With Battlefield V‘s release date getting closer and closer – despite a delay to November 20th – Jarrod and Anthony go back to the past to offer their perspectives on the open beta for DICE’s upcoming shooter.
I’d been anticipating Battlefield V‘s open beta for some time. Due in one part to my admiration for the series; I’ve been a Battlefield aficionado since it’s inception with 1942, and a return to World War II with tweaked ballistics and health/ammo systems versus Battlefield 1 is enough for an old fan to look forward to. And also in part to finally being able to try the game with less than 300 ping (the Alpha build latency was…interesting). And though I continue to enjoy my time with the beta, and am still looking forward to the finished product, the experience has left me with an unexpected number of reservations.
Let’s start with the good; weapon ballistics, hardcore-like health and ammunition management, and the general “feel” of combat. I adored Battlefield 1, but I’m glad to see Battlefield V take a more realistic approach to its weapon feedback, abandoning truly random bullet spread in favour of kickback and accuracy control. Or in short, bullets now go where you aim, not in random directions. Ammo scarcity and tiered health regeneration put an additional layer of pressure on positioning and pacing. At first the changes are disruptive; encounters feel unusually difficult and punishing. But once the adjustment period has passed, logic settles in and the sensation of combat is markedly more investing and rewarding than Battlefield 1. Patience and care taken to positioning, especially using and moving between cover, and valuing every shot you fire due to ammo scarcity leads to more rewarding victories and kills that feel legitimately earned through genuine player skill and mastery.
DICE’s bold move to remove the spotting mechanic, a feature known to the series for sometime and applied liberally throughout Battlefield 1, is bold and controversial but I truly feel works as intended. It’s balanced out by the hardcore approach to gunplay, and ultimately every player is marred by the same handicaps. Again, spotting enemies through visual recognition alone, and taking them out, adds to the feelings of accomplishment. Much of the game system hand-holding and comfort blankets are gone, and I’m very fond of this direction.
As for the bad? I’m not sold on the maps yet, especially the new Grand Operations mode, and how they balance in vehicles. I’m just not sure what DICE is trying to accomplish with Grand Operations given how much of an endless grind rounds can be. Multi-objective multi-map sequential rounds sounds fun on paper, but in practice Grand Operations is a dull, repetitive grind of running up against minimal objectives while waiting for excessively high team tickets to whittle down to nothing. This is notably highlighted in rounds with skewed balance. Whether on the winning or losing team, the match wont “end” until the attacking team’s tickets are reduced to zero, and with fewer capture points than Conquest Large the experience is diluted down into tedious shootbang. As noted, vehicles are also a problem. The synergy of infantry/vehicle play in Battlefield is integral to the series identity, yet here there’s no sense of presence or power to tanks and aircraft. Their spawns are irregular, their defensiveness papery, and thus their presence in a match forgettable. Infantry-only Battlefield is not why I play this series, and for all its warts at least Battlefield 1 gave vehicles a consistently present and notable role during matches.
I’m also deeply concerned about the weapon and vehicle skill tree unlocks. Not only are the menus horrendously structured and detrimental to communicating information and snappy customisation mid-round, weapon and vehicle upgrade trees appear to include bonuses that have no negative side effects. This isn’t stuff like “improve kickback at the cost of reload speed” or something, or customisable attachments. Players who spend the most time with vehicles and weapons can unlock improved accuracy, stronger armour, repair kits, and so on. And so the better players, with the most time invested, obtain weapon/vehicle perks that further improve their situation. It was rubbish in Battlefield 3, abandoned in Battlefield 4 and 1, and is back for whatever painfully short sighted reasons.
Thankfully a lot of my concerns can be rectified with balancing. Buff the vehicles. Rework the skill trees. This won’t fix Grand Operations’ tedium, but it will bring back focus to what Battlefield is best at. I’m still excited for the final release, and my pre-order stands. I just hope DICE follow through.
Battlefield V marks the series’ triumphant return to World War 2 after the successful journey back to the Great War in Battlefield 1. As a long-time Battlefield player, going back to where it all began offers a large dose of nostalgia, but with all the enhancements that DICE have introduced over the life of the franchise. The current open beta allowed us a sizable glimpse at the game, but also reinforced that the developer may need a little more tweaking to do before the full release.
As Adam experienced at Gamescom, one of the two beta maps puts players in the built-up city of Rotterdam. DICE has expertly recreated the look and feel of the city with grand buildings and narrow roads, allowing for a fun mix of both vehicle and infantry mayhem. The other map to feature in the Beta, Arctic Fjord, sees both sides duking it out against the night sky and the snow-capped mountains of Norway. Fighting at night offers a different experience to Rotterdam, with the enemy able to flank from any side and also immersing players in gloomy and violent battle.
The Beta allowed us to try one of four classes – assault, recon, medic and support. I’ve spent the bulk of my time as the assault class, but one element universal to all player types is the improved gunplay. Wherever you aim, bullets will now follow your crosshair, instead of peppering the general area that you target. The result is much more rewarding gunfights, where every player you down feels like a properly earned victory.
Adding to the sense of reward players will experience is the scarcity of ammunition and health. In the Beta, players only had two spare mags for their primary weapon, forcing you to scour the field for more ammo. Furthermore, health takes a lot longer to get back if you get hurt. You need to go back to capture points or reply even more on your teammates to dispense health and bullets.
There are two flipsides to this design feature. On one, players will approach engagements carefully, instead of spraying and praying, adding another level of intensity to fights with the danger of running out of bullets quickly. Furthermore, players are more likely to guard or return to objectives for resources. However, players are also less likely to engage other players if they have no health or ammo, and may seldom risk the safety of leaving nearby resource caches. This can make for a slower pace of gameplay, which may not be to everyone’s liking.
Battlefield V also adds building mechanics, for instance, players can build a fox hole or build walls around a capture point on the fly. I, for one, never felt the need to use these new building mechanics, but that may come down to being an old-school Battlefield player at heart. Some, including myself, might be a sceptical of these building features as perhaps pandering too much to the Fornite gamers, especially as taking away too much from the core gunplay. That said, I’ll reserve judgement until the final release, where the greater variety of maps may make better use of the building features.
In terms of aesthetics and sound design, DICE have once again hit the nail on the head. As you would expect, the visuals are shaping up spectacularly and the sound of guns, tanks and artillery immerse players in the spectacular of war. The Battlefield V Beta is open for another day for anyone hoping to put the game through its paces.
Battlefield V releases on November 20th for PC on Origin, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.