War, if numerous Fallout trailers have taught me correctly, never changes.
The Battlefield series has always exemplified this to a degree, with the addition of one caveat: in each Battlefield game, War slightly changes.
While each release in the series might feature EA jumping up onto a stage to talk about how the game will be changed forever, it’s often the same game with minor tweaks to the gadgets and weaponry to fit the setting. There are few changes, but this is understandable when you consider that the series’ first real attempt at a complete reinvention — the much maligned Battlefield Hardline — was a disaster for the company, and since then Battlefield has played it safe.
Battlefield 5, for all of its bluster, is unfortunately, no exception. I’m enjoying it, and writing this review has been punctuated by long breaks as I dip into the multiplayer to check something and then get dragged into a pitched battle, reviving my fellow teammates as we push towards an objective. But tab away from the game for a second, and you’re reminded of the numerous small irritations, problems that have stalked the Battlefield games ever since it first set foot in World War 2 with Battlefield 1942.
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The single-player section of the game, the returning War Stories, brings some interesting ideas to the game in a campaign that feels all too brief, and a little overly concerned with stealth at the expense of getting to rock ‘n roll with some of the game’s meatier weapons.
Each campaign tells a vignette from a side of the war that hasn’t often been covered before, putting you in the shoes of soldiers on the African front or a young member of the Norwegian resistance. The tone is fairly light, tales of derring-do and survival at all costs that feels a million miles from the heavy sentiment seen in Battlefield 1.
There’s nuance here, and the war, which claimed tens of millions of lives, is handled with respect. Characters are fleshed out when they could have been one dimensional.
Each chapter will drop you into an open world filled with vehicles, enemies, weapons and opportunities. Exploration and experimentation here can yield results, but most of the time the game pushes you towards a quiet approach, whether that’s using a melee weapon (boring) silenced rifle (rare, satisfying, bit samey) or even throwing knives (awkward to use, but very cool.)
In some parts it resembles the Far Cry series closely. Alert a group of enemies and one will charge of to a radio antenna to try and raise the alarm. You can stop the enemy raising the alarm by taking him out, taking the panel out on the antenna or if you’re smart from cutting the cables in the panel before you were even spotted — exactly the same mechanics as when you alert an outpost in Far Cry.
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So you sneak and you skulk and you try not to think about the Luftwaffe planes parked on the runway that you could definitely nip into and take to the skies and have a cool dogfight, because the game does its level best to point you away from that.
Thing is, Battlefield is a shooting game and it handles being in a do or die gunfight fairly well. It’s less adept at handling crawling around on your belt-buckle, or scuttling around behind a warehouse trying to find an entrance. The UI for detection is pretty basic, and the rewards offered for keeping quiet aren’t that enticing.
Sure, you can unlearn this behaviour, and play it like a run and gun shooter – but the truly great set pieces don’t seem to arrive as often as they did in Battlefield 1. The studio’s missed an open goal here, as Call of Duty has this year stepped away from a bombastic triple-A campaign, and shooter fans are clamouring for one. This isn’t it, no matter how much fun it is.
Things are significantly more action-packed in the multiplayer, where barely a second goes by without an explosion going off somewhere in the middle distance, and a steady flow of doomed soldiers with names like xXTheOtherHemsworthXx and DonkeyDoug sprint from spawn points towards constant smaller skirmishes. All the while you’ll be trying to pick where to apply a judicious amount of firepower next.
It keeps things familiar too. Players band together into four person squads to play one of four classes. These classes have sub-classes inside for specialisation, so a medic class can be a combat medic or someone that focuses just on healing. The modes are fairly simple, Battlefield 5’s best skill is its ability to make you constantly feel like you’re in the middle of a rolling battle, and that your part in it is absolutely essential ,whether that’s as a medic keeping people in the fight or a support unit putting down mines and building fortifications.
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Fortifications are probably the tent-pole feature of the new Battlefield, letting you get out your toolbox and build fortifications in certain areas. These barricades are set, the same every time, all you have to do is get your toolbox out and build them. Because they were planned out in detail by DICE, everything you build has a value.
There’s no chance you can waste your time and come up with something that makes you less defended, and it also means your teammates are going to spend half of the round building a giant robot, too. It’s a thoughtful addition because this isn’t a game about building spiralling towers, and this lets you focus on combat.
The games also have a faster pace than Battlefield 1, which was much slower paced due to all of the WW1 era weaponry. Three of the four classes get access to powerful close range weapons, meaning close quarters combat is brutal and quick, staccato bursts of gunfire as two walls of flesh run into each other.
They’ll be some pretty diverse lumps of flesh, too. Characters can be customised in terms of the armour they’re wearing and the race, gender and look of the person wearing it. Most of the customisation options look decent, offering you a choice of greatcoats and webbing. It’s a little jarring to do battle in a gas mask painted with a union jack, but there’s nothing too gaudy, at least at this early stage.
There have been a few nudges and tweaks to make characters feel a little more vulnerable, too. Your starting ammo count is way down, and can be replenished from ammo dumps scattered around the map, support soldiers or scavenged from dead bodies. There’s no more regenerating health in the multiplayer, and players have to heal themselves with bandages, dished out from medical supply crates and medics.
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The end result is that death comes quickly, and that playing with your squad is the best bet to survive. One person just doesn’t have access to all of the different things they need to fight effectively.
However, the community don’t seem to have got the memo on this yet, and the multiplayer is swarming with players lying prone and taking potshots with sniper rifles, or just ignoring the objectives to run off and get kills. It seems that no matter what DICE try to do to bring the community together cohesively, the current meta in the game just isn’t rewarding the play. This is disappointing, and while it isn’t DICE’s fault and isn’t reflected in our score, it is annoying nonetheless.
One mode that used to make this happen a little better is Rush, adding in Battlefield Bad Company and, if we’re honest, one of the better modes in Battlefield in my opinion. By focusing everyone on a pair of points, people were funnelled together. You see this slightly in the game’s operations modes, several maps stitched together with bonuses offered for victory. It’s not Rush though. I’ll miss it.
Battlefield 5 is a good game, but not a great one. The multiplayer can be great fun when you find the right server, and the single player shines a light on parts of World War 2 that aren’t in the public consciousness.
However, the stripped back multiplayer and several of the same old problems mean that I’m wishing that this particularly war had perhaps changed a little more.
Battlefield V PC requirements
Need a new rig to play EA’s new bombastic shooter Battlefield V? We’ve noted down the recommended specs, and listed down all the best-value components that you’ll need.
Battlefield V’s recommended specs are listed below:
OS: Windows 10 64-bit
CPU: Intel Core i7 4790 / AMD Ryzen 3 1300X or equivalent
HDD: 50GB HD space
GPU: NVIDIA GTX 1060 6GB / AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB
But of course, if you settle for EA’s ‘recommended build’ you won’t be able to ogle Battlefield V is jaw-dropping 4K. And with Battlefield V officially supporting ‘ray tracing’ once the revolutionary rendering technology becomes available, you’ll take the visuals up another level if you invest in one of Nvidia’s 20 Series GPUs.
But what is ray tracing? This is a new rendering technique that simulates more realistic lighting effects. Light will reflect off objects as they would in real life, creativing more convincing shadows and atmospheric environments. The ray-tracing update isn’t available yet, but it’s said to be imminent, so it makes sense to future-proof your test rig with a RTX 2080 graphics card right now.
Of course, it’s possible to cut corners and save even more money. You don’t have to buy so much storage for example. And if you’re happy to sacrifice a few frame rates, you could buy Nvidia’s cheaper RTX 2070 GPU, which also has the capability of using ray tracing.
Alternatively, if you’re happy to spend even more money, then you could upgrade your graphics card to the Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti and Intel Core 9th Gen i9 for an ever smoother 4K performance. Then you’ll have one of the most powerful gaming rigs around.