Although Ludus Aurea tries to stay away from giving Battlefield – as a franchise – any exposure, especially the latest game, the time has come to deliver the short and skinny on the newest entry in the franchise.
Battlefield V has not been without controversy – tons of it – but it must be noted that to DICE’s credit, the controversy this time around isn’t caused by releasing a game that is literally broken at launch. In case a refresher is needed, Battlefield 4 launched in a downright unplayable state. Millions of players suffered from its debilitating netcode issues, which were not fixed for literally over a year after the games release. It was in October 2014 that DICE Los Angeles (not the team who made the game which is DICE Stockholm) released a patch largely reponsible for making the game playable. After all the season pass premium DLC had come out. Many didn’t experience these issues, but most did – the netcode simply didn’t work. The list of problems ranged from constant connection issues to desynching, stuttering, lagging, anything you can imagine.
Fortunately, Battlefield V released in a more solid state than that, but let’s not be disingenuous. The game still has the same Battlefield issues, the issues inherent to the Frostbite engine. It’s as if every time they release a game, one team gets delegated to actually maintaining and fixing it, and then the other team gets to move on to making the next game. Once the final patch comes out for the current game, those fixes don’t get rolled in to the new one. There can’t be any other rational explanation for why this franchise continues to ship with the exact same issues for 6+ years running. Kill trading, kill assist 100s, the list is endless.
So as is to be expected, because of this bad engine, the same gameplay problems are front and center again. You can survive two consecutive headshots and not die. I’ve done it before. I’ve show someone in the head at close range, who was standing still, with a Gewehr 43 and only did 99 damage. In some scenarios, this nonsense results from players being able to carry an instant heal med pack with them at all times as long as they resupply. In most, though, it’s bad game design. Battlefield has become embarrassing – it could be an exponentially better game if the rules of hardcore mode were applied to the standard game as the normal game type.
As for the gameplay in general, very little has changed since BF1. Snipers no longer fire giant tracer rounds across the map giving away their position, but, the 6x scope still shines like Polaris. On that note though, the ridiculous bullet drop from the past 3 games in the Frostbite engine has been removed in favor of something slightly more realistic where you don’t have to aim literally 5 feet away to hit someone. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to vehicles. One of the most embarrassing and annoying things about Battlefield 1942 was that tank shells were treated like ancient bow weapons, barely able to fire 100 meters before they dropped. Simply put, that’s wrong. It isn’t realistic at all. So one of the things the mod Battlefield 1942 Realism Mod fixed was to replace the projectile lobbing with actual rifled tank gun barrels – meaning if you fired a tank shell, you didn’t need to aim half the screen above the target to hit it. For some reason, this attention to reality wasn’t paid and so tanks yet again can easily use their MGs to snipe infantry across the map, but the tank shells have to be lobbed. This generally isn’t a problem, but just highlights one of the poor aspects of vehicular combat in the game.
Tanks once again are weak pieces of shit, just like in Battlefield 1 except weaker. In field 1, it was entirely possible to go 60 – 1 in a Renault light tank as long as your reflexes were sharp and you paid attention. It was still extremely easy to kill you, but you could defend yourself. The A7V could easily be 1v1’ed by an anti-tank player, for example. Well, I hope you liked that gameplay, because it’s back and it’s worse than before. Not only can assault easily 1v1 a tank but now you can easily plant nearly invisible AT mines everywhere; lob a Panzerfaust charge across the map with perfect accuracy (despite the short range of the weapon literally being the reason the Panzerschreck existed), and OUTRUN any tank in the game except the light tanks. This isn’t realistic, either. Even worse is that third person view is borderline useless for self defense this time. Simply put, if you don’t have a full time engineer repairing you much less a squad to shoot the sudden 25 assault players you’ll face, there’s no point in using a vehicle.
Ignoring the typical bad netcode and infuriating engine itself, BFV marks a new goalpost for DICE being out of touch with their audience. The issues became clear when DICE started mocking customers – as did most of the game “journalists” – for the backlash against this title’s blatantly unauthentic portrayal of World War 2. A portrayal which includes minority soldiers and women not just on one team, but both. DICE and others chose to mock their audience for disagreeign with this, some websites going as far as posting articles showing how “so many women” fought in World War 2. That was never disputed. The dispute came from mixing them in with everyone else – this simply isn’t realistic. Hundreds of thousands of women certainly fought in WW2, but they did so in entire groups composed only of female soldiers. To date, in 2019, there are no fully integrated national militaries where women and men serve in the front lines together in combat.
Despite the lack of authenticity there, the game commits far more egregious sins in that department. Germans can use Panzer VI Tiger’s in multiplayer maps that take place before the Tiger saw combat, for example. Allied troops can run around with FG-42s, MG-42s, STG-44s, and a slew of other weapons that not only didn’t exist at the time, but are extremely unrealistic to have been used by the allies in large numbers. Sure, plenty of Axis weapons could have been salvaged and pushed into service by troops, especially as they ran low on supplies or got cut off from their supply lines. Even then it wouldn’t be a big deal, but it’s ironic that in EA’s furor to promote a 2019-friendly equality-based version of WW2, they couldn’t bother on release to give this game any variety whatsoever.
You have two choices. You’re German, or you’re British. Even though the game focuses, currently, on less popular conflicts in the war, you still have no variety. The Norway and Holland campaigns are the worst offenders. In Norway – the “Battle of Narvik” – British, Polish, and French soldiers all served on the allied side. Yet, you can only be British. In addition to this, the naval engagements of Narvik which marked the beginning of the battle – serve as nothing but a backdrop not only in the multiplayer, but don’t even have a presence in the War Stories. The same applies to the African theater maps and Grand Operation. You can only be British, or German, despite the heavy involvement of Italian as well as Australians, Indian, Polish, and Czech troops.
Another supremely annoying game design decision is that of the “customization.” Most of the uniform choices aren’t particularly based on reality, except for a few, and almost none of them offer any historical camouflage choices. Expounding on that problem is that you either must unlock the camos, or buy them for an absurd amount of company coin. Yet even worse are two more problems: You cannot save an appearance “preset” like you could in say Insurgency: Sandstorm, and, the game does not have any system in place where it automatically chooses a default type of camo that would make sense for each map, for instance a snow camo on the snow maps, urban in urban, etc. You are left to choose this for yourself and typically have about 15 seconds to do so.
Vehicle skins didn’t even exist when the game came out, though they have finally been implemented. They too cost absurd amounts of company coin, and also don’t appear to have been subject to any research. Yet again, another game did it better – Company og Heroes 2 – although the skins are even, or were even, more expensive in that game than here. Assuming you could actually earn company coin past rank 50. EVEN worse, they nixed the majority of the customization options because people also complained about customization. Their complaints are valid, because this isn’t Call of Duty, but they also didn’t have to use those systems.
On the subject of authenticity, Battlefield V is very hit or miss. The maps, such as Rotterdam, are very authentic and detailed – you can see here an actual aerial photo of Rotterdam in WW2 versus the map in the game. Other aspects, for example the sound, are rather embarrassing. The guns sound generic and poorly recorded, almost as bad as old World War II movies like Cross of Iron. Every single one of these firearms is not only represented by an abundance of historical footage and recordings, but these guns all exist today and are rather easily accessible for a studio to record some good sound. The MG-42 sounds terrible, for example, and that’s perhaps the worst sin in this games recording. It sounds like a rapid fire whoopie cushion. From a distance, it’s even weaker sounding. Nothing like the shit-your-pants sound you could find in examples like Saving Private Ryan.
That isn’t to say the audio design is bad – it’s actually quite good. The problem is that the things that should sound the most amazing, don’t, other than the Stuka. When hearing shots from a distance, it actually sounds like those shot are far away. Perhaps the best example of the sound design in the game is when you are scoped, as a sniper such as using the spotting scope or your rifle scope, listening to your team duke it out from a distance. It sounds just like, again, that scene in Saving Private Ryan where Upham hides at the edge of the radar tower. It’s amazing. Another great example is when in a tank – the sound of the gears and motor are so loud that you can sparsely hear anything else, including when an enemy is sneaking up on you.
A lot of Europeans like to cry about how the USA overstates their importance in the second World War, and this article isn’t here to discuss that. However, to release a WW2 game that entirely lacks the Eastern and Pacific Front, the Italian Front, and only has minor glimpses of the Western front (the part that was actually significant, not the part where Germany trounced all of Europe in 1 year) – that’s absurd. The game is simply lacking in content.
It’s in this stagnant laziness that DICE shows how little regard they have toward making a good, cutting edge game. Two games come to mind immediately when looking for examples of how you could implement additional nationalities, and ultimately variety, in this game: Verdun and Day of Infamy. Both let your individual squad choose what unit they are with, which also dictates your available weapons. Simply put, it’s unacceptable for a game with this much praise and funding behind it to be incapable of outdoing indie developers. Combine that with the recycled engine and game design from previous games, and it’s no wonder this game has already run out of steam.
At this point in time, having now seen the release of the first War Story DLC, which pits you as a lone Tiger crew against an entire division of American tanks and infantry as they overrun Berlin, one thing is clear: The post-release support for this game is going to be lackluster and glacial at best. The end of the first chapter of Tides of War – the ongoing “season” type content for multiplayer, entitled “Overture” has also come to an end and it too was lackluster.
Tides of War comes with its own incredibly annoying quirks, as well. You have no control over what order you do the “challenges” in – you must complete them in the order laid out on the week’s diagram or you get no credit whatsoever. Rather than implement a non-sequential checklist of challenges to complete where you can – for example – get credit both for defending an objective and winning a Grand Operation at the same time, you end up getting screwed. Many of the challenges either don’t work or make no sense, either, such as “kill 5 enemies while defending an objective.” Well what else are you going to do when defending? Why are you not getting credit for these kills – do both you and the enemy need to be on the objective? So you are punished for being too good to let them get close? If that weren’t bad enough, you also must do them within the time frame – and that time runs on Sweden GMT +1 – meaning fuck you if you live in America like the rest of the game’s audience. Fortunately, to make up for this piss-poorly designed system, you can buy the unlockables with company coin.
Having seen now what we can expect from post-release content, it’s no wonder the game didn’t sell very well. Obviously though, this is also the first major release where EA has offered the option to subscribe to Origin Access for $15 a month and get access to all content – instead of paying for the game. If you aren’t sure you want to drop the $60 on this, you can at least play 4 months for the same price and see if it’s worth the investment. However, the future doesn’t look bright for this game. After only 138 hours and the incredible frustration at the Tides of War system, this might be the least time I will have ever played a Battlefield title and I’ve been doing so since the open beta of 1942.
The vast majority of Battlefield’s content is yet to come – we assume – like Firestorm battle royale mode. Once the game has any content, we will review it again.