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Review: Battlefield V Lacks Identity, Still Manages to be Fun

Screenshot: Battlefield V

I’ve been playing the Battlefield series since its inception. It was released in the heyday of World War 2 shooters and had a heavy influence on grand battle-type shooters. Now developer DICE pretty much has the large-scale war down to what feels like a yearly release schedule with a new Battlefield (and now Battlefront) release almost every year since 2002. EA DICE was able to get a lot of goodwill over their competition with the announcement of Battlefield 1, but failed to keep up the momentum with their latest installment in this long running series, Battlefield V.

Screenshot: Battlefield V

Battlefield V finds the Battlefield series returning to its original setting, but it’s definitely not a return to its roots. Early impressions of Battlefield V were not good. Fans cried foul with the first trailer’s fast and loose depiction of World War 2, and insisted on a more realistic experience. It seems EA DICE did listen a bit, and while the World War 2 that is in Battlefield V feels a little more authentic, it certainly doesn’t feel specific to any time period. In fact, everything feels more like a sort of generic “old weapon” shooter than the cohesive, Band of Brothers/Saving Private Ryan-inspired World War 2 setting its previous installments had. In other words: Battlefield V still seems to suffer from an identity crisis.

Screenshot: Battlefield V

Still, there is more “authentic” World War 2 in Battlefield V than there isn’t, even if some iconic weapons/vehicles are notably absent—the M1 Garand and Browning Automatic Rifle stood out to me the most. By “authentic,” I mostly mean there doesn’t seem to be hordes of cybernetic amputees running around, but EA DICE even acknowledges that it’s not trying to portray a World War 2 that’s realistic. To be fair, a “realistic” war game wouldn’t be very fun.

Screenshot: Battlefield V

If you’re at all familiar with EA DICE’s brand of war game, you’ll feel comfortable with Battlefield V. There are some key changes to the formula and other variations to common themes, but much more feels familiar than radical. There is a token single player mode that follows the cues from Battlefield 1’s single player, and there are multiple multiplayer modes—from chaotic all-out war, to smaller infantry focused affairs.

Screenshot: Battlefield V

One of the best things about Battlefield V is the faster pace, and the ability to feel like finding the action was quick and easy. So often I felt like I was running around in Battlefield 1 for a long time just to be shot before I got to do anything fun. I didn’t really feel that way in Battlefield V. Maps seems tighter, and put together with a fantastic degree of consideration for both infantry and vehicular playstyles. I hadn’t had as much fun playing Battlefield maps in years. The variety is pretty great, too, with locales ranging from urban to rural; snowy, to lush. The weapons and vehicles that you can play with in these playgrounds leave a little to be desired, though.

Screenshot: Battlefield V

Don’t get me wrong, the weaponry in Battlefield V is mostly fun to use, and feels like it has the appropriate oomph, but everything feels the same after a while—and even the stat differences between weapons don’t have any interesting trade-offs to make experimentation enticing. Still, I didn’t find it hard to favorite a few different weapons across different classes, and despite the timeframe feeling generic, the old weapon feel is great. It really feels like you’re chucking heavy slugs downrange, with the sound effects doing a great job selling the experience.

Screenshot: Battlefield V

The multiplayer modes are the meat of any Battlefield game. Conquest is sort of the marquee mode, being a “huge” battle of 32 players against another 32 players using all manner of war accoutrements, from machine guns to airplanes. There are no more dreadnoughts like Battlefield 1 had–instead, you have to rely on clever teamwork to come from behind in Battlefield V. In addition to Conquest, there is a Grand Operations mode that adds a narrative to a series of multiplayer missions, with the overall victor being declared after three or four battles over as many in-game days. These Grand Operations are often a mixture of infantry-focused and larger scale maps, so it’s a nice mixture, but the narration added to the interstitial scenes does little than to reinforce that you are indeed winning (or losing).

Screenshot: Battlefield V

The classes in Battlefield V have been changed around a bit again, and I think EA DICE has gone in the proper direction with it this time. Each class feels useful, and fun to play. Assault is armed with anti-armor kits from the get-go, and and Support gets their machine guns and ammo pouches back. Support also has the added aptitude in building fortifications faster, something that has just been added to Battlefield with this installment, and something any class can do. The Scout/Sniper class has been given the duty of spotting, so even players who don’t want to sit on the objective and choose to hang back and snipe can contribute meaningfully to the team. And while medics can help fallen players up faster, every player has the ability to help downed comrades.

Screenshot: Battlefield V

Each class can be customized to a pretty great extent. The normal options of weapons, kit, etc. are there, but there are lots of cosmetic customization options as well. I didn’t run into many of the radical options that were shown off in the original trailer, but you can make each character pretty unique. The Allies and the Axis sort of share a pool of different “characters” that you can assign to each of these roles with the Axis being more limited due to them being racist, so all you’ll find is white people to play as there. Every role can be female if you choose– a customization option that was controversial at announcement, but in practice is hardly noticeable. Most players I shoot I couldn’t tell you if they were female or male, or even what customization options they were using.

Screenshot: Battlefield V

The single player experience is really nothing special. The first taste of Battlefield V (unless you skip it) is the same type of death collage shtick that they pulled with Battlefield 1. It’s a weird glorification of the video game war you’re about to experience, but its photorealism drives home the feeling that this whole thing is in bad taste. It almost masturbatory about how war-like war is, all under some guise of trying to honor these fallen soldiers while simultaneously glorify the bullshit they had to partake in. Luckily, the rest of the single player isn’t so egregious. It consists of three (four, once the last campaign is released) short stories of different experiences throughout the war. You play as a proto special operations soldier in one, a Norwegian freedom fighter in another, and a black French infantryman in the third (with the subject of black soldiers being at the forefront.) There are collectibles to find, and doing so will earn you unique weapons to use in the multiplayer game, but while they’re worth playing, there isn’t anything of such note in them to make them stand out. They’re entirely skippable, but interesting.

Screenshot: Battlefield V

Despite its official release being November 20th, Battlefield V is, for all intents and purposes, a released product. But the early EA (or Origin) Premier access feels a bit like a beta test with all of the bugs I was encountering. From UI issues to missing (or wonky) player animations, bugs were aplenty. There was nothing that was game breaking, and while my partner did experience a few disconnects and crashes that marred their experience a bit, I didn’t run into nearly as many problems.

Screenshot: Battlefield V

I briefly mentioned the sound earlier, but EA DICE really did a phenomenal job with selling the whole war experience aurally. The chaotic battle scenes are tied perfectly together by the ping of ricocheting bullets, and the screams of battle. The musical soundtrack is epically cinematic, but suffers from being generic itself. I miss the days of catchy Battlefield menu music.

Screenshot: Battlefield V

Battlefield V feels like it’s just treading water. It’s not really a refinement from previous entries—more like a variation, and one that I prefer over Battlefield 1. It’s not really a return to its roots, like they’re touting, but more like a exploration of different time periods. The depiction of World War 2 here is certainly not one that I’m familiar with, it doesn’t feel too inauthentic, but it also doesn’t feel very notable, lacking a lot of character and making the whole game feel generic. Still, it’s faster paced with satisfying gunplay, and if that’s what you want, I don’t think you’ll go wrong here.

Screenshot: Battlefield V

Battlefield V officially releases on the 20th, with owners of the Deluxe Edition getting access a little bit earlier on the 15th. If you pay into EA’s Origin Access (on PC) or EA Access (on Xbox One) you can actually start playing Battlefield V in the time it takes to download the client. Otherwise Battlefield V will be available to all PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows players November 20th.

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