One year ago, an otherwise fantastic game, Star Wars Battlefront II, launched to a death star of controversy due to EA's push for what was rightly called a pay-to-win model. The backlash was so severe that it had the positive effect of pushing the publisher to alter the game's economy, but it also had the negative effect of making people question what would become of DICE's next Battlefield game. One year later, Battlefield V has launched without any of those issues, and although it does introduce a few new publisher-caused headaches, these ultimately fail to take too much away from yet another brilliant first-person shooter experience from the maestros of multiplayer.
Battlefield V's major headline over the summer was that its season pass was dead. From its ashes would come a game service model where frequent free content would release to all players so as not to disband the game's community by sectioning off some maps and modes as paid exclusives. This new model is only new to Battlefield, as it's otherwise extremely popular in games right now, but because it's new to DICE's long-running series, the distance between what players can expect at launch and what they actually get feels wider. Major content updates for the game begin as soon as just two weeks from now, yet with so many of the game's marquee features not coming for several months, the new game service model will leave early adopters feeling like they're getting shorted.
Firestorm battle royale isn't coming until March, and the game's online co-op mode is still months away too. Heck, even the Shooting Range and Rush mode, a staple of the series, aren't available yet. Rush's absence feels especially confusing as, along with Conquest, it's one of the most played and most revered modes in the series. Other new modes take its place, but they lack the scale of Rush. Even the game's Grand Operations mode, as interesting as it is in trying to tie together a war narrative over several in-game days, fails to fill the big shoes of Rush mode. Those who are playing Battlefield at launch are likely its biggest fans, so to not have Rush available is difficult to justify. Having said that, many players will probably find a way to forgive the studio even as it's a practice they won't want repeated, because what is there at launch is yet another example of just how good DICE is at their job.
Eight new maps carry players around the world in what is just the latest audiovisual spectacle from the Swedish development house. The Frostbite engine has been criticized for betraying other genres, but it's obviously a great fit for first-person shooters. Battlefield V is gorgeous both at the beginning of a round when the map is pristine and throughout as the world around players caves in on itself with more of the series' famous destructible environments. It's maybe easy to feel spoiled as a gamer these days when photorealism is so abundant but what's more impressive is Battlefield V's audio design, which once again sets the bar for all competitors. Playing Battlefield with headphones on is unlike any other military shooter on the market as every detail major and minor is mixed so wonderfully and the experience is so immersive and even intimidating at the right times.
Battlefield always looks pretty, but it sounds even better.
Changes to squads and roles make this year's game more demanding and rewarding than ever. Battlefield has always wanted you to play with your teammates in mind, but now you're essentially asking for defeat if you don't play as a close-knit team. Ammo is scarcer upon loading out, so Support players will need to resupply teammates often. The same goes for Medics who now must dish out first aid kits to teammates regularly as there's an active healing system built on top of the slower auto-healing system.
New fortification abilities mean you can build up some defenses deep into a round when the battle has ravaged what was once shelters and foxholes. Any class can build these fortifications, but Support players build them faster, just as now anyone can revive teammates but Medics do it in half the time. You can also customize your weapons with small but helpful skill trees that allow you to choose where your strengths and weaknesses will be. These touches go further to reward players in a way that DICE has always been great at delivering; every role feels relevant and helpful. It's maybe the only console FPS that allows you to never register a kill and still feel like you've done a lot to help your team win.
As the pay-to-win model has vanished, what's replaced it is the ever-popular optional paid cosmetics. Every player now has a Company in the menus, which is basically a lineup of all your soldiers and vehicles. The game encourages you to customize each of them, which for some players will become an expensive proposition. You can earn in-game credits to spend without ever handing over real-life money, and while even the store's existence will upset some players, it seems to be the cost of doing business today in AAA games. If the end result is free post-launch content for all, paid for by the players in the community with the deepest pockets, it's a trade most will be fine to make.
If played from left to right in the menus, the quality of the War Stories ascends from worst to best.
Outside of multiplayer, the series' War Stories single-player campaign returns in a similar form, telling vignettes of different soldiers from around the globe rather than one campaign centered on a do-it-all action hero. The approach mostly works again, especially because the last story is very memorable, but it's one of just three at launch, compared to five in Battlefield 1 on launch day, so even here it feels like something is missing. A fourth War Story arrives at the beginning of December, at least, and there's always the point that everything post-launch will be free, so it becomes a matter of perspective it seems.
Maybe in time, our minds will learn to accept less now in lieu of more later for free. Maybe we should already feel that way. Maybe we shouldn't. It's hard to say, and how you feel about it will determine whether you should play Battlefield V soon or wait several months, but it's already apparent today that DICE has crafted another winner. If you're going to wait to play it later, there's no reason to expect the additions to come won't be great. All of Battlefield V's strengths are owed to DICE and its few faults are clearly publisher decisions.
The achievement list is a pretty short one for a game of this stature. Just 21 unlocks stand between players and the completion, and many of them aren't going to take too much extra work. If you play as all the classes and perform their special abilities, beat the story mode on the hardest difficulty, and chase a few other specific multiplayer milestones, you'll earn the 100% with relative ease compared to the work a major video game usually demands. For tips on how to be a better soldier and earn the completion, check out our beginner's guide.
SummaryHopefully by now it's apparent the conundrum one faces with this year's Battlefield. At launch, it's undeniably missing some key components, and yet what is there is still so good that some players likely won't care. It feels like everything Battlefield V gets right is DICE's doing and what it gets wrong comes by way of publisher mandate. At best this is the new reality of game service models. At worst EA rushed the game out in time for the holidays. Thankfully, even as some features are conspicuously absent, nothing else in Battlefield V feels rushed. It's a smooth experience, offering yet another audiovisual master class, and regularly delivers a true sense of spectacle in a way that other console shooters simply can't match.
- New additions to squads and roles make the gameplay deeper and more customizable than ever
- Gorgeous visuals and impeccable, truly unrivaled audio design
- DICE once again has a keen understanding of pacing, balancing, and large-scale warfare
- The game service model leaves this entry feeling sparser than usual on day one
EthicsThe reviewer spent 24 hours in DICE's latest World War II shooter, with all but three of those hours coming online. He gathered 13 of 21 achievements for 460 Gamerscore. An Xbox One review code was provided by the publisher.
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