Ok so I decided to play the Beta for Battlefield V. (Shut it you, yes you, you know who you are the person rushing to make some kinda of snarky comment or accusation). I've not played a Battlefield game since 3 and the last one I was really super into was probably Battlefield Bad Company 2, with the talk of better destruction physics and the return of such destruction to the franchise it had me kind of excited.
So is the 'revolutionary highly advanced' destruction system in Frostbite 3 pushing the series to new heights?
No, in fact it felt actually less advanced than the destruction in Rainbow Six Siege and as mentioned by other people commenting on the Beta you can't even level full buildings as you could in Battlefield Bad Company 2. The destruction and things you can destroy feel highly scripted.
Now I'm going to try and break down my impressions a bit and while I've talked about it before I will be bringing up certain socio-political aspects, I will try to clearly mark this section out so people can avoid it but hey if EA and DICE brought this stuff up they have to deal with the potentially unwanted repercussions of it.
It's also worth pointing out my comments are based on having not played a Battlefield game since 3, so features may be new to me but may well have been in Battlefield 1 or previous titles I've not played.
To me it feels like the time to kill has dropped since the last game I played but so has the size of a standard ammo clip too. This leads to a more arcadey feel to the game with deaths sometimes coming pretty quickly. Some will likely argue it's more realistic but as people have kept saying Battlefield has never been about realism anyway.
What does very much feel like a major change to the franchise is just how much teamwork is emphasised. You can as with other Battlefield games spawn on your squad mates, if they're not under fire, however Battlefield V tries to encourage people to play and stick with their squad far more. Sticking with your squad and performing squad actions tends to award more score points for any actions e.g. healing your squad. Additionally any member of a Squad can revive any other, in previous titles that I've played reviving was specific to medics and while in Battlefield V a medic can revive any-one even those not in your squad. Regardless of class being able to revive squadmates really does vastly change gameplay, even if this hadn't been realised and picked up on by most of the community in the BETA.
One final major change compared to previous games I've played in the franchise for squads are the squad reinforcements. Squad reinforcements are specific items that a squad leader / commander can call in to help the squad. As you perform actions as a squad and your squad earns points you can spend the points on various things ,some of which have a high cost but a hugely affect in battle. In the beta 3 reinforcement options were avaliable: a supply drop which drops a canister with extra ammo and heal pick-ups in it to a location meaning your squad can re-supply while away from a controlled check point (or without the need for medics and Support to be dropping their crates); being able to call in a tank to your location ,which I never actually got to work for some reason but still, and finally being able to call in a rocket strike on a location which causes a massive area of AOE damage and can basically wipe out all the enemies hiding round a checkpoint.
The classes do feel pretty district and it seems more work has been put in to separate the classes and give them all more distinct roles this time around rather than being about a slightly different weapon and maybe 1 ability difference.
Assault are still basically your front line grunts with rifles that allow some degree of hip firing and good mid to close range accuracy, their main speciality being a wealth of explosive that they can carry from anti personal grenade launchers to heavier anti-tank rockets.
Medics are still medics, you can throw health to heal any player on the same team and can revive any downed person on the same team. You can also heal yourself, throw supply packs so people can get some extra ammo and later in progression you unlock the ability place down Medical supply boxes that heal squad mates around you and let team mates collect medical supplies to heal themselves from.
Support comes with access to heavier machines guns that are good for suppressing the enemy to let your assault team mates advance more safely on enemy positions. Support can also resupply allies with more ammo and are the only class that can build certain more powerful fortification items such as: The Czech hedgehog used to block Tanks from being able to easily drive down the roads of some levels and the very powerful fixed machine gun emplacements that can be put up in certain parts of some levels.
Later on supports support unlocks also drop ammo crates which let anyone re-supply from and importantly also resupply peoples grenades. Support also starts with Anti Tank mines as a default that you can deploy.
Recon is, in my opinion, the class that has seen the biggest set of changes to the role. While this class has access to the sniper rifles it seems Dice has tried to push for people to play recon as actually reconnaissance and not just straight up snipers. Initially starting with an anti personal mine as their gadget their main secondary gadget is a monocular (though the in game score text refers to it incorrectly as Binoculars, yeh whose uneducated now huh EA? Didn't know binoculars are called that due to there being two lenses to look through did you?). The monocular allows recon players to automatically mark enemies which highlights all enemies in view on both the mini map and on the field for all team mates, it's important to note only people playing the recon class can mark players so a good recon player marking enemy positions from a hidden vantage point can help turn the tide of a fight. Late game gadgets include a squad spawn beacon to give your squdmates another place to spawn in (and importantly not give away your hiding spot) and also the flare gun which marks on the map and highlights any enemies around the area the flare lands, at least according to the description in game.
A Binocular spot assist using a Monocular.
I terms of other gameplay aspects, snipers feel like a bit of an issue due to the open maps and at some points in the game it did become a case of only being able to move forward on an objective if, or when, our recon cleared enough of theirs that we could push easily. Admittedly that was more of an issue of lack of co-ordination and map knowledge seemingly as there are multiple ways to most objectives and items like smoke grenades to try and cover attempts to advance. Also the game doesn't tell you that both the supports heavy machine gun and gun emplacements built by the support (in specially designated spots you can't build them just anywhere) can shoot through basic sand bag defences and kill enemies there, at least in my experience. Also the game does a poor job seemingly of suggesting using verticality to your advantage as in areas with high boxes you can often climb them to get a good vantage point and catch unsuspecting enemies off guard.
From what I saw rush mode from previous titles has been replaced by a new grand operations mode which consists of multiple matches back to back with victory in the first impacting the second in one way or another. The one grand operation in the beta featured a first map based round taking and holding points as the allies to blow up artillery which then removed that point from contention, the second match being a mode similar to rush requiring you to capture and hold two points from the enemy before the front line moved forward to two more (and a further two after). Each time after capturing the two points there was a brief period based round securing the points, during this time the Axis troops had to retreat behind the new front line or the game highlighted them, gave the allies infinite troop respawns temporarily and let the allies hunt and kill any Axis player who hadn't retreated.
I didn't see any one armed cockney women with baseball bats in game. However on a mission that was meant to be the British forces taking Nazi position it was a little surprising that the default recon model in game is a Chinese woman for the Allies (I'm saying woman based on some of the voice acting in game).
One who certain people would likely label problematic due to a fairly stereotypical voice that she'd been given.
Now all of that is overshadowed by what I'm guessing was an attempt at appearing progressive. You see the default assault class for the allies appears to be a black guy.
I say attempting to appear progressive because the assault class are your front line troops, the ones you generally send into points first and the ones who will generally be getting shot and killed on the frontlines most. So the choice to make the default for that class a black guy could be seen as a bit problematic, so much so if someone told me it was a deliberate South Park reference I'd believe them.
Having a black guy as the assault class wouldn't be half as problematic really if not for the fact the medic and the support class for the allies appears to be white guys by default.
As EA and people from DICE decided to try and push a political angle in marketing and telling people to just accept or buy the game I feel fully justified in happily pointing out the unfortunate racist implications Battlefield V contains along with the seeming erasure of other ethnic groups who did fight alongside the British in World War 2.
I ran into quite a few bugs during the Beta from seeing enemies rubber band round the place right up to two versions of the same game breaking glitch where you get stuck unable to respawn and the only thing you can do is quit the match. I also had one instance of a plane I was in just dropping from the sky for no apparent reason.
In terms of general complaints where to start?
The default scope on the Recon's rifle is a medium scope making it mostly useless for long range sniping and the same kind of scope that assault players can equip to some of their weapons. To equip the long scope you have to go into customisations, scopes and then scroll through all the locked cosmetic variant scopes to get to the default ones at the bottom and equip it.
On the left the Medium Range scope that's equipped by default on the right the long range scope. You can barely see the guy I'm shooting on the left.
Quite who made this decision who knows but it very much does feel like deliberately crippling new players to create easier cannon fodder for more experience players to kill off.
The default assault loadout has sticky dynamite which while it does do some damage it's nowhere near as effective as the anti-tank rocket launchers you unlock slightly later on which considering the risk and skill needed to stick it to a tank and detonate it without being killed it feels very unfair to new player. It also means new players can and will be dominated by tanks.
For some reason the default controls on PS4 have the revive team mate button as the exact same button as the button to change kits meaning sometimes as a medic you go to revive people and end up picking up their kit too thus ending up with a different weapon and making you and the person you revived less effective in combat from that point until your death.
The game feels like a free to play title with Daily assignments and additional assignments you can pick up too. It does seem to be more of a push towards the "Live services" model for games where by the plan is to keep people playing just your game in the hopes of getting them to spend more money.
The idea of EA subtly pushing micro-tranactions can be found in the fact that the default scopes for guns are often at the bottom of unlock lists while all the cosmetic options are at the top of the list, meaning to change your scope you have to scroll through the list of locked cosmetic items to get to it.
While Battlefield V doesn't contain Lootboxes it does have airlift shipments. A drop you seemingly get for levelling up in game or levelling a weapon which contains a cosmetic skin items for part of one of your weapons.
While you can't buy the airlift drops directly these are random skins with varying rarity for part of a weapon and you can pay extra for a version of Battlefield V that gives you extra airlift drops each week.
You might have noticed I specifically said cosmetic skin items for part of one of your weapons, tha's because rather than the skins you get from drops being a skin for the full weapon the skins are only for PART of the weapon. To get a weapon all in one skin you need to get the skin for each part of the weapon such as sight, magazine, barrel, muzzle, receiver, reargrip and stock. Or I'm sure you'll be able to pick up the full skin or whatever you're missing from the cosmetic item store.
Also speaking of cosmetics some scopes (including what I consider one of the better scopes for the default medic gun) are locked by default and you have to get them via the airlift shipment drops. I personally consider the scope in question to be superior to the Iron Sights scope on the default medic gun.
Upgrades for weapons also feel like they're designed to push people to use up their currency. While other games let you unlock all the options for a weapon then mix and match to a degree each weapon has unlock progression paths. After the 2nd upgrade you then pick one of two mutually exclusive upgrade paths. After the 4th upgrade there is then 3 paths, one exclusive to each of the previous 2 paths and 1 unlock either path can take. If you upgrade then change your mind you can undo or go back along the path.
If you want all the upgrades to have a choice or just a different set of options on the weapon you have to get a 2nd weapon and unlock all the previous options again. So if you want a different 5th unlock only you have to unlock all the previous 4 a second time on a second copy of your weapon. Luckily you don't yet have to pay to get that 2nd copy of a weapon though. This is very much NOT player choice and feels contrived simply to be more of a currency sink so EA can probably sell the currency later as it's the same currency used to buy cosmetic items.
Honestly if this feels like a short step up from Battlefield V and not a game coming into the franchise after 3 more titles entered the franchise between Battlefield 3 and Battlefield V (2 if you consider Hardline to not be a core entry). It doesn't feel like the franchise has really evolved and the destruction physics feel close to on par with those of Battlefield Bad Company 2.
The addition of more squad orientated items does feel like Battlefield is slowly going back towards its roots and introducing the kind of things earlier franchise entries on PC had but that's just it Battlefield as a franchise did previous do similar things especially with Battlefield 2142's commander option where one player could essentially play as a general commanding the battle.
Add on top of it the seeming free to play esc elements like dailies and assignment the game already feels like someone I wouldn't want to play full price for even without the seeming exploitative weapons upgrade system designed to drain players currency if they want options.
In the end it's a Battlefield game that feels like the only new things it brings to the table are more scummy practices from EA, a live services structure to the game and a removal of player choice to force players to pay more unlock currency out if they want that choice back. Choice I seem to remember previous games having without the extra costs.
With the number of bugs present in the open beta, some of which I've seen footage of them existing from the closed, I wouldn't be rushing out to pre-order this one and would wait to see if the bugs are fixed or how bad they are when the game releases.
For me from what I saw in the Beta I'm not really interested in getting back into the franchise with this title, maybe down the line at about £20 I'd consider it but not at its full retail price let alone considering buying one of the special editions. I doubt even the hardcore Battlefield fans will be that happy with this entry as it just maintains the franchise not advancing it in any meaningful way.
Also no playable bear or bear reinforcement item so obviously it's shit for that reason alone.