With games like Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 and Rainbow Six Siege focusing solely on multiplayer, it could feel like the single player first person shooter is on the way out. Thankfully, the developers of WWII shooter Battlefield V understand the importance of single-player and may have crafted one of the most authentic war games to date.
Like Battlefield 1 before it, Battlefield V favours a series of shorter stories over one long campaign. Each of the War Stories focuses on different characters in different countries during the Second World War. Developer DICE is telling stories from the war that you haven’t played before based on places and events you have probably never heard of. It’s more Dunkirk than Saving Private Ryan. Because how can anyone top Spielberg’s Normandy assault?
Battlefield V Design Director Eric Holmes asked me if I had heard of a book called Forgotten Heroes of World War II. It’s a collection of stories, often vignettes from veterans on their time at war. Holmes never outright said this book was the inspiration for Battlefield V’s War Stories, although he did state it as a defining read when I asked how DICE conducts its research.
Holmes reinforced the point that the characters in Battlefield V are ordinary people, not heroes. That the reason for exploring multiple stories instead of just one is variation. “This way, a character can be an expert in one thing, and we can explore it further. Pilot. Sniper. Assassin. Engineer. If you combine all that stuff, then you end up with James Bond. It dials the immersion right back.”
Following a brief prologue, we went hands-on with the first three War Stories. Nordlys unfolds in Norway, 1943. It’s mountainous terrain drenched in thick layers of snow and ice. You play as an 18-year-old female resistance fighter tasked with busting a comrade out of Nazi captivity. It’s the War Story that was previewed back at E3.
There’s no poor quality English dubbing. Every foreign character speaks in their native language, and the English translation comes through in subtitles. DICE is making the Battlefield V experience as authentic as possible.
Nordlys’ offers more of an open world design than what’s found in previous Battlefield games. Players are encouraged to explore the branching paths and make use of the tools on hand. In the opening sequence, I had the option of sneaking through a Nazi checkpoint and under a bridge, picking up a silenced pistol and quietly taking out enemies. I could have also crossed the bridge, shooting targets with my rifle. Or I could have commandeered a truck and ran the Nazis down, dealing with reinforcements gun-blazing like a 1940’s Sarah Connor. In a following chapter, I equipped a pair of skis and traversed the snow, completing objectives in whatever order I saw fit.
The following War Story was just as flexible. Under No Flag sees young Brit Billy Bridger recruited for his explosive skills and sent on a mission to North Africa. There was only one objective: break into the hanger and destroy the enemy’s planes. Still, I could tackle the diverse battleground in multiple ways. I opted for stealth until my cover was blown. Then, I stole a tank and blasted my way to the objective.
The third War Story was Tirailleur. It’s 1944. Operation Dragoon. Allied forces are invading Nazi-occupied Southern France, recapturing their homeland. Tirailleur follows Senegalese soldiers within the French Colonial forces who are treated poorly by the French, yet fight to free a home that they have never seen. It’s an interesting story. One I assume most people are unfamiliar with.
Tirailleur was less open than the previous War Stories, and the Battlefield multiplayer mode Conquest inspires its objectives. Players fight their way up a hill, weaving in and out of concrete barricades to recapture a bunker, before defending it from reinforcements. It’s still a vast, open environment, but there was less variety in how these objectives could be completed. Still, a multitude of weaponry and explosives to make use of.
Overall, Battlefield V’s War Stories are extensive and more diverse, but the gunplay and vehicle combat remains much the same as Battlefield 1. A different war means different weapons and vehicles. Less bolt action rifles mean less reloading and faster gunplay. We played around the first third of each War Story. This suggests each could take around 3 hours to complete.
Finally, we saw the trailer for a fourth War Story – The Last Tiger. This one is sure to be controversial. The story is told from the German’s point of view. The trailer was brief. It shows a tank crew concerned over their mission and the families they left at home.
I asked Eric Holmes how DICE plans to make the German’s sympathetic to a western audience. “We’re not whitewashing it. We’re not making them heroes. These guys have dirty hands and its something they have to deal with. The theme of the Last Tiger is actions have consequences.”
The Battlefield V multiplayer beta has already taken place. Now we’ve sampled War Stories which add texture to the game world. Fun too. There’s still the Co-op mode Combined Arms to try and the battle royale mode Firestorm. But from what we’ve played, Battlefield V is shaping up nicely.
Battlefield V launches on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One November 20.