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Battlefield V Xbox One review: Masterful multiplayer meets sorry story campaign

Battlefield V launched this week to what feels like a bit of a dulled response compared to Battlefield 1. Is it deserved?

Battlefield
(Image: © EA)

Battlefield V

Battlefield V (Image credit: EA)

The hype going into Battlefield V certainly feels a little stunted when compared to 2016's Battlefield 1, at a time when gamers seemed fatigued by the volume of sci-fi shooters the big publishers had been pumping out. Exploring a rarely-charted time period in gaming, World War 1, Battlefield 1 took the franchise to new heights, beating combined week-one sales of Battlefield 4 and Battlefield Hardline. The landscape looks a little different now.

With "battle royale" as the new hotness, EA's decision to delay its own Battlefield V battle royale mode into 2019 leaves the $60 package without some of its headline content. Combined with an invariably weak single-player campaign, and "World War fatigue" following Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: WW2, that $60 price tag might seem hard to swallow.

However, Battlefield is more than just a mere shooter. No multiplayer first-person shooter (FPS) on the market brings such an epic, large-scale sense of dynamic, cinematic conquest like Battlefield, except for DICE's other headline franchise, Star Wars Battlefront. Huge, iconic maps, elevated destruction mechanics, dynamic fortification building, and a variety of tweaks coalesce to make Battlefield V one of the best in the series, even if it's one of the least ambitious.

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You'll love Battlefield V's visuals, sound, and multiplayer

Battlefield titles are known for cutting-edge visuals and sound, and Battlefield V delivers confidently. Flanked by sobering music and the screams of dying soldiers, Battlefield V performs incredibly well on both the Xbox One S and One X, with the latter pushing the visuals to another level. Huge maps crammed with destructible detail set across iconic theaters of war continue to define the franchise.

There's a lot of customization in Battlefield V, which makes progression all the more rewarding.

Rotterdam stands out as particularly awe-inspiring, with a gigantic set-piece cathedral in the middle of the map. Staple WW2 weapons and vehicles are lovingly detailed, each with a unique feel and playstyle. Weapons can also be upgraded through the game's customization menus, allowing you to further tailor how you want to play, changing scope zoom ranges, trading accuracy for larger magazines, and so on. It also sports some modest weapon skin support, which doesn't betray the WW2 atmosphere.

In keeping with EA's generalized climbdown over micropayments, nothing in Battlefield V can be purchased with real-life money, although there's no reason to think they won't add it in later.

Staple map mode conquest returns, with Rush and battle royale planned for future (free) content updates. Grand operations are for longer sessions, sometimes made up of a variety of four game modes in a row. For now, some of the biggest changes to Battlefield V's gameplay comes in the form of a collection of smaller features.

Now, players can construct cover within a captured point, rebuilding the destroyed surroundings. It offsets one of Battlefield's signature problems with titles like Bad Company 2, which featured more widespread destruction than other recent Battlefield games — you could end up with completely flat, cover-devoid battlegrounds.

The collection of improvements to Battlefield V's systems make it the most dynamic and interesting Battlefield in a while.

The ability to set up chest-high cover on the fly makes it easier to defend a point in closer games, and it also gives the enemy team more things to destroy with aerial bombardments and tanks. It's a win-win across the board.

Some of the other welcome tweaks include moving some staple features like spotting into classes while bringing in more opportunities to get revived. Recon snipers can spot with impunity using binoculars, and light machine gun suppression effects on the support class also spot for your team, showing enemy positions on the map.

You can revive anyone in your squad, but Medics do it far faster and can also resupply you with medical items you need to recover lost health, as regenerating HP pools have been reduced. Each of the four classes, across Recon, Support, Assault, and Medic, also have two subclasses, which confer even more playstyle-altering bonuses. There's a lot of customization in Battlefield V, which makes progression all the more rewarding.

Although no single new feature is particularly ground-breaking on its own, the collection of improvements to Battlefield V's systems make it the most dynamic and interesting Battlefield in a while, with a strong emphasis on team play, vehicle support, and environmental destruction (and, of course, reconstruction).

You'll dislike Battlefield V's war stories campaign, and lack of polish

The war stories episodic format in Battlefield V is an odd sort of compromise DICE has made that strips them of the responsibility of creating a compelling narrative with character development. Each of the three available stories features a slightly different tale, with gameplay that feels largely basic, emphasizing mechanics available in the multiplayer.

If you're looking for a compelling WW2 story campaign, this is not it.

The first follows an ex-con drafted into a new special unit focused around sabotage. It explores the early days of the UK Special Boat Service, which focused on guerrilla-style raids against Nazi airfields and other strategic areas of interest. The second tells another stealthy commando tale set in Norway, following events inspired by the Norwegian Resistance Movement which fought Nazi occupation, and real-world Norwegian sabotage of Nazi heavy water enrichment efforts. The third revolves around tirailleur soldiers in the French army, fighting to defend the nation from the advancing Nazi war machine.

I give EA and DICE credit for attempting to tell some lesser-known stories of WW2, but the execution isn't great, and it denies the gravitas of the conflict which redefined the human world. Each story can be completed in around 30 to 40 minutes on normal difficulty and rewards some cosmetic gear for multiplayer. The brief nature of them makes it hard to connect with any of the characters, and the "safe" story-telling reminds me of child-friendly history lessons we got as kids. The game doesn't even call Nazis "Nazis," referring to them as "Germans" throughout, which just seems odd.

It might have been smarter for EA to create a single campaign, to allow for a more developed narrative. The Norwegian campaign is the strongest both in terms of writing and structure, focusing on stealth in a wide-linear format, and only one that offered some fleeting intrigue. As a plus, the visuals really shine in this mode, with great facial detail on the characters and environments.

On the multiplayer side, I have been continually frustrated by an intrusive litany of small bugs that have come to typify Battlefield. Some scope attachments feel misaligned, with bullets getting caught on objects despite being nowhere near where you're attempting to aim. Grenades too seem to get stuck on random objects near to where you've thrown them sometimes, which obviously can get you killed. The Xbox One S suffers from a strange issue where textures and objects get stuck in a low-detail setting, making them look like they were ripped out of the OG Xbox era.

For the most part, though, performance is good, and I haven't endured a single crash.

Should you buy Battlefield V?

If you're looking for a compelling WW2 story campaign, this is not it. The disjointed episodes make character investment difficult, despite how rich and detailed the cutscenes and environments are, and the weak storytelling and haphazard A.I. make for a completely forgettable experience. EA's lack of investment in this area continues to be annoying, where you have to wonder why the company bothers at all.

The meat of Battlefield is and always has been its multiplayer, which remains as grand as ever. You can dogfight in spitfires, lay waste to buildings in tanks, squad up and build defensive positions with your friends, and unlock dozens of weapons and modifications. It's supreme fun, as per usual.

Pros:

  • Huge maps with unparalleled cinematic shooting.
  • Lots of small tweaks improve competitive play.
  • Stunning visuals on Xbox One X.

Cons:

  • War Stories campaign content is weak.
  • Battle royale mode isn't expected to launch until March, 2019.
  • Rough on polish.

The lack of polish in some of the systems will get improved with patches, but the missed opportunities with the campaign content frustrate the full package. But ultimately, this is one of the best multiplayer shooters you will play this year, and maybe the best until the next Battlefield. So if you love competitive FPS games, yes, you have to buy this.

Battlefield V was provided to us for review by EA. This review was conducted on Xbox One X and Xbox One S.

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

11 Comments
  • I've barely touched on campaign mode , found it a bit drab, multiplayer game is wholly immerse and fast paced!
  • Is multiplayer that much better than BF1 though? I played BF1's multiplayer but got bored of it after a little while. Always felt like 'something' was missing. And people shouldn't complain about the campaign. At least they included one unlike COD.
  • Agreed 1000% with this
  • I, for one, want Battlefield to go back to a more modern time. I'm tired of the old weapons and vehicles. BF1 was fun but BF5 seems like a rehash of that, essentially. I LOVE Battlefield games but think I'll skip this one. Hopefully their next installment will be more "modern".
  • I agree, I hate these non modern games.
  • I'm just tired of all these game companies releasing half-baked games and also not giving us the option to play the games in 1st person which I hate and 3rd person which I love! This ish is making me not want to play games anymore.
  • I'm too uneducated
  • Erm, good luck with that?
  • I've played for a few hours and it is indeed buggy and needs more polish. Visually it's a step down from BF1 but will need to play more...
  • First Battlefield game I have played and I am hooked! Such a great game!
  • They told me not to buy it if I DIDN'T WANT SJW PC NONSENSE. And I didn't. Neither did a lot of people.