Battlefield V review: ambitious WWII action

DICE delivers a solid WWII shooter that leaves us wanting more solo-centric War Stories

You know that when a game’s opening cinematic is narrated by the dulcet tones of respected Hollywood actor Mark Strong, you’re probably in for an epic ride. Mood-setting and foreboding as it may be, however, such gravitas is justified if only to tee up the period that this year’s Battlefield seeks to dutifully depict – the horrific events that made up World War II. While Battlefield V is as deep and ‘fun’ an entry into EA’s trademark first-person shooter franchise as one would expect, it also serves as a reminder of what can be achieved when war is placed front and centre of a game, rather than brushed to the side as background.

Battlefield V’s overt sense of honour, respect, and ultimately seriousness comes as a result of the previous title, 2016’s Battlefield 1 – this feels like a direct continuation. That game did an amazing job of letting you experience certain slices of World War I through the introduction of War Stories: vignette-style chapters that each centred on a different character. As far as structures for a single-player campaign go, it enhanced what was previously a weak point of the franchise, and so it’s nice to see it make an appearance once again. This time, shedding light on some of WWII’s lesser known facets.

Most of the stories you experience and the characters you play in Battlefield V’s three breakout chapters might be completely fictional, but the circumstances surrounding them have their roots firmly set in history. Under No Flag is the first of which you’re ushered towards, centring on convicted felon Billy Bragger who is offered a chance of freedom should he aid the Special Boat Service’s efforts in North Africa. It’s a modest but effective story of a young man trying to steer himself straight, and works as a nice contrast to the earnest characters we’re so used to seeing portrayed in such fire scenarios.

The second of Battlefield V’s War Stories is another intimate affair, taking place in 1943, during the German occupation of Norway. Playing as a determined resistance soldier attempting to rescue her mother by infiltrating a Nazi stronghold under the subtle glow of the Northern lights. In between the usual bouts of sabotage and gunplay, one memorable sequence from this chapter has you dashing from fire to fire in the effort to prevent hypothermia from setting in. It’s the little details like this where Battlefield V’s single-player offering solidifies its dedication to be a human story above anything else.

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The third and final story (for the time being anyway), Tirailleur, similarly does a good job at making you feel the mortality of those who sacrificed their lives during WWII, taking place at the cusp of the effort’s end as part of Operation Dragoon in Southern France. Our one complaint with all of Battlefield V’s single-player slices is that we simply could have done with more of them. While all follow the same basic format of dropping you in a space, gunning down enemies, before often blowing up an enemy encampment, cool ideas like the one mentioned previously are always being offered up; only the scenarios are so brief, there’s never any time to fully realise them.

This is almost certainly due to more resources being poured into Battlefield V’s multiplayer portion, which knowingly attracts a larger, devoted player base that won’t bother touching War Stories – awesome as they might be. Needless to say, what’s on offer in this regard is highly polished and immersive. The sights and sounds from the single-player campaign successfully translate into Battlefield V’s large-scale online skirmishes, which take place across any one of eight varied maps. That might not seem like a lot in the long run, but with developer DICE having already promised more via free updates, just think of it as time you can spend getting familiar with each layout before the next couple of releases.

And while we’re on the subject of content updates, it’s worth noting that Battlefield V currently features no microtransactions or paid-for DLC. Whether a concerted effort on DICE’s part not to taint the intended realism of World War II or a mandate from EA following the PR fiasco that came when last year’s Star Wars: Battlefront II was plagued with them, the decision means that every player starts on level ground when venturing online. The highest player count being 64 in long-term multiplayer mode Conquest, this is a very good thing.

Battlefield V’s newfound attempts at realism sees the biggest change to multiplayer come in the form of the new company system, which lets you create multiple characters with their own unique look and weapon loadout. These translate to all your standard classes such as medic, assault, and so on, playing into the general sense of squad-based camaraderie indicative of the friendships formed during the Second World War. The intensity and high risk of Conquest’s flag-capturing, push-and-pull tug of war might be the main attraction of Battlefield V’s multiplayer, but the truth is that the WWII coat of paint merges well with the destructible environments present in all modes.

The full scope of what Battlefield V will eventually become proves a tricky one to predict and we’re yet to see what the Battlefield brand of Battle Royale will look like until it eventually releases some time next year. This year’s Call Of Duty, Blackout, is already lighting up the online servers with its particular iteration of the large-scale survival mode, so DICE will need to bring its A-game. Based on what’s already available we’re optimistic.

With Call Of Duty relinquishing the right to a campaign in this instance, Battlefield V has something of an open goal when appealing to those looking for a polished, if all-too brief single-player experience. The multiplayer portion remains similarly refined in line with previous series entries – it’s just a shame that so much of Battlefield V is yet to make itself known.

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Battlefield V is out now for PC, Xbox One, PS4


4 out of 5