6 Best And Worst Things About Battlefield V At Launch | Early Access PC Impressions

Battlefield 5 is upon us, and right now I
imagine the people at Dice are feeling like the soldiers in the transport boats in the
D-day landings – except instead of opening doors to face deadly gun emplacements, they
are facing a fan base that was confused by the bizarre announcement trailer or still
wounded by the loot box horrors of Star Wars Battlefront 2. There’s apathy and anger, which is hardly
fuel for success. It’s a shame as I love Battlefield – I’ve
always liked games that reward teamplay over lone wolf excellence. Partly because I’m terrible at first-person
shooters and because I love the sight of a well oiled squad storming to victory. In a current gaming scene dominated by Battle
Royale – a genre built on an aggressive, selfish drive to be the last person standing – I’ve
been waiting for a game that celebrates playing a part in something bigger. Is Battlefield 5 that game? Well, I’ve played for a few days at a pre-launch
event, so I thought I’d offer thoughts of what does and doesn’t work. It’s not a review – I want to see how the
game functions out in the wild before making a proper call – but hopefully it’ll shed
light on what changes to the formula impress and what doesn’t. You might be tempted watching this video to
write something cruel about my aiming in the comments – but how about taking that negative
energy and funnelling it into something positive, like clicking the like button or subscribing
to Rock Paper Shotgun? That warning out the way, let’s deploy… The game launches with eight maps, which sounds
a little stingy for fifty pounds come across a little better in action. I’ve always found that the best Battlefield
maps can feel like different places based on your given objective or vehicle choice. The French countryside of Twisted Steel, for
example, has the boggy marshes where infantry and tanks play cat-and-mouse amongst the trees
and tall reeds, but up above them the bridge provides a grim tug-of-war, with two desperate
infantry swarms attempting to claim ground by hammering up sandbag walls to create new
chokepoints. On a much smaller scale is Devastation, set
in the bombed out remains of Rotterdam Cathedral – the kind of tight warren of entrances and
exits that doesn’t immediately scream Battlefield scale, but allows for bloody scrabbles for
the capture point plonked right in the nave. It’s one of the few maps that building tools
feel really powerful, as they can change the flow and lock it down in a way that they rarely
do in sprawling maps. I know that trying to get a bomb through this
sandbagged entrance was one of the few times in two days of playing that I really noticed
fortifications playing a bigger role. Capture points are exchanging hands so quickly
in games of conquest that it’s actually quite easy to forget you’ve got a magic
hammer capable of banging grains of sand into rock solid bags. On the flipside, there was also this bit in
Rotterdam where the enemy blocked the entrance and I could still claim their flag. Er, Dice might want to fix that. Arras is another winner, with these beautiful
yellow fields offering a playground for vehicles while infantry duke it out in the barns and
farmhouses of the village. I mainly like it because the colour means
it isn’t just the overplayed Band of Brothers, grey and gritty vision of war, but I also
like domestic areas that crumble into total chaos as the match runs on. At the other end of the spectrum is Fjell,
which is a series of tight cliff corridors atop a mountain and a slightly baffling inclusion. It’s very linear map, more like the deathmatch
arenas of Battlefront 2 than the sprawling natural locations we expect from Dice. I half expected to find a snowtrooper lurking
around the next corner. But it’s never anything as exciting of that,
boiling down instead to running short laps of a very dull space. It’s not great for one eighth of the entire
game. With only eight maps at launch I’d hoped
for a couple more solid gold dazzlers – another Arras or Twisted Steel. I’m willing to accept that your mileage
might vary based on how you like to play, though. One thing I’m sure of is that the new Airborne
mode is my least favourite Battlefield mode yet. Okay, maybe not as bad as Battlefield 1’s
pigeon one. In this mode you start in a giant metal pigeon
– or a plane, as it’s commonly called – ready to parachute in and attempt to blow away anti-aircraft
guns. The drama of the moment is indisputable, especially
when you jump in the rain and see millions of water droplets whooshing by. My problem is, it’s very easy for the defending
team to chew through the attackers as they land – it’s hard to hide a huge parachute,
after all – and that forces you to endlessly respawn in the plane. Maybe I should blame myself for dying, or
my squad for not staying alive, but every time we played Airborne we were just endlessly
stuck in this damn aeroplane. It’s about as exciting as listening to an
aircraft safety presentations. Of course, when you do finally break through
and plant the damn bomb, it’s exhilarating. Just don’t get overexcited and blow your
own ass off. Annoyingly, Airborne is part of my favourite
mode in the game – Grand Operations. This builds on Battlefield 1’s operations,
by stitching multiple matches into a mini campaign. Based on how you perform, you are then at
an advantage or disadvantage in the next match. Take this Dutch operation – if the attackers
successfully take enough of the capture points in the first round of Airborne, then you might
be given faster vehicle respawns in the second match of Frontline set in Devastation. If you were a fan of the original Operations
mode it sort of appears here in the shape of Breakthrough – the game type that asks
you to hold multiple capture points at once. It’s brilliantly high pressure stuff – with
some of the best last second comebacks in everything we played – so I’m glad it makes
a return here. I’m undecided on Final Stand, which triggers
in the event of a close finish on the third day of Grand Operations. It feels like a rough pencil sketch of battle
royale: one life each, limited ammo and an ever decreasing area. Problem is, support and medics can stock everyone
up and leaving the shrinking area gives you ages to return. It’s flat and undramatic, although I do
like the bit where 32 soldiers charge as gang. I’m intrigued to see what lessons will be
learned for Firestorm, which is battle royale proper, when it comes out in March. Bad squad play has been the curse of many
a Battlefield – you know, getting grouped with jerks driven by kill/death ratio and
no interest in objectives or support. Battlefield 5 does a lot to make squad play
more enjoyable and rewarding. For starters you spawn with less ammo, making
it important to buddy up with a supply class. Fail to do this and you might end up relying
on pistol that looks like it came out of a Christmas cracker. This seemed funnier on the loadout screen. Likewise, health doesn’t regen to max, so
you’re reliant on friendly medics – which is my class of choice – or having to build
supply stations dotted around the map. Personally, I adore medic work – wedging yourself
into chaos and peppering people with pick-me-ups is valuable, satisfying work. Well, apart from the odd ironic moment… Crucially, working with your squad earns points
to buy extra toys during the fight. Keep each other healthy or stocked with ammo
you’ll start saving up currency to buy supply drops – if you’re boring and sensible – or
a sturmtiger – if you like making houses explode. These purchases are all in the hands of the
squad leader, so don’t work with a scumbag who’ll nick the best stuff. Of course, everyone knows that the best squads
save up for V1 rockets… On paper it sounds these reinforcements may
sound like Call of Duty killstreaks, but it takes consistent team play and doesn’t over
power the game. Other changes are smaller but meaningful – the
fact that you see your squad in third person during respawn gives you a better idea of
their situation and emphasises the importance of squad deployment. Some might prefer to jump straight to the
traditional deploy map overview, but I like that Dice have gone all in on squad play. Of course, so much of this hinges on having
friends to play with, but it really did bring the game to life for me – I’m just hoping
the reinforcements are enough to encourage people to give it a proper try with strangers. Within this cooperation mix there’s still
a big focus on personal progression – something that was massively undercooked in Battlefield
1. Here you level up every discipline based on
how much you use it – at the end of the match there’s separate gauges for your progress
as an all-round soldier, as a medic and your specific weapon of choice. The more you do a specific thing, the faster
you develop at that specific thing. It reminds me of Forza Horizon 4’s ‘do
the races you want to see more of’ approach and I like games that go out of their way
to accommodate me. One look at the progression chart for the
classes – unlocking guns and gadgets at every step – shows how much it’s improved over
Battlefield 1’s laughably bare bones progression. Improving in a class unlocks new weapons,
but levelling up a weapon let’s you tweak its specialisation, picking performance perks. Do you want your sten to have better hip fire
accuracy or less recoil? There’s not enough options to make a highly
tuned custom build, but I do like that it’s not a big time investment – I fully upgraded
the Sten in about four hours. Just enough time to get familiar before trying
something new. Everything has a physical layer to it, too
– with weapon skins and costume parts unlocked at level milestones that you can see in this
sten progression chart. Other skins cost company coins that you grind
for in-game or purchase with real world money – it avoid the pitfalls of Battlefront 2 by
being purely cosmetic. Well, unless cosplaying as Big Boss somehow
bestows you with his legendary soldier abilities. Which I don’t think it does. All this comes together in your customisable
company – here you choose the look and perks of everything you can spawn as – that’s
the four classes and different vehicles, on both the British and German sides. As much as I like the granular control, it’s
currently a big fiddly mess of menus and sub-menus – having to click equip on each item is incredibly
clumsy – but still, I persevered and dressed my squad so there was a bit of colour coordination
going on. One bonus complaint: there is an outfit called
the writer, which is trendy, but if she was a real writer, it would have way more mayonnaise
stains on it. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about
here. One thing customisation does highlight is
the weird tone of the game – from the outset it’s all very respectful. You get Mark Strong delivering a very serious
speech about the horrors of war – you can almost hear the frown on his head. You’re then into a prologue that whips you
around a series of deaths across the globe. It’s like the opening to Battlefield 1,
but with slightly less mud. Play the single player war stories and you
find similar tales of sacrifice and unhappy endings. Even in the one where you ski around a mountain
like James Bond. Over in multiplayer the Grand Operations are
couched in the language of epic struggle – trying to deliver the idea that these were gruelling
campaigns that churned through young soldiers for often tiny gains. But once you’ve broken through that layer
you’re suddenly playing dress up – decking people in blinged out gas masks and bizarre
Nazi chic. The German clothes are all swastika-free,
but it’s quite weird to see sinister uniforms repurposed as a must-have fashion accessory. Is it possible to have Mark Strong telling
us that war is bad in the same game where you can build yourself a solid gold tommy
gun? I mean look at the state of this thing. Every time I was shot down, I’d lie there
bleeding out, looking at this ridiculous gun and wondering where my life went. And if it’s not MY gun, I’m watching a
teammate with an equally gaudy weapon going mad in the lobby. Or a gang of Nazis limbering up for war with
squats. You didn’t see that in Saving Private Ryan. I’ve got nothing about a game being big,
dumb fun with golden guns, silly costumes and microscopic pea-shooters; it just doesn’t
sit easily with the more serious elements. It almost feels like it was going to a different
game at one point – the game of the announcement trailer, a vision of mad, steampunk fantasy
war – but the backlash to that has left them trying to tone it down. Incidentally, I couldn’t find any of the
prosthetic limbs shown in the trailer in the final game. It’s been a muddled time for Battlefield
and you can really feel it in its bones. When I say the game doesn’t feel quite finished,
I don’t mean in a rushed buggy way. Sure, the odd body defies gravity…. and
ankles bend in impossible ways to accommodate prone players. I also found a magical wall that grew an infinite
supply of leaves, but It was quite zen during an otherwise fraught battle, so it wasn’t
exactly a problem. On the whole I was really impressed with how
smooth and gorgeous Battlefield V is. We played in controlled conditions, of course,
but it was slick. When Rock Paper Shotgun the site does a tech
breakdown, I’ll be sure to post it in the video description. No, what I mean by unfinished is the general
lack of stuff, and some big holes left to be filled in the coming months. Dice are calling their free DLC schedule the
Tide of War, which is a rather overblown name for a series of regular, themed content updates. But the stuff coming should arguably be here
at launch: a training grounds, the new co-op mode, the Battle Royale, one of the single
player war story campaigns. As much as they want to dress it up as themed
care packages, it feels like stuff that just wasn’t finished on time. All these future updates are free – which
should avoid splitting the player base around the traditional premium pass – but the idea
of buying into the promise of a game sits uneasily with me. Strip away the talk of new modes and the updates
really only promise two new maps between now and March, which sounds really skimpy when
you consider it only has eight currently. Worse, we played one of them – a tank-based
number called Panzerstorm and it was just a massive field for you to churn up. I really wasn’t that impressed. Perhaps you see the launch as a first step
towards something – an exciting something, and something you get for free – but for fifty
pounds, I really expect something more tangible. I guess that’s the wider point here: what
you get at launch in Battlefield 5 is generally polished and generally great fun – especially
if you prefer a more tactical game that encourages people to play their roles and help the team
shine as a whole. Which I do. And there’s a scale to the action that you
just don’t get in any other modern shooter – battle royale games may crush 100 people
on a map, but they never give you the drama and thrill of what Dice achieve with 64. Of course, any game can hold up after two
days of play – the test here is whether we’re still playing in a week, a month, a year…
and what the game itself looks like. Will it have blossomed into Dice’s best
work yet, or will tides of war be a war of attrition? I’m excited to find out, but it does make
it hard to offer a full-blooded recommendation at launch. Those my early impressions of Battlefield
5 – congrats to those of you who endured my horrible aiming and made it this far in the
video. If you enjoyed it, please do let us know in
the comments. Even better, why not subscribe to rock paper
shotgun – we try to cover all the big PC releases, as well as celebrate some of the weirder stuff
you won’t see elsewhere. You know, like a magic leaf wall. I hope you’ll join us again soon. Bye for now.

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