Editor's note: This is an early take on Battlefield V for PC; a full review is in the works but we will require many more hours to fully engage and evaluate everything the game has to offer. The overall opinion is subject to change through the review process.
The Battlefield series has always been about capturing the scale of war, and Battlefield V delivers as expected. Large maps made of both open fields and narrow lanes pit players in chaotic fights to capture objectives and deplete the enemy respawn count. Different classes empower soldiers with specific capabilities that provide distinct advantages in the right situations. And of course, tanks and aircraft not only change gameplay dynamics, but can swing the tide of battle in deft hands. The initial impression is that Battlefield V revels in familiarity--this entry doesn't stray away from the franchise formula, but it's a fine execution thus far.
It's been a while since the franchise set foot in World War II, but this time, it does so with lesser-known conflicts at the forefront. It's oddly refreshing to discover aspects of history that go overlooked. While we've had a steady diet of the snow-covered Narvik map prior to release, the game's collection of landscapes are varied set pieces. The lush vegetation of Western Europe and the harsh deserts of North Africa present beauty in the wake of utter destruction--all these battles have been inspired by the history books and realized in a refined Frostbite engine, which has never looked better. However, the maps themselves have their limitations.
Conquest has always been Battlefield's staple. Two huge teams fight to control capture points across a sprawling map, which helps hasten the drain of the enemy ticket count. It's a time-tested mode, but it also highlights the shortcomings of a few maps. I can admire the spectacle of Fjell 652 and the tight firefights that take place around the capture points, but navigating the map's narrow paths hasn't been much fun. Narvik's capture points encourage a variety of encounters with regards to distance, elevation, and space, but rather than flowing together, the maps feel like a collection of disparate parts for the sake of enabling these types of engagements. Metropolitan maps have certainly worked in the series' past, but Rotterdam hasn't been a great showcase of Battlefield V's strengths as matches can easily devolve into tedious shootouts on city streets.
If you're caught out of place, you'll be punished--in other words, you'll be shot in the back and flanked from unsuspecting locations frequently. While it can grow frustrating, overcoming seemingly hopeless scenarios is part of the process.
Grand Operations takes you into war-like scenarios that set teams up for a series of three consecutive matches, each in a different game mode and map (or variation of a map) from the same theater. This mode can be a big time commitment, but it has been the best part of Battlefield V so far, as Grand Operations keeps up the momentum and shakes up gameplay just enough to retain players through the course of the whole set of matches. The light contextualization of what both sides are trying to accomplish that goes into each phase helps (ever so slightly) paint a more enticing picture of multiplayer, rather than having you unceremoniously jump into the fray.
Success in Battlefield V very much depends on being at the right place at the right time. If you're caught out of place, you'll be punished--in other words, you'll be shot in the back and flanked from unsuspecting locations frequently. While it can grow frustrating, overcoming seemingly hopeless scenarios is part of the process. Adapting to situations that develop on the field and being a helpful teammate are further encouraged by the four returning classes: Assault, Medic, Support, and Recon. So far, it seems like a small tweak helps to bring out teamwork--squadmates can revive each other regardless of class, without negating the importance of Medics since they can revive anyone and dole out additional health packs.
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Player progression is dispersed in several ways. For one, you have career progression, which is your simple overall rank. Then there's class progression, which paves the way for unlocking equipment to further customize your loadout. And lastly, both weapons and vehicles contain their own progression paths. There appears to be a lot of systems at work, but rewards seem fairly lean outside of skins and individual weapon perks.
Microtransactions are currently absent from the game, so we can't comment on the business model yet. However, you earn in-game currency called Company Coins, which appear to be mainly for acquiring cosmetics like soldier uniforms and weapon camouflage. A few things like weapon perks cost Company Coins, but thankfully they're cheap and require you to reach a certain level beforehand.
The game's not a multiplayer-only endeavor with the return of War Stories, the single-player campaign offering that debuted in Battlefield 1. It serves as a tool to acquaint yourself with the basics of the game while providing grounded perspectives from contrasting theaters of war. Battlefield V itself starts not on a main menu, but in a playable teaser of each vignette from War Stories. Part of me wants to fully accept the sincerity that's trying to be communicated through the narration and cutscenes, but I can't help but feel it veering off into melodrama to a fault. I've only touched on the English campaign, but I'm hoping it makes good on the humanizing tone it appears to go for.
Battlefield V can be rough around the edges. Player models can clip through the world's geometry, sometimes sending bodies into a ragdoll frenzy. You may see teammates get revived only for their character model to frantically zip 20 feet in another direction. As of now, servers have occasional instability in terms of performance and packet loss (which causes choppy motion in-game). Thankfully, I haven't experienced hard crashes or drops from servers.
The initial impression is that Battlefield V revels in familiarity--this entry doesn't stray away from the franchise formula, but it's a fine execution thus far.
As of now, it feels as if Battlefield V is a variation on a well-established theme. It maintains the series tradition of grand spectacle with incredible sound design, impactful weaponry, and large-scale multiplayer chaos. There's a lot more to dig into, like the fortification system, squad reinforcements perks, and how destruction may change map dynamics, and spending more time with the game will paint a better picture. At the end of the day, it's still Battlefield, and Battlefield V is shaping up to be a good one at that.