Release Date: November 15, 2018Platform: XBO (reviewed), PS4, PCDeveloper: DICEPublisher: Electronic ArtsGenre: First-person Shooter
Battlefield V is like your best friend showing up to a party with a couple of bottles missing from a really good six-pack. You’re glad to see him, and the six-pack isn’t going to spoil an otherwise good time, it’s just kind of confusing and maybe a little rude that he came with something that was enjoyable yet clearly incomplete. The launch version of Battlefield V is a very good game that’s clearly missing a few parts.
The last game in the series, Battlefield 1, was well-received, so EA DICE smartly decided to build on what worked, keeping many of the modes and gameplay intact, but moving the setting from World War I to World War II. Yes, World War II is well-tread ground in video games, but Battlefield V‘s campaign wisely focuses on lesser known parts of the war: the Special Boat Service in Northern Africa, the Norwegian resistance, and the Senegalese Tirailleurs.
The campaign is short, with all three stories clocking in at under six hours total, but that just means less filler. This may be DICE’s best campaign yet, full of huge set pieces, smart level design, and truly emotional storytelling that rivals some of Hollywood’s greatest war epics.
The highlight of these three stories is “Nordlys,” which focuses on a young woman’s attempt to rescue another member of the Norwegian resistance and stop Germany’s fledgling nuclear weapons programs. Not only is it a great story, but it’s also filled with tense stealth, an awesome skiing mechanic, and a memorable survival mission. While the entire game looks great (especially on the Xbox One X), running through the snow-covered mountains of Norway under the aurora borealis is an especially stunning use of the Frostbite 3 engine.
“Under No Flag,” the Special Boat Service campaign, focuses more on guerilla action and two freedom fighters destroying parts of the Axis war machine in the desert. It requires a good amount of scouting and smart strategy that feels a lot like Far Cry in a World War II setting.
Finally, “Tirailleur,” is a more traditional Battlefield campaign set during the allied invasion of France. From a gameplay perspective, it’s probably the least interesting of the three campaigns, but the story of these oft-forgotten French-African recruits is a compelling one.
That said, as strong as these stories are, it’s also here that Battlefield V’s unfinished nature becomes apparent. A fourth campaign “The Last Tiger” is locked out on the menu and labeled “coming soon.” It’s a shame that DICE has given fans so little single-player content to start.
My playthrough was largely free of technical issues, but it wasn’t uncommon to see enemies flying 50 feet in the air after I shot them. There are some more minor annoyances throughout, though. For example, while it may be authentic that all the characters in the campaign speak in their native languages, keeping up with subtitles in the midst of a gunfight isn’t optimal. It’s even worse when the bright white text is set against a white background– like the snow covering much of the “Nordlys” campaign. This is undoubtedly nit-picky, though. Battlefield V is ultimately a very polished experience.
As for multiplayer, it’s as fun as ever, but pretty barebones at launch, with only Conquest, Grand Operations, and other traditional match types available. “Grand Operations” is similar to the Operations mode introduced in Battlefield 1, but now culminates in a “final stand” that arms players with only their default weapon, limited ammo, and no respawns.
At its core, the multiplayer still follows the traditional Battlefield formula. It’s the most enjoyable large-scale shooter around, one that truly rewards those who put the time into it. Online play is silky smooth and I had no trouble with matchmaking in my playtime before wide release.
Just be aware that Battlefield V’s most innovative multiplayer modes aren’t yet available. “Tides of War,” the new evolving multiplayer narrative that replaces a paid season pass won’t be out until December. The new battle royale “Firestorm” mode doesn’t launch until 2019, and that’s likely when the four-player cooperative “Combined Arms” mode will hit as well. All of these modes will be free for early adopters, but it’s still disappointing that more of them didn’t make it into the game at launch.
Battlefield V in its current state isn’t a revolutionary game. At this point, it’s almost everything that’s made the series great distilled into its leanest, purest essence, but between what’s available now and what’s coming down the line, there’s no reason not to check out one of the 2018’s best shooters.
Chris Freiberg is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.