Battlefield 5 Review — Destined for Greatness
Battlefield 5 continues to improve and iterate on an already great shooter formula even though its package at launch feels somewhat incomplete.
Xbox One X
Review copy provided by the publisher
Three years ago, EA and DICE released Star Wars Battlefront, a recreation of the classic Battlefront series for a new age. While the game had a lot of promise, the main complaint from many was that it didn’t contain enough content at launch and the content that was on its way would only be via the game’s pricey $49.99 season pass. Fast forward to today and EA and DICE have once again launched another multiplayer-centric shooter, this time around with Battlefield 5, the follow-up to 2016’s Battlefield 1.
While Battlefield 5 continues to improve the overall formula last seen in Battlefield 1, the game’s biggest issue is that of what Star Wars Battlefront struggled with three years ago—there’s just not enough content found in its base package at launch. This issue is somewhat rectified by the fact that all future content coming to Battlefield 5 will be completely free, but it still doesn’t change the fact that the game was released in a lacking and somewhat bizarre state.
Even though there is a leap from 1 to 5 in the title, Battlefield 5 is for all intents and purposes a direct sequel to Battlefield 1 and this time around finds you taking part in World War II. As such, the jump between entries isn’t as vast as the leap between BF4 and BF1 which went from modern day to World War I. Guns have that same feel and pop from the previous installment, visuals look mostly the same, and the grittiness and dirtiness of the Second World War are on full display.
If you’ve played countless hours of Battlefield 1 already before diving into Battlefield 5, it’s going to feel extremely familiar. Battlefield 5 feels less like a drastic leap forward for the series and is instead more about refining and improving on what was found in Battlefield 1. Typically, I’m not the biggest fan of incredibly small iterations like this, but DICE achieved greatness with Battlefield 1 and it is easily one of my favorite shooters of the past few years. Rather than drastically mixing things up, I appreciate that DICE has just opted to further improve BF1’s already stellar formula.
“Rather than drastically mixing things up, I appreciate that DICE has just opted to further improve BF1’s already stellar formula.”
As for what Battlefield 5 does bring to the table that differs from its predecessor, on the mechanical side there are a few subtle improvements. Being able to throw yourself directly into the prone position is a great benefit when it comes to movement. Couple this with now being able to backpedal while being prone and you can really throw off your opponents while still being engaged in a shootout.
One tactic that myself and many others have been using frequently is to immediately go prone in the backward position once you run into an enemy in a one-on-one situation. This tends to throw other players off and keeps you firing shots while also moving away from your foe. This is such a small change to the overall game, but one that has really stuck out to me so far in my time with Battlefield 5.
There are a few other small additions to the shooting mechanics as well in Battlefield 5 such as being able to lean around walls when you’re hugged up close to them. In a general sense, the guns also just feel better to shoot now than they ever have before. There’s a fluidity to shooting now while still keeping that same sense of heft and pop that the weapons have always had in Battlefield. DICE remains the king of feel-good guns in my opinion, and their work on Battlefield 5 continues to establish as much.
By far the biggest change in Battlefield 5 though, and the one that DICE has arguably spent the most time talking about in the lead up to release, is the ability to now create fortifications. With each class in Battlefield 5, you can build objects in the environment more often than not to help you defend a certain position. Typically these end up being sandbag walls or other similar structures to help provide you and your team with cover from oncoming forces.
On paper, this is a really cool idea and one I was interested to try out once I dove into Battlefield 5. For the most part, I think it works rather well but you’ll only ever use this building function in certain situations. For starters, I only ever found myself using this system when I was on the defending team rather than the assaulting one. This makes sense, but also drastically limits how much you’re likely to take advantage of it.
Additionally, some maps make better use of this new function than others. Rotterdam, for instance, is full of tight, narrow corridors where your fortifications can really make a difference when it comes to blocking off invading forces or defending certain positions. In a wide-ranging map like Arras, however, I found building structures to be rather useless at times due to the sheer vastness of the location. Overall, the fortifications system is a neat addition, though I don’t think DICE did enough to encourage players to take advantage of it often.
Speaking of maps, most of them tend to be really great, albeit some are rather familiar from past entries in the series. Battlefield 5 is at its best in some of the game’s larger locations which allow players to take advantage of planes, tanks, vehicles, and unique sniping positions. This is the core Battlefield experience, in my opinion, and certain locations such as the Norway-based location make really great use of this hectic all-out war style of play that I’ve come to expect from the franchise.
Game modes this time around are where I’m a bit disappointed out of the gate with Battlefield 5. In total, there are six different modes to play, with your typical Battlefield staples like Conquest and Domination making a return. These returning modes are as fun as they usually are, even though I’ve already played enough of Conquest to likely last a lifetime.
The biggest new game mode though is that of Grand Operations, which lives up to its namesake of being “grand.” Taking place over the course of multiple “days” in-game, you’ll repeatedly clash with your opponents multiple times in a row to defend or attack certain objectives. After playing multiple rounds and depending on the state of the match, Grand Operations will culminate in a “Final Stand” which will see both teams clashing one last time to determine the overall winner of the series. In this mode, respawning is turned off which leads to some truly harrowing battles.
At this moment, Grand Operations is the reason to play Battlefield 5. It feels different, the battles are exhausting, and more then any other mode, it exemplifies the actual push and pull of war. If there are any complaints that I do have with Grand Ops, however, it’d be that to play a full match can take way too long. As of this writing, I’ve only been able to fully experience a handful of rounds in Grand Operations. I’ve tried to settle in for longer sessions, but multiple times now I’ve had to quit out before reaching the final phase. If you’re strapped for time, Grand Operations is probably not something you should jump straight into and you should instead spend your time with one of the game’s shorter modes.
“At this moment, Grand Operations is the reason to play Battlefield 5.”
Another change to Battlefield 5 is the emphasis on customization, both for your soldier and your various weapons. There are more unique options to choose from than ever before in Battlefield 5, but I personally don’t feel all that compelled to engage with them whatsoever. In lieu of a season pass, it’s clear that this is the area that EA has put in many of the microtransactions that will inhabit Battlefield 5 in this customization realm of the game.
At launch, there are no real-money currencies available for purchase, so it’s hard to know just how far your dollar goes at the moment. That said, as long as what you’re able to purchase with real money only goes towards cosmetics, something DICE has reaffirmed time and time again, then I don’t anticipate any issues.
To earn new gear in Battlefield 5, you’ll be leveling up both your overall character’s level in addition to each of the game’s four different class levels. As you rank up, you’ll unlock new weapons and items to use, same as in previous Battlefield games. More so than in the past, there are a ton more missions and progression checkpoints that will continue to give you either more currency to spend, or new customization options for your weapons. The level to which you can detail yourself and your gear gets pretty minute in Battlefield 5, so much so that it almost put me off altogether. I don’t really need ten different options to choose what the barrel of my gun looks like, but hey, it’s there if you want it. If you’re someone who likes to curate every single element of what you look like in a game though, then Battlefield 5 has you in mind.
Perhaps the most disappointing part of Battlefield 5 to me would be War Stories, the single-player offering that puts you in the shoes of different characters from around the various frontlines of World War II. At launch, there are three different campaigns to play through with each story taking about an hour or more to see through. That said, I would suggest that you don’t even waste your time playing any of them as each campaign is honestly pretty terrible.
As someone who actually found the War Stories to be a unique, interesting idea in Battlefield 1, the campaigns present in Battlefield 5 are all boring and uninteresting. While DICE’s approach to storytelling has always differed from other single-player shooter campaigns, the actual missions that are found within Battlefield 5’s War Stories are all poorly constructed and focus far too heavily on stealth gameplay rather than giving you engaging shootouts to have fun with. Of the three campaigns, Tirailleur, which sees you following a group of French soldiers, is the only one that is even slightly enjoyable. The other two, Nordlys and Under No Flag, try to tell interesting stories but are so unengaging gameplay wise that you’ll likely tune out to their narratives quickly.
Up until now, I’ve been fairly positive about Battlefield 5. It’s deserving of the praise I’ve given it, even though it’s not reinventing the wheel. All of the things that I’ve talked about before this have been roughly the same as what was seen in Battlefield 1 outside of the small mechanical changes and the new Grand Operations mode. Battlefield 5 does have a lot of new content in the pipeline that will mix things up compared to Battlefield 1, but none of it has been added to the game yet. By far my biggest issue with Battlefield 5 though is that it just does not feel like a finished game whatsoever.
“You’re likely better off purchasing Battlefield 5 a few months from now to get the full experience of what this game is destined to become.”
In typical EA fashion, there is a long roadmap of content that is scheduled to arrive in Battlefield 5. The game’s battle royale mode which was revealed at E3 2018 won’t arrive until next March. There’s also a fourth campaign in War Stories that is scheduled to arrive in early December that sees you taking the role of a tank commander. Heck, there are even multiple portions of the game’s main menu right now that are promoting content not even found within Battlefield 5 at the moment. Even something as small as a Practice Range isn’t being added to the game until December 4.
As mentioned before, all of this content will be coming to Battlefield 5 for free, but that doesn’t change the fact that at launch, this game feels unfinished. When you’re promoting functions of your game that aren’t even readily available until weeks after release, then something is seriously amiss. Over time, I’m sure all of these new game modes, maps, and additional items that are being added to Battlefield 5 will further enhance the experience, but that doesn’t change the fact that at this moment, the game feels half-baked. You’re likely better off purchasing Battlefield 5 a few months from now to get the full experience of what this game is destined to become. As of now, this lacking of new content fails to separate it as much from that of Battlefield 1 and instead just feels like more of the Battlefield status quo.
On a final note in reference to technical portions of Battlefield 5, I found this year’s version of the game to have way more bugs than normal. Multiple times in the War Stories campaign specifically, my game would freeze up for long periods of time. I also had other weird issues such as not being able to aim down my sights properly at times in addition to some rather lengthy load times. There are a lot of small problems that I’ve run into over the course of my time with BF5 that I’m hoping DICE can quickly rectify most of them.
In terms of visuals, I’ve been playing Battlefield 5 on an Xbox One X and it looks pretty stellar. I feel like I mention this in almost all of my reviews at this point, but I continue to be impressed with almost all games that I play on this console and Battlefield 5 is no different. If you have the system for yourself or even a high-end PC, do yourself a favor and play Battlefield 5 on that platform.
Battlefield 5 is going to be a great game, but I don’t think it has reached its crescendo just yet. There’s still a lot of fun to be had within its sprawling warzones, but this year’s edition of one of my favorite multiplayer franchises has definitely stumbled out of the gate more so than in the past. In a time where live services have become all the rage, especially for a company like EA, it seemed like the publisher was more focused on getting Battlefield 5 out the door and adding more substance to it later rather than making sure players were hooked on the game and its new offerings from day one.
I trust DICE, I think they’re a great developer, and I have no doubt that six months from now when all of the promised content for Battlefield 5 has finally made its way into the game that this will be one of the best multiplayer shooters on the market. But at this moment, it simply feels like more of what we’ve already seen before with some slight tweaks that only series veterans will truly appreciate.