‘Battlefield V’ Is Still ‘Battlefield’ For Better Or Worse

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As explosions surround you with the enemy closing in on your final conquest point, you’ll notice yourself holding your breath, maybe sweating at the hands, and focusing like your life is on the line. What Battlefield V does best is it overwhelms you. It immerses you into the experience of the first-person shooter in a way that few games can. Explosions that happen next to you feel very close. Bullets whizzing by your head terrify you. When your squad is being destroyed, you feel alone. If Battlefield V‘s goal was to nail the atmosphere, then it massively succeeded.

In a way, that might be what Dice and EA feel is best for the franchise … for now, anyway. Battlefield is in a weird place. It’s great at what it does well, and everything that Battlefield fans love about the franchise returns in its latest installment, Battlefield V. The huge battles, wide maps, vehicles, battle classes, etc., it’s all back and, more importantly, it works. Battlefield IV suffered from some horrible launch day glitches, such as falling through the floor, getting stuck in walls, and respawn camping issues. Any glitches I ran into in Battlefield V were minor and didn’t impede my game. This might seem like the basic of the basics, but it’s worth mentioning considering Dice’s history with launching gigantic games, and Battlefield is very much gigantic.

The maps they’ve created for this year’s iteration are impressive. Size, width, and volume are expected from a Battlefield map, but the variety of each location makes every game feel different. There are wide open terrains in the middle of a desert with mountain-based terrain in which to hide. The marshlands of an abandoned European neighborhood feature an interesting mix of empty fields with close quarters combat amid houses, and everything comes together in the middle at a giant bridge. There are the snowy mountaintops where the opponent can sit right around the corner and you almost feel suffocated with how close everything is, but if you can survive the narrow passages, you get to an open camp with a perfect location to set up as a sniper.

Perhaps what I enjoyed the most about Battlefield V is I never felt like one class was more powerful than the other no matter what map I was on. Want to play a sniper class? Just find the right location and set up. If that’s not working, then just switch over to a medic and help out others, or maybe you like getting into the heat of it and want to play infantry. If so, head straight for the middle and start shooting. There are so many different ways to play Battlefield and the map design works wonders with that.

That same map design makes the drop in, drop out style of squad play very easy. The best way to play Battlefield V is with friends in a squad together. It pairs you together, you can communicate, and it will allow you to better attack the team-based gameplay. You can definitely play Battlefield like a lone wolf and have fun doing it, but every death counts against your team’s overall score. Going rogue might be good for stats, but if you care at all about winning games, then you need to play with the team, which makes the squad system so important.

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Dice recognizes that and has a format that works. You’re always with a squad, and you can choose to follow them around and work together or go off and do your own thing. I had way more fun when I was playing within my squad as opposed to trying to do my own thing — I even started to form a silent bond with these random players I had never met before. I would feel bad when I let them die and I’d try to make sure I had their back when ambushes would come in on us.

All of this falls back into that incredible atmosphere the game is trying to create. From the first time the game launches, it’s made very clear that the intention is to evoke emotions and feelings in the players. The single-player campaign sticks with the Battlefield World War 1 format of telling the player individual stories instead of one giant narrative. It works well because one thing the Battlefield games and many modern day military shooters struggle with is telling a compelling narrative. These are told more in the format of single human moments, which give the developers a chance to explore themes and ideas as opposed to telling a narrative. None of this is revolutionary, but I like that they brought it back.

That also perfectly defines Battlefield‘s biggest problem. A lot of the deserved praises the game receives are things the game has always done well. It’s supposed to be great at huge battles because it essentially created those itself. Vehicles have always been a part of the franchise, as have classes. Battlefield has a niche where the players that enjoy the game will always find what they’re looking for. It’s accessible to newcomers, but it’s very much a franchise that’s dependent on the diehards that buy it every year. It doesn’t require the cooperation of an Overwatch, and players feel like far less of a lone wolf than they do playing Call of Duty. It’s that perfect mid-point for a lot of fans, and it’s arguably the best console first-person shooter out there, but nothing about it is revolutionary or different.

If you played Battlefield World War 1, or even Battlefield IV for that matter, then you know exactly what you’re going to get in Battlefield V. The formula exists and it works. There is no need to rock the boat and change what is working, but it can cause the game to stagger a little. To avoid this, they’re changing the locale of the game. After spending so many years trying to go modern, these military shooters are heading back into the past with World War 2 once again being a viable option. The base gameplay, however, will always be the same. Again, this isn’t a bad thing, it just makes it difficult to differentiate Battlefield V over previous versions of the franchise in that regard.

Battlefield V nails the atmosphere it’s trying to create perfectly. It’s a gorgeous game and fans of the franchise will buy it and love it, as they always have. There is just not enough new stuff here. Maybe the franchise needs to take a step back and figure out a way to change the formula. They cemented themselves as an equal to Call of Duty when they started advertising the detailed maps with up to 64 players in a single match … but that was almost 10 years ago. It’s time for something different, something revolutionary. Battlefield is always going to be good, but they can only fight off age and staleness for so long.

Battlefield V is out now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

This review was written using a PlayStation 4 review code provided by the publisher.