With so many iterations in the popular Battlefield franchise, Battlefield V sure had big shoes to fill. Not just any kind of shoes, either, but a pair of heavy, extra sturdy tactical boots used only in the harshest combat situations. And although some of you perhaps expected it to fail in this endeavor (especially since the initial disapprovals fans made in the pre-release phase), this game manages to do it pretty darn convincingly, with grace and pathos reserved only for the best creations in the genre, managing to relate its wartime stories with unexpected freshness and proficiency of an experienced storyteller.
Battlefield V is a war game in the same sense that movies such as Saving Private Ryan, The Big Red One or Gallipoli are war movies. It deals with the different aspects of the war experience with the terrifying authenticity and almost great detail, delving deep in the wartime history and traumatic experience of the participants themselves, bringing us sweeping moments of war exploits with splendor and conviction, all the while focusing on the fates of individual soldiers in lesser known battlefields. At certain moments (which are the highlights of the game, as far as I’m concerned – but I was always a sucker for a good war story with a humane angle) Battlefield V creates a strong impression that you’re actually witnessing some sort of high-quality documentary about little-known frontlines and unlikely heroes mostly ignored by history books. Although guys from EA DICE pointed out numerous times that they always place fun before anything else, it’s not a war game in the traditional sense of the world. True it is fun, engaging, complex, spectacular, action-packed and frequently adrenaline-charged, but do not look for anything trivial there or something that would impress an infantile taste for cheap war heroics and irreverent (mis)representation of the frontlines in the manner of corny blockbuster action movies. This is not the glorification of the war – in fact, it’s quite the contrary. You’ve been warned. Is it fun and engaging? Certainly. But it is always deeply steeped into the sense of gravity and reverence, just as its serious subject demands.
Now, that is out of the way, what can you expect to find in the new Battlefield game? We’ve been used to a certain format with the battlefield games: it includes a small single-player campaign which works as sort of delicious starter for the multiplayer experience. In a sense, it’s the same here. However, just as in critically acclaimed 2016’s Battlefield 1, authors had now opted for a bit more fragmented image of the World War II that you’re probably used to. Instead of a monumental campaign that follows the exploits of a single protagonist, or a group of them, you have the so-called War Stories. They come in the form of three XS campaigns which deal with little-known battlefields that haven’t been in the spotlight much, especially not in the gaming adaptations. Under no Flag tells the story of Billy Bridger, a small-time crook who had been spending his war days in the relative peace of London Jail – until he had been recruited into SBS, that is. Special Boat Section was a sort of British Special Forces back in the day, so Bridger will have no easy task to aid the British war effort to best of his abilities and assist in sabotaging a desert Luftwaffe airbase using his quick cockney wits and unique talent for blowing things up. Just as it sounds, Nordlys takes place in German-occupied Norway. You’ll play the role of young Solveig, a Norwegian resistance fighter tasked with disrupting the trafficking of heavy water, used in the creation of atomic bombs. She also has a very personal mission: to save her captive mother. The third War Story is called Tirailleur and follows the exploits of a couple of Senegalese soldiers in southern France during Operation Dragoon. There will also be the fourth story called The Last Tiger which (judging by the title) seems as if it’ll be focused on the German crew of the notorious Tiger tank. Short but sweet, this mosaic of several War Stories does an outstanding job of showing how the horrors of war touched individual lives and destinies in different parts of the world, and how they coped with its tribulations and challenges.
Now, I have to admit that the most pleasant surprise (at least for me personally) was War Stories. However, although I haven’t expected many significant changes in the multiplayer aspect of the Battlefield V, the guys from DICE has taken the trouble to add something new in this department also. There’s a bunch of modes here for your enjoyment (without the narrative aspect of War Stories, the multiplayer experience is relieved of some of the more serious overtones), as well as several new gameplay mechanics. Modes include the all-time favorites such as Team Deathmatch, Domination, and Conquest, but also epic Grand Operations mode. As its name hints, it’s kind of Operations mode from Battlefield 1, but with the hefty dose of anabolic steroids added until it becomes a mammoth version of itself which supports 64 players and will take at least several hours and phases to finish. The game also features the so-called Combined Arms which is an interesting take on traditional co-op mode for four players. As for new game mechanics, probably the most interesting is the one that allows you to fortify yourself by using sandbags, digging the trenches and the like.
As for other relevant aspects of Battlefield V such as visuals, we don’t need to spend words too much. Graphics are outstanding and will constantly tempt you to stop and admire the surroundings (try to do it in moderation, though, if you don’t want to get yourself killed too often), especially in the outlandish Nordic landscapes of Nordlys War Story, drained in eerie, greenish hues of polar lights. Finally, let’s answer the question from the title – is this the best Battlefield game so far? Well, as it currently seems, Battlefield 1 – the Call of Duty killer – still made a bigger impact when it was released and is more finely polished in several aspects. However, it’s probably too soon to make any conclusive claims. After all, DICE still has to release at least one more War Story (hopefully, there will be even more of them), as well as their battle royale mode, so then we’ll be able to share more insights with you. In the meantime, take comfort in the fact that Battlefield V is an outstanding creation and that it more than deserves your undivided attention, especially if you’re interested in the unconventional way it narrates the story of the World War 2.