The Battlefield series has always been a hallmark of first-person shooter excellence. Ever-changing and ever-evolving, it’s remained a reliable option for anyone looking to completely immerse themselves in believable wartime stories (except Battlefield: Hardline). Though it has its share of past missteps, it found a particularly winning formula with Battlefield 1, one of the franchise’s best efforts yet.
Battlefield 5‘s World War II setting sets the stage for a glorious homage to the series’ past. It’s sprinkled with the winning decisions made in previous titles and a forward-looking outlet that promises grand things to come. It’s a cacophony of sights and sounds that entice you to the battlefield; ever willing to spill blood and let loose with a hale of gunfire to ensure your team pulls through.
What’s here is incomplete, but well worth your time. It’s a meager package that promises more of the excellent content that is here. And it’s just enough to keep players patiently waiting.
Band of Brothers
One thing is abundantly clear, straight out of the gate: this installment excels at multiplayer. Which is usually the case for standard Battlefield games. Battlefield 5 builds upon previously established, frenetic, and large-scale first-person shooter conventions seen in the rest of the series, and elevates them in several noticeable ways.
The game is beautifully balanced; an optimized version of the previous game. Shooting is fast and frenetic, with effortless player control. Everything from going prone, to jumping through windows, or even leaving cover feels frictionless. Animations are seamless and your character maneuvers exactly as you mean them to.
Modes currently include Conquest, Team Deathmatch, Domination, and Grand Operations. Grand Operations are an expanded version of Battlefield 1‘s less grandiose Operations mode. But they’re nearly perfected here, stringing together multiple maps and game modes that take quite a while to complete. Unfortunately, there are only eight maps available at launch and many focus on close-quarters encounters. Battlefield‘s signature vehicle combat takes a backseat.
Classes are largely untouched, though. Assault, Support, Recon, and Medics are all here. Each role has class-specific weapons and equipment that unlock as you play. And all classes can revive squadmates (though the Medic is quicker). But each still plays a specific role—beyond just keeping team members alive, of course. Medics offer bandages for others to heal themselves, for example. The Assault role is great at shooting down vehicles, especially with the Vehicle Buster unlock.
Competition and Progression
You need to play to each class’s strength to survive. So if you don’t typically play well with others online, you’ll have to drop that mindset quickly and adapt to make any headway. Otherwise, you may as well spend all your time replaying “War Stories” (more on those later).
Fortifications add an extra element of strategy to the game. Construction is actually closer to Fortnite than anything in past Battlefield games. Players can lay sandbags, build supply stations for vehicles, create walls, and even rebuild their own structures damaged in the middle of a firefight. Utilizing fortifications can be a cornerstone of expert play, or it can become a liability. Skill and timing make all the difference.
There is no loot box-based progression to contend with this time around. Although you can earn in-game currency, called Company Coins, as well as XP by staying on top of your Daily Orders and Assignments. Daily Orders are quick challenges that automatically change each day. Completing them nets you some goodies. Assignments are chosen, with up to four active at a time, and shower you with Company Coins and XP. Their rewards (and requirements) are much tougher than Daily Orders, but they’re well worth completing if you want to progress.
Nearly everything else has its own progression tree. You level up your “career” in-game, as in previous installments. That nets you new weapons, guns, skins, and outfits, as well as specialization perks to totally alter a weapon’s features. There’s a mind-boggling number of things to do and unlock as you make your way through the game. So much so that it nearly feels like working through another single-player campaign on its own.
Weaving War Stories
Luckily, there are actual story missions in Battlefield 5. While Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 opted out of its traditional campaign in favor of multiplayer alone, DICE has continued down a familiar path. Its War Stories vignettes are bite-sized campaign missions split into three different scenarios. Each explores a different theater of war.
This is the same anthology format as in Battlefield 1, but it’s much shorter than the previous Battlefield’s single-player campaign. Each tale, which focuses on lesser-known sides of the conflict, offers a glimpse at more personal sides of WWII. Seeing things through the eyes of the poor souls who lived through it adds a harrowing dimension to the gunplay and truly put some of the horrors of war in context.
“Nordlys,” “Under No Flag,” and “Tirailleur” offer unique lenses through which you can view the war. Nordlys is the strongest of the trio, but is still unfortunately thin.
One Good Lookin’ War
Every vignette leaves something to be desired in terms of length. Completing the miniature trilogy only takes 3-5 hours, depending on your skill level, but it’s a necessary presence for anyone who misses the typical theatrics of the previous Battlefield entries. It’s also a refreshing option for anyone pining for true single-player content after Black Ops 4. A fourth mission is coming later, too. That’s great news for anyone entranced by the these dazzling cinematics and memorable characters.
They certainly will be, too. Battlefield 5 is, by all metrics, absolutely stunning. It’s a gorgeous, well-optimized, and visually impressive game. But it becomes nearly photorealistic under the right conditions. Its dazzling lighting effects bring even the most mundane moments to life. For a few fleeting moments during particularly cinematic scenes, you feel as though you’re watching events in the real world.
There are plenty of opportunities to inspect your effect on the environment: whether that’s watching the path you forge driving through tall grass, or the footsteps that remain after navigating particularly mushy land. The sound design is equally impressive. Whether it’s the well-acted scenes straight out of War Stories, or the echoing booms of the artillery and gunshots, DICE clearly spared no expense on the game’s production values.
A Piecemeal Product
The most frustrating thing about Battlefield 5 is that it’s not complete—not just yet. Although DICE promised a selection of meaty future updates by way of free seasonal chapters, as well as a release schedule dubbed “Tides of War.” It’ll debut in December, with a new multiplayer map, the next War Story, Practice Range, and a slew of other improvements. The game’s Combined Arms co-op mode has a planned release in March 2019.
Additionally, the game’s hotly-anticipated Battle Royale mode, called Firestorm, isn’t out until next spring. That sets it far behind Black Ops 4’s Blackout option. Its late arrival could very well mar its potential player base.
Battlefield 5 is a dynamic and absolutely excellent multiplayer shooter. It’s also light on content and heavy on promises. The current content is little more than a practice run for the complete release. The game should eventually fill out. But the promise of content, as enticing as it may be, isn’t anything to judge the product by in its current state. For now, Battlefield 5, as great as it is, is essentially an early draft meant to blossom into a fully-realized, comprehensive suite of single- and multiplayer options.
Battlefield 5 is more than the sum of its few parts, though. It’s a deeply fascinating, extremely polished effort from DICE that will undoubtedly get better—once the remaining content it arrives. This is only the beginning for Battlefield 5. Soldiers who enlist early have plenty to salivate over while waiting for the rest of the game to parachute in. It’s just going to take a while for things to come together.