Not being one to pass up an easy gag, let’s talk about the ludicrous sequelitis of the Battlefield games. Here, I’m regurgutating a review of Battlefield V. V being for Victory, which totally gives away that for this game we’re back in 1940’s Hitler-punching territory: an era never before seen in gaming, assuming you have rampant amnesia coupled with crippling lethargy when it comes to fact checking.
V, of course, is also Roman for ‘Very nearly 6’, which they often shortened to 5.
Last year we had Battlefield 1, so named as it was set in World War One. Regardless, 5 doesn’t often follow 1. (Well, unless you’re my Mum: she once stapled the tip of a snapped tape measure back on, forgot about the repair truncating the start of one end of it, and then bought me a pair of mismeasured school trousers that were so tight I thought I’d put on about 2 stone overnight.)
Battlefield 1 itself followed Battlefield 4, so really that game should have been Battlefield 5 and this year’s effort Battlefield 6. Worse still, inbetween B1 and B4 there was the numeral-free Battlefield Hardline. But before B4, mercifully, was B3. So are the incorrect numerals just a recent thing?
Alas, no. Before B3 came Bad Company 2, Battlefield 1943, Bad Company, Battlefield 2142 (what?), B2, Battlefield 1942 and…that’s it (and I haven’t even touched on expansions). There was never a game just called ‘Battlefield’ and Battlefield V, which should arguably be Battlefield VI, even arguablier shouldn’t be that eitheras it’s actually the 16thgame in the series – a series whose numbering, we must conclude, has been kept track of by idiots.
Having slogged through this terrifically laboured mockery, you’ll be vastly relieved to hear there is actually a point to it. Two, in fact, and here they are: like its numerical positioning Battlefield V is more than a bit lost and confused, and in its 16thiteration it’s a regrettable example of the law of diminishing returns.
Let’s go over the basics first. As with many of its predecessors, B:V is a massive multiplayer online shooter with a light smearing of single player action as a starter (like the sort of nice-but-not-really-satisfying puffy canape you might get at a wedding in the near-intolerable period before it’s polite to crack open the wine).
In B:V, these ‘war stories’ take the form of a handful of short campaigns that spirit you to varied scenarios across WW2. Each one introduces you to how to play the game, and at a relatively sedate pace so you’re not overwhelmed when you get thrown in with real people online.
This is a bit too sedate at times though, to be honest – there’s a lot of stealthing about that’s entirely at odds with the rapid pace of multiplayer; there’s not much point teaching you to crawl slowly through a thicket to silently take out an enemy, when attempting this against human opponents is about as optimal a tactic as hopping about the battlefield in a luminous sack.
While these wee missionettes do a grand job of showing off how bloody marvellous BV’s visuals are, accompanied by suitably stirring orchestral themes here and there, what they don’t do is anything particularly novel or engaging. It’s standard ‘go here, blow this up, go there, kill those Nazi guys’ stuff, and each one is all over just as you’re getting into it.
They’re all enjoyable in their own right, though some bits are also way too silly to take seriously – ‘awright guv’nor!’ cockney bomb guy sounds straight out of some direct to DVD Vinnie Jones masterpiece, and skiing knife trick assassin lady is more James Bond than Imperial War Museum. These feel awkwardly out of place given the sombre tone elsewhere.
The biggest problem though is they’re just a little too short and not quite sweet enough to really make them feel like much more than the training wheels they fairly obviously are.
This is a shame, as the production values on them are sky high and the characters you play quite interesting, and they touch on some themes that could have been expanded upon to make genuinely engaging tales if given a bit more leg room.
For example, the token mission where you play ‘the baddies’ involves a non-Nazi German struggling with his actions, and the story of the Senegalese soldiers and the racism faced by them from their own allies is a very different take to your standard square-jawed hero fayre.
Regrets about brevity aside, once you’ve cleared the stories that leaves the main course: multiplayer. This is huge, often chaotic, and exactly as much fun as you find these sort of things to be. Which sounds like a cop-out opinion, but there’s no pretending it’s something it isn’t. There’s a good range of weapons and vehicles, everything looks wonderful, and if you like 32 vs 32 squad-based shooters with strongly-defined classes you’ll love it.
Or rather, you probably will when it’s finished. There are bugs, y’see. Bugs, and a fair amount that’s still to come down EAs ‘content hose’ to land in your lounge with a wet plop.
In fact, this review is probably going to be as out of date as a tin of 1940s corned beef rations soon, as there’ll be so much more in the game. EA have launched B:V with a plan of updates to be delivered over the next year or so – including, yes, a bloody battle royale mode. Because apparently, gaming hasn’t been messed up enough yet by the clammy arse of Fortnite being dragged all over it.
All this ‘stuff’ is coming for free (thankfully, EA seem to have taken the lessons of Star Wars Battlefront II’s horrendous microtransaction fiasco on board), and patches are already being delivered, but there’s no escaping the fact here and now you’re not getting the complete package. Heck, even one of the four single player missions was missing until recently.
Which begs the question – why didn’t they wait a bit and release the game when there was more of it, and less AAA competition to (das) boot?
Moments like flying a plane through a dense cloudbank, or the chaos of fighting over a narrow bridge with bullets whizzing everywhere really shows off what the game is capable of (the best bit of all is actually the lengthy, playable prologue), but for now the review score reflects the incompleteness of the game and the brevity of the parts that are there. You can’t make tonight’s dinner with tomorrow’s onions, and all that.
In future, and probably the inevitable next game rather than this one even with the updates still to come, Battlefield also needs to decide what the bejesus it wants to be and focus on being that thing. Right now, it’s like a jigsaw assembled by drunks out of bits of other jigsaws – and a picture of a horse with the face of a steam train is only amusing for so long.
A full beans single-player ‘war stories’ game with this level of polish and space for the plots to really grow could be fabulous. Equally, a multiplayer game with the same graphical quality would be more fun if it had a larger amount of content and a lot fewer bugs from day 1.
As it is, you’ve got half of one game, a third of another, an ongoing IOU and a grating juxtaposition between being told all about the harrowing realities of war on a personal scale on one side and a full-on free-for-all with anonymous, immortal respawning soldiers on the other. It’s even lacking the historical intrigue of the more archaic WW1-era kit to tide you over until the holes are plugged.
Battlefield V could be an absolute monster. Right now, it’s a partially finished Frankenstein with an arm off and poorly fitted buttocks. Like an overused latrine in a field hospital, I’d give it 6 months if I were you.
SCORE: VI.5 out of X