Way back in the heady days of 2002, more than a year before the first game bearing the Call of Duty name arrived, the buzz was about a World War II shooter from a Swedish studio better known for its pinball games. Battlefield 1942 was a terrific game for its time, but it was the multiplayer that really got people excited and put the Battlefield name on the map.
A decade and a half later, after many hits and a few misses, the Battlefield series now routinely dukes it out with Call of Duty for war-shooter supremacy. It’s a pretty closely fought battle, too – last year’s CoD instalment was set during World War II, and this year Battlefield V answers the challenge with its own take on that second global conflict.
Battlefield single-player campaigns have been ramping up the cinematic approach lately, and this new entry is no exception. Like Battlefield 1, the campaign starts with a movie-style “montage” set across the various scenarios you’ll play, complete with emotional narration and onscreen titles. It’s like playing a movie trailer, and makes for a great mood-setting intro that’s thankfully not too lengthy.
The single-player campaign proper consists right now of three sections called “War Stories”, with a fourth to follow early next year. Expertly acted and well designed, though a little too heavily scripted, they’re a welcome intro to a game in which multiplayer is the big drawcard. With Call of Duty getting rid of its single-player campaign altogether, it’s great that DICE still puts the effort into making them.
Multiplayer, meanwhile, draws on everything that DICE has learned from recent games, including the wonderful combat “feel” that their Star Wars Battlefront II introduced. Emphasising squad-based play (this is one to get your friends in chat for) and sporting eight main game modes (though many are variants on “capture the flag”) and eight maps, games can range from a quick 15-minute skirmish to an epic half-hour (or more) battle of wills over control points. Destructible environments add to the fun – the first time a wall you’re hiding behind is obliterated by a tank shell, you realise that the rules have changed.
Mostly business as usual, in other words, with a few tweaks and new shiny bits – but all the stops have been pulled out here graphically. The game looks absolutely phenomenal in 4K on an Xbox One X, running (mostly) at a buttery-smooth 60fps – a triumph for the Frostbite engine, which is being pushed even further on PC with support for Nvidia’s new ray-tracing cards. Battlefield games are always a technical showcase, but they’ve excelled themselves here.
The game’s DLC model this time around seems good, too – lots of upcoming content, all of it free. Maps, modes, missions and more are in the works (some are already in the game’s menus) and updates are planned well into 2019. The feature everyone’s going to be keeping an eye out for, though, is Firestorm – which nobody will be too surprised to learn is a “Battle Royale” mode (except with FIRE!) This mode is being developed by former Burnout Paradise studio Criterion, who also developed the epic space battle modes for Battlefront II, so we can’t wait to see what they come up with.
So, is Battlefront V for you? If you love WWII shooters, it’s a must-buy for its atmosphere, stories and sheer visual quality (especially on the enhanced consoles). But anyone who’s into multiplayer shooters will find a lot to like with the multiplayer here – it’s well-designed, fast and diverse. The single player campaign is short (for now) but solid and with the promise of months more new stuff without paying a cent, it seems like Battlefield V’s aim is true.
Battlefield V releases for PS4, Xbox One and PC on November 20.