Over the years, Activision8217;s Call of Duty has established itself as the first-person shooter for the masses (becoming an incredible cash-cow in the process) while Electronic Arts8217; rival franchise, Battlefield, has developed a following which views itself as a bit more discerning. EA8217;s flagship shooter is all about making you feel like you8217;re in the middle of a raging, all-out, large-scale war, and 20178217;s World War I-set Battlefield 1 took that ambition to new heights.
But there8217;s a catch. At launch, chunks of Battlefield V which had been previewed are missing. The most significant among them being Tides of War, which is the game8217;s 8220;Live service8221; – that is, its equivalent to the likes of GTA Online, which is intended to provide a feeling that you8217;re taking part in a huge, constantly evolving, persistent campaign. At least we know when Tides of War should arrive – on December 4, along with the final single-player War Story. Firestorm, Battlefield V8217;s battle royale mode, is also nowhere to be seen, although we8217;re promised that will arrive on some unspecified date in March 2019.
With COD Black Ops 4 axing its single-player campaign, it really looks like Battlefield V missed a trick by not including the whole of its single-player campaign at launch – it stood a good chance of hoovering up those Call of Duty fans who demand the chance to play solo.
Battlefield V8217;s single-player campaign is pretty good, although also very short. Just like in Battlefield 1, it has been chopped into disparate War Stories which benefit from not having to conform to an overall storyline.
Pre-December 4, there are only three full War Stories, each of which takes roughly two hours to complete. They are satisfying and innovative, though, telling stories from far-flung outposts of the war which aren8217;t afraid to challenge widely held views about WWII.
Unexpectedly, they flaunt some movie influences. Under No Flag follows an East End gangster recruited into the nascent Special Boat Service and operational in North Africa, and its dialogue will strike a chord with Guy Ritchie fans.
Nordlys stars a teenage girl in the Norwegian resistance, equipped with skis and throwing-knives, and tips its hat to Scandi-noir.
What really impresses about the War Stories is the way in which they present you with a number of objectives, then let you fulfil them however you see fit, in any order, and by employing stealth or a guns-blazing approach. Sure, they have some more linear sequences, but they also cleverly work in introductions to various multiplayer modes, and generally feel both fresh and very distinctive. The enemy AI is annoyingly dumb unless you crank up the difficulty level, though.
Even with chunks missing, there8217;s still a welter of things to do in Battlefield V from a multi-player point of view. The standout mode is Grand Operations, which mixes and matches game-modes to track mini-campaigns as they progress over three days.
A typical Grand Operation might include a Frontlines session – in which opposing teams have huge shoot-outs around chained objectives which, if captured, will push the frontline back – or Airborne, in which one team fights off a stream of incoming paratroops, and a limit on respawns generates a nail-biting end-game.
The fact that it takes place on maps which you8217;ve already come to know intimately, and has that distinctive Battlefield feel and ambience, instantly renders it more memorable than many rival battle royale games. But currently, Final Stand is rather buried within the rest of Battlefield V8217;s multiplayer side.
Beyond Grand Operations, Conquest provides the best example of the classic, large-scale action which Battlefield fans crave, taking place over giant maps in which you might have to try to capture as many as seven flags, and which you8217;re pretty much forced to navigate using vehicles (although you can spawn onto your squad, or into tanks or planes).
In Conquest, it becomes clear just how far developer DICE has gone to town with the game8217;s destructibility – towards the end of a round, as the tanks, planes and artillery have bombed the map to smithereens, support troops, with their new-found ability to build sandbag-fortifications, come in very handy, and the full chaos of war is unleashed.
The classes are nicely judged, with an emphasis on support which is typical of the franchise – Battlefield has always been more forgiving of those who don8217;t possess semi-pro fast-twitch skills than Call of Duty. Medics have a quick-heal, so come in especially handy during Team Deathmatches when pinch-points come to the fore and the lengthy healing process administered by other classes puts them at risk of death mid-heal. There8217;s also a Sniper class which can spot enemies, along with a sop to those who prefer to run-and-gun and wield explosives.
The progression system encourages you to flit around the classes, as do daily challenges, but the Armoury system, which rewards you with cosmetic shaders for your weapons, feels a tad superfluous – a sop to those whose lives revolve around loot-crates.