To borrow a line from another popular franchise: War never changes. That is unless you strap skis on a teenage Norwegian girl and give her the skills of a hardened spy.
Several weeks ago I went hands-on with Battlefield V’s single-player campaign War Stories and back then I described them as original and authentic. After playing the full campaign, or at least the portion that’s available at launch, the War Stories are far from authentic. They are over-the-top in all the right ways. Each plays like a Hollywood thriller that’s aware of whitewashing controversy so instead, tells niche stories of foreigners in interesting war-themed scenarios. Still, they are all great fun and unlike any other war narrative.
The First War Story Under No Flag stars undisciplined Brit Billy Bridger recruited for his explosive skills and sent on a North African mission into enemy territory. This campaign is diverse, shifting between a stealth mission to sabotage enemy planes to an open world setting before ending with a standoff against waves of Nazi troops. Throughout, Billy is joined by his commanding officer, and the two have some genuinely amusing banter.
The second campaign is Nordlys, and it’s the one with the skis. Nordlys centres on a teenage resistance fighter on a mission to rescue a captured loved one before destroying a Nazi facility. Like Under No Flag, Nordlys is split into chapter-like scenarios where the gameplay shifts between stealth, surviving the cold and an open world section traversed on skis. This War Story is understandably played with subtitles as the characters speak in their native languages. I found it difficult to read the text because I was distracted by the action or lost the words in the snowscape.
I give DICE full credit for its varied gameplay. Not once did I find these missions repetitive or uninspired, which is impressive when you consider it’s a game about shooting enemies over and over. I drew comparisons to the brilliant campaign in Titanfall 2 which successfully introduced new and fun mechanics in each level.
At this point, the campaign felt unlike the large-scale warfare of previous Battlefield games. Thankfully the final War Story available at launch ticked those boxes. Tirailleur follows Senegalese soldiers within the French Colonial forces fighting to free a home they have never seen. It’s an interesting story, and one I assume most players will be unfamiliar with. Tirailleur is more traditional Battlefield gameplay and borrows cues from the multiplayer mode Conquest but with an impressive hilltop set piece added to the mix.
What’s surprising about these mini-campaigns is the lack of vehicle combat. Although it’s probably being held back for the fourth and final War Story. The Last Tiger is told from the German’s point of view. It tells the story of a tank crew concerned over their mission and families left at home. The Last Tiger is expected to be available in early December.
So why is DICE holding this story back? No idea. Especially after the negative feedback surrounding microtransactions in their previous game Star Wars Battlefront II. One would expect DICE and EA to do everything possible to regain the support of players, but this decision has left me wondering. It may not seem like a big deal, but The Last Tiger is just one of the many features not available at launch. More on this later.
Battlefield V’s multiplayer improves on gameplay but is plagued by glitches and game-breaking bugs. Health no longer regenerates, making the Medic class more critical than ever. Tagging opponents is also gone. It’s now a skill reserved for Recon and only possible when looking through a scope. Players receive new animations to make traversing the landscape appear more realistic which complements the enhanced visuals of the game.
I don’t exactly know how to describe the biggest and most accomplished gameplay improvement, but it’s now easier to get kills. Also easier to get killed. It appears that hit damage is increased, making opponents drop from a bullet or two instead of many. Combine this with what feels like an improved online connection (improved for Australians at least) and combat feels more satisfying and overall, more balanced and fair.
Maps are selected randomly, and several game modes including the new Grand Operations require several rounds to be played on the same map. This means that after a dozen hours or so I’m still becoming acquainted with the maps. I do like the diverse offerings. My favourite maps include the claustrophobic city streets of Rotterdam and the open swamps and farmlands of Twisted Steel which offers a large bridge at its centre. The overwhelming whiteness of Narvic and Fjell 652, the two maps set in the snow, can lead to some frustrating visibility issues.
The only things currently holding Battlefield V’s multiplayer back are the server issues and occasional game-breaking bugs. It takes too long to find a game. Each time I boot up multiplayer, I’m left waiting upwards of 3 minutes to find a match, not including how long it then takes the game to load. Plus, Australian servers have long queues which means even more waiting.
I experienced your typical variety of amusing glitches like spawning on another player’s head and my weapon being replaced by an arm. However, the most frustrating and most common issue I experienced was the game getting stuck in a loading screen between matches. The only way to fix this is to close the game, boot it up again and hope the same match that your squad is playing still has an open slot. If not, make your way to the end of the queue. The friends who I play with have all experienced this issue for themselves.
Just like War Stories, multiplayer has content missing at launch. I understand and completely support DICE’s decision to add content post-launch. It’s almost guaranteed to keep people playing well into 2019. Although the absence of several modes is baffling. The strangest is the absent Shooting Range which won’t be added ’til December. You know, the mode that’s supposed to teach people how to play. It’s not coming for several weeks.
The co-op mode Combined Arms isn’t available yet. Neither is the teased battle royale mode Firestorm. You’ll have to wait until March 2019 for that one. The good news is that both modes, along with multiplayer maps will be available for free.
Battlefield V is an adequate entry in the long-running franchise and those who actually engage the War Stories will discover a memorable campaign. Fans of multiplayer will find more of the same along with enough tweaks and visual upgrades to distinguish it from the previous games. The wide variety of bugs could dissuade some. The good news is that patches are already rolling out. I do not understand holding specific content behind a timed wall after EA was heavily criticised for holding content behind a paywall. It’s not enough to diminish the experience. Just odd.
Battlefield V is available now on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
Man of Many received a copy of Battlefield V courtesy of the publisher.