards to unlock for your chosen custom soldiers. Incidentally, microtransactions are completely innocuous, and easily ignored.
Another very poor list that's entirely devoid of imagination. Complete the campaign, attain a handful of milestones, and that's it. Move along.
Battlefield V builds upon its predecessor in meaningful ways, DICE stripping away practically every one of the series' fripperies to get to the nub of what truly makes the series tick. This is Battlefield at its most undiluted and raw, and it's all the better for it.