Reviews

Battlefield V review for PC - Bugs, breasts and balancing

EA Dice
Battlefield 5 screenshot of two fighter places in a dogfight over some mountains
Battlefield 5

With Battlefield 5, Dice decided that they were taking the franchise back to its roots with a World War 2 setting. Unfortunately, they also incorporated changes in gameplay and character design that will not be to everyone’s liking.

If you enjoyed Battlefield 3, 4, 1 or Bad Company 2, you might be disappointed with Battlefield 5, at least with its multiplayer. To sum the multiplayer up in one line - Dice nerfed everything.

Dice have implemented what they call attrition, which is just a fancy word for scarcity. You get far less ammunition in Battlefield 5 than in previous titles. Assault rifles get 2 spare magazines to begin with, though you can stock another from a resupply station for a total of 3 plus the one in use. We don’t understand why soldiers don’t start with ammo at capacity, as the current system makes them seem unprepared and ill-equipped.

If you played Battlefield 3 or 4, you may be used to more, so this might feel restrictive - none more so than with the Recon class. Sniper rifles now start with 20 shots in total, including ammunition already loaded. In other words, snipers can only reach a maximum of 30 after stocking up additional ammunition.

EA DiceBattlefield 5 screenshot of two fighter places in a dogfight over some mountainsBattlefield 5

Dice claimed that Attrition is a camping antidote and that Recon players won't be able to just camp on a hill forever. I just camped near supply stations instead.

To be fair, most of the stations were on flags and camping could be considered defending the objective. Either way, following your squad into closer ranges is a death sentence for snipers, as you will be outgunned by automatic weapons of every other class. This is not Bad Company 2, where an aggressive Recon could one-shot up close.

The class is further hampered by the starter Lee Enfield. This bolt-action doesn't do enough damage to give you the kill credit if someone else finishes off your target. The only positive is its 10 round capacity, which is nearly double of anything else available to the class.

Part of why Dice introduced attrition was to increase reliance on Support players, and they have certainly succeeded. I spent most of my time tossing ammunition pouches at teammates, though it didn't net as many points as in previous entries. Dice claim that there’s satisfaction to being needed, but it feels more like a chore.

The Support class still has infinite ammo, so play that if you don’t want to worry about running dry. You can also build fortifications with the repair tool, though this is only possible on predetermined sites around objectives. The repair tool can also be used to repair vehicles, the same as in Battlefield 1.

EA DiceBattlefield 5 screenshot of player standing in front of a supply cacheBattlefield 5

Ammunition pouches have been integrated into crates and are no longer merely an alternative. Crates no longer automatically resupply players in the vicinity. Instead, you must approach and press a button to restock and this comes with a cooldown. If Dice wanted to limit the crate’s effectiveness, why not give it a limited number of pouches, say, 5 or 10?

Resupply stations and Medical crates function the same way. This matters because Medical pouches are the only way to reliably bring you back to full health. Automatic regeneration now has a limit. If you take heavy damage, you will only heal back around 30 to 40 health. Medics have an endless supply of medical pouches, which heal to 100% unless interrupted.

You don’t need to be a Medic anymore to revive squad mates, though the process will be faster if you are. When downed, you will enter an injured state wherein you can choose to scream for help or give up and die. If you choose the former, you will hold on for longer, but the screams do get rather annoying, doubly so if your character is female, but more on that later.

That being said, this mechanic is certainly more authentic than resurrecting inanimate corpses. The reviving process also appears more believable, though this comes at a cost. The animation takes significantly longer than in earlier titles, even for Medics.

EA DiceBattlefield 5 screenshot of two fighter places in a dogfight over some mountainsBattlefield 5

At first glance, you might think the Medic has lost relevance as the sole reviving class and you may be right. While any class can revive downed squad mates, only medics can revive other teammates. If you stick with your squad as Dice want you to, this distinction becomes irrelevant. What makes the Medic even worse is their armament. Submachine guns are supposed to excel in close quarters, but you will find yourself outgunned by assault rifles and machine guns at any range.

Assault is by far the most enjoyable class to play, all thanks to its starter rifle. It is clearly the most versatile and fun weapon to use in Battlefield 5. Its hip fire is tight enough for close range, while a medium range scope can be equipped even for longer distances, as the recoil is manageable enough to be effective at any range. If that wasn’t enough, the class also has access to rocket launchers and explosives such as anti-tank mines or dynamite, making it a threat to both infantry and vehicles. Assault feels by far the most powerful, but also the most selfish class.

Considerable changes have been made to the way spotting works. The spot button will place a static marker in the environment. However, vestiges of the old remain in Battlefield 5, as you can still track enemies using the spotting scope. Why you can’t do the same through a rifle’s scope makes little sense, but that appears to be Battlefield 5’s new direction.

EA DiceBattlefield 5 screenshot of two fighter places in a dogfight over some mountainsBattlefield 5

The attrition system has also affected vehicles and you can no longer repair them to 100% from the inside. Instead, the amount of health you can recover is indicated on a translucent bar, so a full repair will require a full stop and exit. You can't do this with planes of course, but aircraft can now turn while repairing.

Vehicle ammunition is limited and does not recharge. To resupply, you need to dock at Supply stations in bases or near objectives. Dice wanted this to stop vehicles from staying put on hills and shelling targets, but I found the opposite to be true, again. As a driver, I felt the need to camp my vehicle around stations instead of on objectives or bases. At least the secondary gunner still has unlimited ammo for his machine gun.

Tank turrets have been reworked to have realistic limitations. You can no longer swivel your cannon as quickly as you can aim on foot. The turret rotates at a fixed speed which provides time for blindsiding. You are still free to look around in third person, but the turret will take a while to catch up. While this coupled with the ammunition rework are undoubtedly nerfs, their basis in reality adds a feeling of authenticity which helps immersion. It is tragic then that this glimmer of authenticity is thrown out the window by the drivers themselves, who are always inexplicably female.

This cannot be changed in the customisation menu, which only allows you to tweak your vehicles and choose their specialisations. Having no option to be a male pilot will be a deal breaker for anyone put off by the first trailer, which was actually pretty representative of how annoying the characters and their voices are. Hearing a female voice scream for help or even ask for orders sounds completely out of place for a World War 2 setting and ruins any previously build up immersion. This is made worse by what and how they say it. You can only hear “Ta, SOLJA!” and “Allo, Ol Friend!” so many times before you need a break from the game entirely.

EA DiceBattlefield 5 screenshot of two fighter places in a dogfight over some mountainsBattlefield 5

A community manager agreed that players should have the choice to change the pilot’s gender, and has vowed to pass this on to the developers. However, my assessment still stands until this is actually implemented.

Recon and Medics are also female by default, though you can change this in a menu offering a list of female and male characters. I wonder how many players are aware of this, considering the countless female Medics and Snipers I encountered coupled with the total lack of female Support and Assault players.

It’s worth noting how you can only have white German males and female soldiers, while the Allies have considerable diversity available. It's odd that they accurately depicted ethnic demographics of both sides and then threw that authenticity away for the sake of gender inclusivity.

The characters themselves don’t look very good in our opinion, their skin in particular appears waxy with blurry textures. Fortunately, you rarely get to see this up close so it doesn’t matter as much.

EA DiceBattlefield 5 screenshot of two fighter places in a dogfight over some mountainsBattlefield 5

Battlefield 5 is a beautiful game with impressive lighting, sharp textures and detailed models both on the vehicles and the environment. However, it has inherited most of this beauty from Battlefield 1. If you were expecting a substantial title to title improvement like the upgrade Battlefield 1 brought over Battlefield 4 or Hardline, you will be disappointed.

Battlefield 5’s fire for instance inherits the impressive lighting effects from Battlefield 1, meaning explosions are bright even in broad daylight and fire has a beautiful orange-red glow. However, the flames are blocky and nowhere near as detailed as the rest of the game. This was exactly the same in Battlefield 1, and I was naively hoping Battlefield 5 would bring it up to par.

On the subject of performance, my aging rig had trouble keeping the game at 60 FPS, often dropping into the low 30s on certain maps. This is probably caused by my CPU, but I do blame the game for not allowing me to launch unless I updated to the latest graphics driver. The driver I was on played the beta just fine, so why was I forced to update again? You might think this is not an issue worth complaining about, but as a gamer who likes to stick with a stable driver, this was extremely annoying.

The only significant improvement Battlefield 5 has brought over its predecessor are particle effects during snowy weather, but these maps also bring another of Battlefield 5’s most glaring flaws to the forefront - its user interface.

EA DiceBattlefield 5 screenshot of two fighter places in a dogfight over some mountainsBattlefield 5

The UI is atrocious to the point of being unusable on many maps. Its white text is unreadable in a bright environment which is common in most daylight maps. If they wanted to use white text, they should have added a black outline. The objective markers are so faint you might have trouble even finding them in order to issue commands as a squad leader.

If you are a squad leader, you will have the option of calling in reinforcements if your squad is doing well, much like score streaks in Call of Duty. Depending on how many points your squad has accumulated, you can call in a supply drop, half-track, heavy tank or a rocket strike.

Heavy tanks seem to be a bit of a balance issue. The British Churchill Crocodile feels a lot stronger and more versatile than the German Sturmtiger. I’m not a fan of how the rocket strike is deployed either, as it needlessly requires marking your target area via spyglass. I would have preferred being able to direct a strike on a map, but given how problematic the UI is I suppose that would have presented its own difficulties.

You might not know when a vehicle becomes available if you aren’t paying close attention to the map on the deploy screen, further compounding the game's UI woes. Even if you do manage to claim a vehicle, you might not get to use it.

EA DiceBattlefield 5 screenshot of two fighter places in a dogfight over some mountainsBattlefield 5

I encountered a crippling bug that wouldn’t let me fly the plane I chose to spawn in, and wouldn’t let me use the UI to redeploy either, forcing me to leave the server. In another instance, I didn’t get control of the plane until the last second, leading to an unavoidable crash. I found out that tanks are just as prone to bugs when my vehicle clipped through the terrain taking damage while under the map. If I listed every bug I encountered this would quickly bloat to the size of a novel. Battlefield 5 is badly in need of polish.

Even while on foot, it can be hard to discern if a distant vehicle is friendly or hostile due to how faint the interface is. When combat is going smoothly, the UI still has trouble providing kill-count feedback. There was no such ambiguity in Battlefield 1, so why fix what wasn't broken?

As with the visuals, this game has inherited Battlefield 1’s excellent sound design. Weapons sound like the powerful, lethal things that they are, but the real star are the vehicles. Tanks sound fantastic whether you are firing, being fired upon, getting hit or just moving and aiming. This is particularly important when your tank is severely damaged, as the audio makes it clear you are in danger and need to act quickly.

The menu music fits the World War 2 theme, but not quite like the Macedonian tune from Battlefield 1. In combat however, you won’t notice it much until the match ends, where its main purpose is to indicate whether you are on the winning or losing side.

EA DiceBattlefield 5 screenshot of player defending an entrenched position while ADSBattlefield 5

Battlefield 5 was hailed as the purest Battlefield yet, thanks to the lack of behemoths, weapon pickups, elite classes and weapon variants. The last bit isn’t entirely accurate as there is quite a bit of variance with specialisations. Weapons can be augmented to fire faster, have better handling or increased capacity, but it does require grinding.

A pilot with a fully specialised plane is far better equipped than a novice, who faces an uphill battle both in terms of his own skill and the durability or versatility of his plane. Gadgets like radar, bombs, as well as upgrades to durability, damage or rate of fire are locked behind ranks. Even after grinding your way up, you still have to spend currency to unlock specialisations. The rate of unlocks can be increased with assignments and daily orders.

In any team game, sticking with your mates gives you strength in numbers. Any lone wolf you encounter will be outnumbered, flanked and crushed. This provides a natural incentive for cooperation, but Dice has long felt this inadequate and has tried to further encourage squad cohesion through carrot or stick depending on the series entry in question.

For example, Battlefield 3 had a perk system that let you use either additional ammunition, explosives, grenades or other boosts. The squad version of these perks would apply the same benefit to your entire squad, so all 4 squad members could have the maximum ammo, explosives, grenades or other boosts at the same time. Enemy lone wolves could only have one of these, but that’s less of a downside for soloing, and more of a reward for forming a squad. Battlefield 5, on the other hand, doesn't just encourage and reward sticking with your squad, but mandates it by making individual action almost futile.

EA DiceBattlefield 5 screenshot of tank ploughing through the snowy chaosBattlefield 5

The singleplayer arrives in the form of 3 short campaigns, the first of wich puts you in the shoes of British prisoner conscripted to serve behind enemy lines in North Africa. The story is pretty bare bones, though it tries to depict emotional moments with characters you spend too little time with to care about.

The missions themselves take place in a vast expanse with objectives which you can complete in any order. These are the usual and repetitive go there and blow stuff up. Still, I was pleasantly surprised with the number of ways you can accomplish said objectives.

For example, I was having a hard time reaching an objective as the enemy would swarm in with infantry and Stukas before I even got close. The game does advise stealth, but I didn’t feel like sneaking around. Instead, I thought it would help to destroy the Stukas so they couldn’t be called in at all. The previous mission required planting bombs on grounded Stukas, so I assumed this would still be possible even though the game didn’t explicitly say so.

EA DiceBattlefield 5 screenshot of a bomber with aurora borealis in backgroundBattlefield 5

What I found was even better, as the game let me hop in a Stuka and use it to destroy the objectives. I was not expecting Battlefield to allow for much choice, so this came as a pleasant surprise. However, the next War Story wiped all that away with its opening statement, which is a concise representation of the game’s tonal inconsistency.

“As war rages across the globe, Western Europe falls under the shadow of the Swastika.”

If this was your first exposure to Battlefield 5, this might make you think it was a gritty, unflinching portrayal of the war, reminiscent of Call of Duty World at War - a game that actually depicted the Swastika, unlike this one, which replaces it with a flag sporting a variation on the Iron Cross symbol.

Why mention the Swastika at all if you’re not going to show it? Was there some disconnect between the writers and visual artists? Perhaps this is all on the writers, as it seems they had no coherent idea of what they wanted to make.

EA DiceBattlefield 5 screenshot of parachute troops deploying during the night next to a damBattlefield 5

This is apparent in the Norwegian campaign, which depicts a teenage girl rescuing her scientist mother held hostage by German occupiers. The story is based on the Norwegian Heavy Water Sabotage which played out somewhat differently in reality. Knowing this makes it hard to take this campaign’s closing statement of countless acts of heroism and sacrifice going unreported seriously. Dice are mistaken if they believe their misattributed fictionalised representation of real sacrifices somehow fits with that closing line.

The third War Story follows colonial troops liberating occupied France. This is perhaps the most linear of the three, though its map is still vast. It also tries to offer a tad more variety in objectives by having you capture flags, much like Conquest multiplayer mode.

Don’t let that fool you though, as the War Stories are not a good preparation for multiplayer. In fact, it can be positively misleading. The health attrition is totally absent in the campaign, meaning you regenerate to full health like you did in previous series entries. Further, you can swap the pistol for a second primary weapon, which is impossible in multiplayer. While this is nothing new to Battlefield, you may still consider this a fair warning.

There was supposed to be a 4th War Story - The Last Tiger, but that has been delayed to a December content update, along with a new multiplayer map. Another MIA is the delayed battle royale mode.

EA DiceBattlefield 5 screensof of warship in the ocean during a storm with lightningBattlefield 5

Currently, there are only 8 multiplayer maps, which might feel a bit sparse. The Eastern front and Pacific theater are conspicuous by their absence. This is a World War 2 game without much of Russia or Japan, with Dice's promises sitting in their place. The same Dice that made promises for Battlefront 2.

It is worth noting that Battlefield 5 has done away with DLC, premium passes and progress to pay microtransactions. This is welcome, if long overdue, but raises the question of what incentive Dice have to continue supporting the title with content?

There is speculation that Battlefield 5 will be monetised through cosmetics, but would a company like EA be satisfied with just that given their record? As to what the replacement might be, we think the launch schedule holds a clue. Players who got to play first were not pre-order customers of the Deluxe Edition. This privilege was reserved for Origin Access Premier subscribers. We wonder if EA will make more benefits exclusive to them as a way to drive subscriptions and a steady revenue stream by extension.

EABattlefield 5 screenshot of air combat from a plane cockpitBattlefield 5

To quote Patrick Soderlund: Don’t buy the game, at least not at this moment. Even if the new attrition system sounds right up your alley, we recommend you wait to see how Dice deliver on their post-launch promise with Tides of War.

Additionally, if you wait long enough you might get a steep discount on the game, as was the case with Battlefield 1 selling for just 5 US dollars. At this price, Battlefield 5 will certainly be a fantastic deal.

Of course, buying the game also sets a precedent for what the developers can get away with. Dice has been downright hostile towards players who were concerned about historical accuracy, outright calling them uneducated sexists and dismissing their concerns. Is this the type of behavior you want to incentivize? You be the judge.