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Letters from the Front

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World War II has always been a mainstay of videogames but that started to change with Modern Warfare in 2007. After the launch of Modern Warfare, the military genre started to drift away from World War II and the iconic battles that were depicted again and again like Normandy and Stalingrad until recently, as far back as 2016.

Battlefield V represents something new within the World War II genre, just as Battlefield 1 did with the First World War by depicting numerous unknown battles of the war, Battlefield V is doing the same but with the Second World War, portraying the early fight against Nazi Germany a year after their invasion of Poland in 1940 with numerous unknown multiplayer maps and unknown stories that weren’t or aren’t depicted in World War II media like videogames or movies.  We’re going to do this review a bit differently than normal and start with the multiplayer since that’s the meat and potato of Battlefield V.

Multiplayer

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World War II multiplayer has always been the same since the 2000’s: classic Allies vs. Axis with battles ranging from Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge and beyond but in Battlefield V this isn’t the case at all. Battlefield V’s multiplayer component is still very much classic Allies vs. Axis but at launch focuses on the early campaigns of 1940 like the British retreat across northern France during the Fall of France and the West African Campaign of 1940 instead of the familiar battles although I do feel like DICE has missed an opportunity here. I know that DICE wanted to go for the lesser known stories from the war but I really wanted to see how DICE would tackle the D-Day landings or Stalingrad but, unfortunately, none of this appears in the game. I hope through the Tides of War system, we’ll get those iconic and famous battles.

The multiplayer is the biggest detractor yet from the franchise, the multiplayer isn’t like Battlefield 1’s or Battlefield 3’s. This isn’t Battlefield 1 or Battlefield 4 but instead a blend of ideas taken from Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4 while taking the franchise back to its roots with hardcore mechanics. Health, gunplay, spotting, and reviving have all been reworked and revamped to return the franchise to be a more hardcore experience than the casual experience that was seen in 2016’s Battlefield 1.

You’ll no longer regen health but instead will have to seek out a medic or a health station littered across the map, the same with ammo and most of the equipment that you carry on the field. Decisions matter more on the battlefield than in previous games, you’ll have to make a choice to either heal up yourself or heal your squadmates whose beside you and are desperate for health. This makes teamplay more important now than ever before as you’ll need to look out for your teammates than yourself. Reviving has also been reworked, no longer will you just syringe a dead corpse but now you’ll have to go through a lengthy animation to revive your squadmate or drag him out of harm’s way into cover so you can revive him. All of this adds a layer of tension to the multiplayer, a feeling that really hasn’t been felt since Battlefield 2.

On top of that, the franchise for the first time now includes full-scale customization for your soldiers in the form of the Company. The Company is your own personalized soldiers that you can take on your journey throughout the Second World War and your company will evolve as the war continues into 1942 and 1943. The customization is authentic to the era with a wide range of equipment that soldiers used in the war, including face paints and helmets but there is no word on or if DICE will add the wackier cosmetics that were found in the reveal trailer in which they had to pull out from after facing a massive backlash.

Weapons like the MP40 and the Kar98 are lovingly detailed and vehicles like the infamous Tiger I or the Panzer are painstakingly recreated, each with a unique playstyle that you can take advantage of. Weapons like the M1A1 Carbine or the Thompson M1928 can be upgraded using the coin that you receive from daily missions or completing challenges, allowing you to tailor how you play and the weapons also sport some unique skins that don’t really betray the all-too-familiar World War II experience.

All the major game modes return except for Rush and Battle Royale which are planned for future content drops. Operations have returned but now it has been renamed to Grand Operations and it is meant for longer sessions of playtime where the mode takes you on a historical journey of battles fought across 1940 like the Fall of France or Operation Battleaxe, the failed British advance through the Halfya Pass in North Africa and the mode is made up of different game modes which I necessarily don’t like since it feels like it’s a playlist instead of something epic but it still immerses you in the World War II experience. For now, the biggest changes come in the form of smaller features like fortifications.

Fortifications, much like the revamped game mechanics like spotting or the revamped gunplay, is one of the key points of the game. Fortifications allow you to rebuild a certain spot of the game world which you can defend from the enemy, the ability to build a waist-high wall made of sandbag or building tank traps for enemy tanks makes it easier to defend objectives.

Battlefield V’s multiplayer is probably one of the most robust multiplayer experiences I’ve had in a while. The amount of features and revamped mechanics makes this Battlefield one of the more interesting titles in a long time, with a strong emphasis on teamwork, vehicle support, and environmental destruction and rebuilding said environmental destruction.

Single-Player

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The war stories in Battlefield V are something truly odd and doesn’t really build off from the strong points of 2016’s Battlefield 1. Each of the three stories features a different tale from across the war and the gameplay feels basic and emphasizing mechanics from the multiplayer side.

The first story follows an ex-con drafted into the Special Boat Service for his special skills, this mission explores the early days of the SBS and their raids against German airfields and installations during the North African campaign. The second story tells another tale set in Norway inspired by the Norwegian Resistance Movement and their fight against Nazi occupation and the true to life Norwegian sabotage of a heavy water plant used to develop an atomic bomb. The third tale tells the story of French colonial troops during Operation Dragoon, D-Day’s lesser-known cousin, where Allied troops landed in southern France.

I give DICE a pat on the back for at least attempting to tell the lesser known stories of the Second World War but this clearly wasn’t it or wasn’t a good way of telling these stories. The execution isn’t there and downplays how large the Second World War really was and downplays the gravitas of the largest conflict in human history that has not only transformed the latter half of the 20th century but the world at large. The war stories here make it hard to connect to characters, make it hard to connect to the world around you, and it just feels too safe.

The Norwegian war story and the Last Tiger ( more on that tomorrow since that is part of the Overture expansion.) is the strongest out of all of them and both are the only ones that offer intrigue. The stories outside of the Norwegian and German war stories is forgettable at best and DICE’s lack of investment to create something compelling just like the Battlefield 1’s War Stories is just annoying.

Finale:

The meat of Battlefield has always been its multiplayer, which remains just as addictive as ever while the singleplayer campaign gets ripped apart like usual. Battlefield V is an interesting Battlefield title with a ton of promise on its multiplayer side and now that the Tides of War has started, I hope DICE can realize its promise and bring one of the best entries in the franchise since Bad Company 2.

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