Republished on Wednesday 28th April, 2021: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of May 2021's PS Plus lineup. The original text follows.
Battlefield V's road to release hasn’t exactly been smooth, nor typical of an EA product. After a delay for further adjustments to gameplay and the setback of Battle Royale mode Firestorm to March 2019, players began to question what would be available when release day came around. And now that the time has arrived, we are greeted by a main menu plastered with advertisements for content that is yet to arrive. DICE’s latest still brings its A-game when it comes to classic Battlefield multiplayer action, but at launch, it doesn’t feel like a complete experience.
One thing you can engage with when you first boot up the game is the single player War Stories. First introduced in Battlefield 1, these short tales aim to tell the stories behind the soldiers that fought in the two world wars, with Battlefield V’s selection highlighting some of the more obscure accounts of World War 2. The three in question take a deep dive into the British Special Boat Section, the Norwegian resistance during German occupation, and the efforts of black West African soldiers in their bid to overthrow the Nazi regime in France.
You’ll notice that none of these are your typical D-Day simulations, and it’s here where War Stories truly excels. DICE has committed to exploring the lesser known perspectives of World War 2, and this is proven best by the Tirailleurs Senegalais’ efforts to liberate France. Initially scrubbed from the history books, the soldiers of colour played a large part in taking the country back from axis forces, however they received no recognition for their contribution. Things have changed in the years since, but the inclusion of their story is worthy of commendation. At the very least, it’s a most welcome change from the usual storming of the beaches of Normandy.
Unfortunately, though, what doesn’t set these short chapters apart from any other FPS campaign is the gameplay, which sticks to the conventional loop of destroying objectives, escorting commanding officers, and slimming the enemy numbers. Linear missions generally feel quite focused with a clear route to success and simple tasks to accomplish, but it’s in the more open-ended environments where Battlefield V begins to lose its way. Occasionally you’ll be presented with a large area and a series of objectives you need to carry out in any order or shape you see fit, but apart from the immediate vicinity the task is located in, you’ll be lucky to find anything else that’s interesting to see or interact with. Vast stretches of land are devoid of life or even structures, meaning that traversal between each locale is incredibly boring.
And even when you do reach the next objective, the experience doesn’t exactly impress. Take the destruction of an armoury and ammo stock for example, most enemies won’t even react to the explosion if you yourself haven’t been spotted, with many continuing their daily patrol. It’s FPS Campaign 101, but at least it’s over quickly with each campaign clocking in at roughly an hour. DICE should absolutely be praised for the lengths it goes to when trying to avoid telling the same story all over again, it’s just a shame that variety is nowhere to be seen when it’s time to pick up the controller.
You’re here for the multiplayer, though, and of course the Swedish developer has you covered in that regard. At launch, six different modes can be played across eight different maps for up to 64 players. That is indeed the lowest amount of maps a Battlefield game has ever had on day one, but DICE has tried to circumvent that by beefing up its Operations mode, now dubbed Grand Operations. Here, two teams fight it out over multiple in-game days, which span different battlefields, a variety of objectives, and deals with the struggle of gaining and losing land to your enemy. Alongside fan favourite Conquest, it is the go-to mode if you’re looking to invest a serious amount of time, with matches lasting up to an hour.
Alongside that, shorter game modes such as Team Deathmatch, Domination, and Frontlines make up the numbers to provide a multiplayer experience that will feel very familiar to returning players. Rather than overhaul any of its online mechanics, Battlefield V refines and makes minor improvements to the chaotic and vast battlegrounds it is known for. You’ll still have those classic Battlefield moments as you hold out against axis forces while your ticket counter drops to an alarming number, blow up a roof to bring the rubble down onto your opponents, or you swoop in from the air and eliminate an objective from a plane’s gunner seat. There’s no huge revelation to uncover, rather an even better Battlefield experience to discover.
However, while that may be true for the most part, it doesn’t come without its flaws. At launch, Battlefield V is suffering with an unusually high amount of bugs and glitches which have the potential to ruin a match. We’ve read reports of even further issues, but we ourselves have suffered with animation glitches that make aiming from turrets an impossibility, and the act of your gun detaching from your character meaning you can’t aim properly because the butt of your rifle is in your face rather than the iron sights. On top of that, geometry sometimes fails to load in, leaving a church’s bell tower suspended in mid-air, while trees and rocks don’t appear properly, making them look like pixelated messes. The cherry on top, though, was when the 'Return to combat area' warning incorrectly appeared on our screen, meaning we were killed after eight seconds for absolutely no reason. Every one of these issues is most likely a simple fix via a patch, but they begin to add up after occurring consecutively match after match to create an experience that you can’t fully rely on to be fair nor stable.
Perhaps Battlefield V’s biggest departure from what it’s known for comes in the form of its customisation and cosmetic capabilities. Your Company allows you to kit out the four classes of assault, medic, support, and recon to your exact taste, with class specific weapons for each and a ludicrous amount of customisation to whack on top. Specialisations allow you to affect the stats of a weapon, selecting four of eight different enhancements to better your chances of survival. As well as that, you can give it a scope and add decals in five different areas, and then each gun has its own level progression to work through. And then there’s your soldier themselves, who can be kitted out with different headgear, outfits, and face paint to really make them look the part. It’s an astronomical amount of customisation, and it’s all fuelled by the in-game currency named Company Coins.
Earned by levelling up and completing daily orders, the currency can be spent on cosmetic items for either your solider or skins for your weapons. This expands the visual capabilities beyond simple unlocks via progress and allows you to pick what you want when you want it. There is no way to purchase Company Coins via microtransactions, but EA has stated that a separate paid currency will be introduced at a later date.
And it’s that sort of delay that has become a major issue for Battlefield V. Some may be satisfied with what’s on offer at launch, but many advertised features and modes still aren’t actually available. A fourth single-player War Story and the first chapter of the multiplayer Tides of War campaign are both set to arrive in December, while Firestorm won’t be playable until March 2019. It’s this final omission that hurts the most, because sure, every content update will be free, but it means that Battlefield V won’t be feature-complete for another four months.
Battlefield V is going to be a great game, of that we’re sure, but due to a number of glaring omissions at launch and one too many glitches, the final product isn’t there just yet. Series veterans are sure to feel at home with what’s on offer now, though, thanks to a solid multiplayer offering that sticks to the tried and true nature of what makes Battlefield tick.