Battlefield V's Battle Royale mode, Firestorm, feels like the game's last chance to capture any sort of significant player base. After a rocky launch in November 2018 that failed to light the world on fire, the promise was made that a significant amount of content would be added to the experience by way of a long, long roadmap. Firestorm was that bright light shining in the distance, but now that it's here, can it compete in the increasingly crowded Battle Royale market?
First impressions were positive. Firestorm retains that classic Battlefield loop of gritty, intense action in amongst the clashes of Allied and Axis forces in World War 2. As you make the jump from the plane at the beginning of a match, you'll feel like a real paratrooper dropping behind enemy lines. Scout other players' parachutes to get an idea of where the enemy is headed while making sure your own landing spot is clear of hostiles, but don't get too comfy. There's a firestorm on its way destroying anything and everything in its wake, so you need to get to the circle as quickly as possible.
Make no doubt about it, Firestorm is a Battle Royale mode in every possible way, but it's the visual aspects around the outskirts that impress the most. World War 2 isn't a setting that the genre has explored on consoles until now, and so Battlefield V immediately stands out from the crowd. It's the firestorm itself that excites the most, though. It's a visual spectacle seeing it slowly close in from the outskirts of the map, and getting anywhere near it raises the temperature a notch or two. While other games in the genre opt for a generic wall that damages anyone outside of it, Firestorm gives some actual context to the mechanic. It's not something you'll be thinking about as you and two other players battle it out for the top spot, but for a casual player, it's a rather impressive feat.
However, when you compare the experience to other Battle Royale games, Battlefield V struggles to stack up. Rather strangely, the simple act of looting is much harder than it should be. Weapons will spawn on top of each other in houses, making it tougher to engage in the elementary action of picking a gun up. It's hard to tell the difference between ammo types. There's no colour coding to tell you what's what and whether or not it could benefit your current build. Attachments are missing in action. Vehicles can only be driven so much until they run out of petrol.
Taken on their own, the absence of one or maybe two of those features isn't such a big deal, but collectively, it feels like Battlefield V missed the boat on what players expect out of a Battle Royale in 2019. We haven't even mentioned the inventory system and its management yet either, which is a downright mess. Just switching between weapons you find on the ground is a chore as it's far too easy to get mixed up working out which one was your original gun.
Apex Legends brought the ping system to the masses and most Battle Royales have copied it since, and Battlefield V is no different. However, it's a completely inferior version. You can indeed press the R1 button to mark the location of an enemy, but that's as far as it goes. In contrast, Apex Legends allows you to put out different markers depending on whether it's a double tap or a hold of the button, which Battlefield V lacks completely. It fulfils its most important function, but with DICE's version lacking all the extra inputs, it comes across as misinformed. The ping system is supposed to be about more than just marking a combatant's general whereabouts.
Outside of the mode itself, we suffered with significantly long queue times. It can take a good two to three minutes to get into a lobby that isn't even full, and then you'll have to wait a further 60 seconds for the match to count down to zero once there are enough players in-game. In that same space of time, you could be well on your way to a victory in Fortnite or Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's Blackout mode. It's far too long to wait in-between rounds, and while that's more down to how many people are playing at any one time rather than Firestorm itself, it's not a good sign for a mode that only just released. If Battlefield V continues its downward trend, you might struggle to find a full match in a month or two's time.
Firestorm could have been Battlefield V's chance to hit the big time, much like its predecessors have, but we can only chalk it up as a major missed opportunity. The mode is fine in its own right, hardcore players are sure to latch onto it, but when you compare it to what's already on the market, it pales in comparison to the likes of Apex Legends. Multiple free-to-play titles have already bettered it, and so we wonder who this is really for. It feels like EA DICE released Firestorm out of necessity in order to keep up with the times, rather than for a love of the Battle Royale genre.
Have you been playing Battlefield V's new Firestorm mode? Are you enjoying it? Get to the circle in the comments below.