Battlefield V Review: Gameplay Impressions, Esports Appeal and Speedrun Tips

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistNovember 16, 2018


Battlefield V leans into its strengths to offer up another healthy serving of large-scale war.  

At the same time, DICE boldly pushes a few new features into the fray and scales the frenzied gameplay of the past few years back more toward the series' glory days. It's fitting, as Battlefield V also marks the beginning of its new games-as-service model, as opposed to offering a season pass. 

Unfortunately, Battlefield V launches feeling thin from a features perspective. The highly anticipated Battle Royale mode won't launch until March, and one of the four single-player stories is still under lock and key. 

It's a shame some of these coming-soon attractions will eat away at headlines, because it covers up one of the best Battlefield experiences to date—something hardcore players of the series can confirm after a single session.

Battlefield hasn't felt this smooth, realistically fun and team based in a long time, and the promise of more on the way will only make early investors happier despite a few rough patches. 


Graphics and Gameplay

This is Battlefield, the powerhouse engine with engrossing visuals and jaw-dropping destruction of the environment. 

As expected, Battlefield V is a gorgeous effort, with each of the handful of maps painstakingly detailed—and even more so once explosive devices start tearing holes in walls and sending smatterings of bricks raining down on the player. 

Expected or not, it's hard not to gush about the visuals. Explosions, paired with the excellent sound design, will stop a player in his or her tracks. In the single player or otherwise, player models look great and the lip syncing is on point.

The weather effects are another layer of immersion few games can match. Fog is thick and tampers with view distance. Rain splatters, and it muffles sounds and creates puddles. The wind catches some of the crops a player's squad rushes through while pulling a flank. 

As hinted, the sound design is best-in-the-world status. It just doesn't get better than this. Scampering down a cobblestone side street on the way to an objective, footsteps echoing up the claustrophobic buildings to either side and screams from soldiers amid the gunfire lead the way better than any HUD marker could. 

Speaking of gunfire, this is Battlefield back to its basics in superb fashion. There isn't ridiculous grenade spam everywhere anymore. Vehicles aren't overpowered and mowing through everything. And the revive mechanic is brilliant—no more spamming revives quickly, giving the sporadic pockets of fighting across large maps a video-gamey feel. 

Revives now take fiveish seconds and an opponent can interrupt them. Downed players can call for help from teammates or speed up the demise to get back to the spawn screen. The player doing the revive can cancel and get back to fighting as well, adding a much-needed layer of realism to the mechanic past entries haven't gotten right. 

The traditional Battlefield classes are here: Assault, Medic, Support, and Recon. The first has access to anti-vehicle ordinances, the second has been limited down to only SMGs for balancing purposes, the third does a little bit of everything and the fourth is the usual long-distance affair, though close-quarters sniping seems more viable than ever thanks to the improved gunplay. 

While it hasn't received a ton of publicity, building your own defenses like sandbag walls and barbed wire is one of the best-ever additions to the series (this isn't anything like Fortnite building). It's seriously fun to modify a point endlessly, putting more obstacles between you and the opponents trying to capture the area. This adds variability to the maps and specific points as well—and throws more weight behind the explosiveness of the extensive destruction systems in the game. 

But another welcome change is permitting every player one self-heal each upon spawn regardless of class. Before recoiling, hear it out—instead of trivializing the medic class, it enhances it.

Medics are more important than ever, as they dole out these medic packs for players to use. There isn't health regeneration anymore. It's a scarcity that adds strategy to the game. It's the same deal with ammo scarcity, as players now have to actively think about how they use the limited ammunition they spawn in with before seeking out a support class so he can throw them a pack or lay down a box everyone around has to interact with to add ammo. 

"Spotting" players is gone, too. Digitally marking opponents for all to see and having a form of wallhacks in a game trying to be realistic never made a lot of sense. This places a bigger responsibility on the shoulders of the recon class, which can still spot through binoculars. And this makes the game better for all—those squads that like to pull off the big flank or sneak through a row of crops past an enemy tank can generally do so in a more realistic fashion now. 

These are small changes with huge, huge impacts to the gameplay that push the series in a refreshing direction and make each round feel like...a battlefield. Battlefield's typical grounded gameplay, which doesn't permit the Call of Duty-esque things like dropshotting or spamming slides, remains here, as does the weighty, accuracy-rewarding aiming and shooting. 

As always, players hoping to be the MVP of a large-scale conflict are grabbing the wrong game. Sometimes a match can feel hopeless and sometimes even lighting up the scoreboard and piling on the points for assisting others can feel like it isn't having an impact. But that's war, right?

A player's small pocket of actions at objectives and between them are one part of a much bigger conflict. Players in an active squad with a commander that calls out objectives to attack and utilizes the bonus for doing so will always have a bigger impact than any individual. 

While Battlefield V doesn't launch with an overwhelming number of maps, some of these maps are best-in-series quality. They vary in size and structure but do a good job of funneling players toward each other, and the chokes are smartly designed for the most part. Variability thanks to the building at points only helps replayability. 


War Stories, Grand Operations and More

The single-player War Stories will blindside some players. Battlefield ditched the typical campaign with the prior game in the series and has three high-quality episodes spanning a couple hours each. And this isn't some usual World War II story fodder—these episodes are narrative-heavy experiences with fleshed out characters and cutscenes focusing on lesser-known stories about the war.

Some might be disappointed the usual WWII stories aren't represented here, but it was a thrill to learn about smaller skirmishes and faces who impacted the war. It also meshed well with something touched on above—the small individual actions are a critical part of the whole effort. 

Each of the three stories boasts characters players won't soon forget. While some might pass off the arcs as overwritten and trying too hard, that sure beats the usual run-and-gun romp of a story a player won't remember in a year or so.

Some of the lines and interactions don't always hit the mark, especially when certain guys are trying to be funny, but it's an admirable effort at a time in the industry when series like Call of Duty are doing away with single-player experiences completely. 

These episodes are far from perfect in a gameplay-execution sense, though. They unexpectedly rely on stealth more than most would venture to guess, which shines some harsh lights on the spotty AI at times. But the basic gameplay loop—point A to point B before it opens up into a sandbox with a handful of objectives to tackle—is made better by the superb storytelling. 

Grand Operations in multiplayer are brilliant as well. Emulating a "war" by setting up three or more consecutive matches between teams that are split up with story background and narration gives off the sense of participating in a meaningful conflict, not just stringing along game after game and worrying about a K/D. 

As an aside, some of the missing game modes will only superbly flesh out a stellar base package. Not only is Battle Royale on the way next year, the early-December Tides of War sounds like a promising expansion on the Grand Operations idea. 

There's a conversation to be had about how small this release would or wouldn't feel based on whether players had knowledge more content was coming, including significant game modes. But if what is here feels great and more is on the way, it's hard to complain. And in a gesture of goodwill that's silly to find fault with, Battlefield V isn't selling a season pass, either. 

Battlefield V feels like it underwent a dramatic overhaul after fan reaction to the silly debut trailer, which featured some things like swords and robotic-looking arms. Each trailer has been gritty and grounded in reality since then, a departure from the realistic-Fortnite mashup of the first trailer.

Those concerned about this can rest easy—there aren't any out-of-place cosmetics or silly items in the game at all. This is a fun Battlefield experience, or at least as fun as it can be given the dark overtones, shrill screams and realistic violence implied by the series' name. 

Progression is well defined in this game as well, once players can find it in the spotty menu systems. Classes and guns themselves level up and unlock better rewards and items as usual. Assigning daily objectives adds to the replayability. Company Coins is the name of the game's currency of choice, which accumulate to unlock things like soldier outfits. 

Battlefield V isn't launching perfect by any means. Odd body-physics fling around corpses at times and every now and then an invisible gunner will be rattling off rounds from atop a vehicle. These are things that will surely get cleaned up in future patches but noticeably need to be ironed out. Otherwise, the game has run well on PC and elsewhere, so no concerns there or when it comes to finding games. 


Esports Appeal, Speedrun Tips 

Fun fact: Battlefield has had a competitive scene for a long time. Single-digit player teams competed on competitive ladders and organized smaller skirmishes in game modes like Conquest Small. Battlefield 4 peaked the esports scene via the DICE-supported ESL with modes like Domination. 

With Battlefield V, it looks like the series could be headed back to the cusp of another major stab at an esports scene. There's already a smaller-minded playlist called Infantry Focus that features domination, frontlines and team deathmatch with a 32-player count. 

Of course, things will have to get smaller to really reel in major esports viewer counts, which seemed to be the idea in Battlefield 1 with Incursions, which rolled out five-versus-five formats and other competitive ideas as the game's life cycle continued. If something like that returns—especially on maps this good with team play this solid—DICE could have something special on its hands. 

That isn't to forget the Battle Royale mode. If PUBG and others could roll out esports tournaments, Battlefield V can as well for a single game mode, provided it's handled and received well. But it's hard to imagine DICE and EA don't have some sort of game plan here, as by now every video game company should know esports can boost a player base thanks to the accessibility of Twitch and otherwise. 

Battlefield V could also pick up additional eyeballs, if not players, thanks to the single-player offerings and the possibilities of speedruns. The episodes are brief and digestible enough to make for some interesting speedrunning fodder, especially once the missions open up into the giant sandboxes with multiple objectives. 

In these, it might be best for potential speedrunners to ignore the stealth option and bully their way to objectives. There are enough ammo and weapon crates to remove any worry about scarcity that multiplayer has. Fighting from range could work as well—and keep an eye out for items near objectives to shoot to make everything go boom instead of getting in there and planting explosives. 

Vehicles are likely going to be a key ingredient to any run as well to shave off valuable time. Otherwise, runs will come down to memorization of who to take out and when with splashes of creativity and route traversal when things open up. 




Like any good follow up, Battlefield V reinforces the strengths of what it brings to the table and adds enough quality to keep gameplay fresh and even more enjoyable than before. 

Keep in mind this release is accessible to all in its own right. A player doesn't need to be hitting 360 no-scopes to succeed, as there is an ample feeling of contributing to the fight through various classics like medic or reinforcing defensive positions through building. 

Battlefield V could have a hard time winning in the public arena after the odd launch trailer and some of (minor) negatives floating around the release. But players have to remember they would have been even more upset if the game had been delayed and launched alongside the upcoming Battle Royale mode. 

That would have been a shame because Battlefield V is one of the best entries in the series, with the best core Battlefield gameplay since Battlefield 3, if not Bad Company. It manages to break free of the rut the series has been in for a few releases now. Battlefield V innovates in the right areas with new features, bringing the game more in line with what players have always wanted from it. 

A rocky road to release or not, the fact more enthralling single-player experiences are on the way—as well as an innovative-sounding multiplayer experience that travels through the theaters of the war and a fleshed-out Battle Royale mode that needed more time in the oven—is a cherry on top to what is not only one of the year's best multiplayer releases, but also one of the best games in the series.