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Battlefield V

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: DICE
Release Date: Nov. 20, 2018

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Xbox One Review - 'Battlefield V'

by Cody Medellin on Nov. 16, 2018 @ 3:00 a.m. PST

Enter mankind's greatest conflict with Battlefield V as the series goes back to its roots with a never-before-seen portrayal of World War 2.

Buy Battlefield V

Aside from the football games (both FIFA and Madden), the Battlefield series is probably EA's most important franchises. Despite the more recent attempt to annualize it in the form of Battlefield: Hardline, the series has been a consistent release every two years. Two years have passed since the release of Battlefield 1, and like clockwork, we're getting Battlefield V, the series' return to World War II. What makes this game interesting isn't the setting but the fact that the shooter landscape has changed quite a bit. Its main competition on consoles, Call of Duty, has transformed into a completely multiplayer title, and the battle royale sub-genre is the current trend with games like Playerunknown's Battlegrounds and Fortnite. The question is whether Battlefield V is as good as its predecessors — and whether that's good enough in today's market.

Before you get to any game modes, you're treated to a mostly interactive introduction that seeks to put a more human spin on World War II. All of the emotional points of the war are touched upon as you take control of different soldiers: an airplane pilot taking part in a bombing run, a paratrooper landing behind enemy lines, a sniper in the mountains taking out enemies from afar, and a tank driver in the African desert. Like Battlefield 1, it sets up the futility of everyone's lives in the war on a global scale while getting some of the basic tutorial stuff out of the way.


Unlike its main counterpart, single-player content is still available in the form of War Stories, where you'll choose to play as different people in their own mini-campaign. Instead of going for the big battles in the European Theatre, the mode focuses on stories from lesser-known fronts and characters who complete a small but significant task that helps to turn the tide of war. All of the stories also focus on personal goals rather than the overall goal of ending the war. Some are straightforward, like the lead in Nordlys wanting to keep her family safe from harm, while the lead in Tirailleur wants to prove to his French allies that the Senegalese are valuable fighters.

To that end, the Tirailleur campaign is the closest you'll get to a normal Battlefield match, with seemingly endless enemies pouring out of bases, and the sections are broken up by a few solo areas. The Under No Flag campaign is the opposite, as you'll be solo most of the time with little to no backup. It feels off for the series, but you have the option to engage in full-on firefights or go for stealth via melee kills and sabotaging lines of communication. The game isn't known for the latter, but it works here by not being strict about the usual stealth trappings, like ending a mission when you're discovered or having the game end when you kill someone. The Nordlys campaign is perhaps the most interesting, as it relies on stealth while also introducing a few survival elements, like staying warm in places and rushing to kill people between campfire bouts. It also lets you traverse the mountain environment in skis — something you can't do in the rest of the game.

The short story nature of these mini-campaigns translates into their running time, as each tale takes less than two hours to complete. For those interested in character development, the mini-campaigns don't round out anyone but the main character. All of the stories are straightforward, with a major event changing everyone's outlook and ending on a poignant note. The developers have added some collectible letters to provide story elements and add perspective to each campaign.


While some will be happy about the presence of a campaign, the Battlefield series has always been about multiplayer. Franchise fans will find that the core gameplay hasn't changed that much from the previous title. The overall game movement is fast, and the shooting reflects this faster pace. If you aren't always going for body shots, you can often kill enemies with a few shots or get knocked down by taking a few bullets. The fast movement is reflected in your ability to break through windows or kick down doors with minimal effort. If you've read about or played in the previous alphas and betas, know that all of the animations pertaining to getting in and out of emplacements and vehicles are gone, so there's less time looking at yourself and more time actually playing. The presence of more foliage means that crouching or going prone is a more viable solution in the grass, but that movement causes rustling vegetation to be visible.

Squad gameplay is also re-emphasized, as you need your squadmates alive if you want to spawn into battle close to them or your objective; otherwise, you'll be subjected to spawning at your base or a random spot on the field. Squad leaders can call in bombing runs and airstrikes if everyone in the squad has contributed enough points to get that done. Being in a squad also means that you can revive other members from downed states, so there's less of a burden placed on the medic to do their job, even though your own revival efforts are much slower and leave you wide open to getting shot.

There are also a few improvements to the different classes in BF5. Assault is relatively unchanged, while the Recon's sniper rifles are one of the more popular choices in the game due to their stopping power. Their weakness is that others can see their scopes glint in the sunlight, but by then, you're probably already dead. The Support class is also a popular choice due to its more powerful machine guns compared to the assault rifles from the Assault class, but they also are valuable in the field because of their ability to constantly resupply troops with ammo. The Medic's value comes from their ability to throw out med packs and instantly revive anyone. They have a sub-machine gun to help with the fighting, but it's relatively weak.


There are a few changes to the BF5 gameplay formula that change things significantly. The first comes from a bleed-out mechanic that replaces instant death. Instead of getting killed immediately, you're knocked down and can call for help to stop the bleeding or hope that someone comes by to revive you. If you're impatient, you can speed up the bleeding process so you can respawn. Unlike what was seen in previous builds, the bleed time is much faster, so you don't spend all of your time watching your character reach out for help. The speed increase also means that this is a much better alternative to Battlefield 1, where you simply saw your corpse and had to wait for an open squad space or hold down a button to randomly respawn.

The second change comes from destruction, which is much grander in scope. Taking a page from the Red Faction series, you can reduce practically anything to rubble, leaving behind only a bare structure. The destruction is more realistic, so you can't use a gun to blow up an entire building, but a few rockets or tank shells can collapse a small house and kill everyone in it. Being able to destroy something as small as a brick wall or as large as an apartment is absolutely satisfying, no matter how many times it's done.

Players can build fortifications, but the ability is limited. Anyone can build fortifications, but they can only be built in certain spots. Secondly, you can't choose what you can build, so if a spot doesn't call for razor wire, you can't use it. The game also has some issues with hotspot location, so it's sometimes more difficult to dig a ditch because you didn't locate an appropriate hotspot to start. The idea is nice in theory, but it needs a few improvements before it can be considered a reliable tactic.


All of this is done in maps that are more than just war-torn ruins and wide-open horizontal spaces. For example, Hamada might be a ruined space, but there's plenty of verticality to take into account. Twisted Steel shows off plenty of high and low places to fight in, and players can hide in and plan attacks from the abundant vegetation. Rotterdam demonstrates urban warfare, with plenty of intact buildings and alleyways, and Narvik's snowy trainyard captures all of this but adds some very uneven terrain. The other maps are just as varied, and they're all fun to play through.

There's plenty of enjoyment to be had despite the really bad bugs and player behaviors at launch, so that is certainly a testament to the strength of the game design. Dying is supposed to provide a little glimpse of where the killer shot came from, but unless you're gunned down by a vehicle turret, you only get a quick pan of a general area where the shot originated from and nothing more. Except for a few players, you'll be lucky to find anyone on a squad willing to pick you up from a downed position, even if you're completely protected from enemy gunfire. The game isn't clear on what constitutes a fatal injury, so there are times when you'll be shot and not given time to bleed out — and others when a whole building crumbles on you but you're still able to be revived.

All of your actions in multiplayer feed into different XP systems. There's one for the general profile, which lets players unlock supply drops that grant access to cosmetic things like new face paint and player card emblems. It also lets you unlock new vehicles that you can call on in some battles. Guns also level up, and while that doesn't affect base stats, it unlocks new skins and modifications for the weapons. Your player class also has a leveling system, which unlocks more cosmetic pieces and the ability to outfit that class with different weapons.

One of the things that has plagued the series is DLC. Not everyone was quick to adopt the DLC until it became free for a limited time, but this time around, the plan is to abolish the season pass and give everyone all of the DLC for free. For a company that's been plagued with microtransaction horror stories, it's promising to see them actually act on it. Cosmetic items may be a different story for microtransactions, but for now, the only way to get those is through in-game currency, which can only be earned instead of converted from real cash.


Speaking of cosmetics, players may be disappointed because there's not much that's distinct. You have the ability to choose from different characters that represent almost all nationalities, but the different face paint types are blotches of black and green in different patterns. The clothing pieces are barely different from one another, so much so that you won't notice the differences until you reach the end screen and see the winning squad up close. The gun skins could have been more colorful, but just like the clothes, you'll sometimes fail to notice the subtleties even when you're holding the weapon.

All of the multiplayer modes are split into three main categories unless you use the filtering system to choose a server running a specific mode you want. Conquest holds both regular Conquest and the Conquest Assault variation, and things have remained relatively unchanged there. The Infantry category is home to Team Deathmatch and Domination, a scaled-down version of Conquest if you don't want the usual 64 players in one match.

Frontlines is also here, but it plays worse than it did in Battlefield 1. You still have to fight for one objective at a time, and there is the possibility of losing one of your previously obtained checkpoints because you failed to reach the next one, but the wait time between capture and the next unlock seems longer now. Despite there being a timer, the game also didn't acknowledge the timer expiring, so matches went on for much longer than they should have until a winner was finally declared. For example, a normal 30-minute match extended to an hour, and this happened multiple times, so the mode became the least liked one whenever we encountered it.

The final category is Grand Operations, which is also the name of the mode. The idea of Operations from the previous game is greatly expanded to occupy multiple maps and multiple sub-modes over three rounds. The first round has one side paratrooping in to sabotage enemy emplacements, while the other team tries to defend them. The next two rounds are Breakthrough ones, where one team tries to take over territory and the others try to stop them from doing so — almost like a one-sided version of Domination and Frontlines (except with a timer that works). Winning each round gives that team a slight advantage for the next round, but it isn't anything that disrupts the overall balance. Should the game end in a tie, the final round is a large, team-based battle royale.


 

The Grand Operations mode is meant to be long, and while the developers estimate it'll take four hours to play from start to finish, the real playtime is far less than that. It also helps that you have the chance to jump in at any time in any round, so you aren't spending that much time in a match. Even if you go for the full beginning-to-end experience, the mode is exciting thanks to the constant objective changes and the general speed of the gameplay. The lack of repeating goals in the same area also makes the game feel breezy. Win or lose, you'll be surprised at how much time has passed instead of feeling like it was a long slog.

BF5 is already quite packed with modes, but players will notice the omission of Firestorm, the battle royale mode. This wouldn't necessarily be a big deal except that it was announced when the game was revealed earlier in the year. It also doesn't help that the main competitor in the space already has a battle royale mode up and running to some good fan reaction. For a series that started out running with 64-player matches in more than a few modes and some rather expansive maps, the omission of Firestorm at launch is glaring. Firestorm is expected to be released in March, but the Battlefield series runs the risk of irrelevance should the gaming public tire of battle royale games or find another upstart multiplayer game in the meantime.

That missing mode highlights one of issues with BF5: content reduction. The number of multiplayer maps available at launch is eight instead of nine. Likewise, the number of War Stories available at launch is three instead of four. The reduction in numbers could be fine, since some of the stages are more diverse in verticality and setting, while the War Stories cover multiple chapters and are longer than their predecessors. Others may say that the number isn't so important, since we're getting a new War Story and map less than a month after launch — and for free. After the game was delayed from its original release date, the reduced offering is a little disappointing.


For the most part, the graphics meet up with the high expectations of the latest Frostbite engine. The faces of each soldier come with an amazing amount of detail if you can get close enough to scrutinize them. The animations are good enough, with some nice cloth physics on flowing clothes, like trench coats. The environments are the real star, along with the lighting and particle effects. Go into buildings, and your view will be darkened for a short while, and going into the light produces a blinding effect for a split second. Smoke billows realistically to create a thick haze that you can't see through for a while, and fires look quite nice as long as you aren't getting burned in the process. Leaves blow across the ground in the autumn, and the snow impresses no matter how many times you see it. Seeing buildings crumble piece by piece also remains impressive, and the game seems to handle this at 60fps most of the time on the Xbox One X. Technically, it looks the same as the previous game, but the increased particle effects and variety in the environments makes BF5 more of a looker.

With that said, there are some noticeable issues that range from funny to disruptive. Zoom in on gun emplacements, and you can see people automatically snap to man them from a distance. There's a great deal of detail pop-up occurring, but it's especially noticeable on grass and other vegetation. The grass is pretty low-resolution up close, but that's more forgivable than seeing tree textures suddenly becoming grassy hills floating in the sky. Clipping is a prevalent issue when you're crawling, as you'll sometimes see the game space below. The physics is mostly responsible for the clipping, and it's also the cause of dead bodies floating around. Spawn into a tank, and there's a good chance you'll be shooting without a turret — although your hands react to the recoil. Flags at capture points disappear when you don't look at them dead center. When going through the character selection process for the first time, each model looks like lumps of clay before forming into something more recognizable. It's made worse by the fact that some issues were present in Battlefield 1 and haven't been addressed.

The sound certainly fares much better than the graphics. Depending on the situation, the music wildly veers from bombastic to morose, but it retains the cinematic quality that gives the game the feeling of playing out a big epic war movie that few other games can replicate. Whether it accompanies the realization of lost lives or punctuates your gradual advance toward the enemy base, the soundtrack is very inspiring. The sound effects are key to immersion, and the quality is retained, especially if you're lucky enough to pump the game through a nice sound system or a good pair of headphones. The voices are also fine, and while you'll mostly hear German or English during multiplayer fights, the game does provide some French and Norwegian in the related War Stories.

Fans of the Battlefield franchise will find that despite its flaws, Battlefield V warrants a return trip to World War II. If we look at raw numbers, there's less content than before, but the quality of the maps remains the same, and free DLC is on the way. Some old modes, like Frontlines, feel like a slog, while new modes like Grand Operations feel quite quick despite having longer intended play times. The game looks gorgeous, but it still has some graphical issues that need to be ironed out. Despite all of this and a number of bugs that are already being addressed by DICE, BF5 still manages to retain all of the traits and quirks that make the Battlefield series feel exhilarating.

Score: 8.0/10

 



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