The game, as it was released, is broken up into two modes, War Stories, which are your single player content, then the multiplayer, which is your multiplayer, if you have no played any Battlefield multiplayer content in a while, jumping in will feel familiar, but there is still a lot to learn. War Stories though, this is only the second time that this format has been used in the series and it is far and beyond one of the best examples of how single player story driven content can be provided. There are three War Stories included in the game at release, with a fourth set to by the end of the year, these stories are all vastly different but maintain a common theme throughout and not playing them would be a disservice.
The game opens up to the Prologue, which gives you a sample of the action the game is going to offer to you, the game will let you replay it as well, should you desire. Where the prologue for Battlefield 1 was all about the brutal and fast paced action of WW1, here it is more about the moments that make up a battle. The narration over the top, helps remind that while many soldiers thought of going to war as an honor, it was anything but, with that over, the game gives you the keys and lets you take control. The three War Stories, Nordlys, Under No Flag and Tirailleur are available to select, without you having to unlock them, so pick the one that looks good and jump in. What surprised me, having played Nordlys a second time, after a hands on event, is how much replayability they offer, not only can you just try a different approach at a single point, you can do it many times throughout the story.
Each War Story also has a list of items to find and tasks to complete, which unlock rewards, giving you even more reason to head back in, my favourite story though was Under No Flag, as it really offered the most balanced gameplay of the three. You are Scott Bridger, prisoner who was knicked after being left outside of a bank by his old man, having robbed that same bank twice before, given the choice of remaining in prison or joining the war, he takes the latter. The most interesting part is that Bridger learns, quite quickly just how different war is from what he imagined, given a task of blowing up a single plane, he makes a mess of it and the result is his CO is injured. But while he refuses to accept that it was his fault, he tries to help out, but ends up causing more trouble than he could have imagined. By the end though, he realises that he is not all he thinks, and you can really hear the growth in his voice, with how happy he is to be complimented by the CO.
Tirailleur though, is the most sombre of the three, as the main character dreams of being recognised, respected and looked upon with awe, but the cost of which is far too high. While there are a number of action pieces here, the story is more about the team, which is quite different to the others, you need to stick with your squad and pushing ahead will get you punished by death. There was a strange issue that popped up here, the game kept spawning enemies at one point, while it waited to register that I had blown up a gun, almost 15 minutes of enemy after enemy spawned and sometimes, in an open space, until the game registered that it was ok to move on. Outside of that though, I had not noticed any issues with the War Stories.
Taking things online was the one part I was most excited for, which given my love of story is saying something, yes the basic modes of Battlefield are here and worthy of your time, but it is the Grand Operation mode that is the star. Before you get into it though, you can customise your character, for some players this will have them changing their gender, number of arms that are made of flesh and more, it really is the most customisable Battlefield ever. There are of course, dozens of cosmetic options locked away and will open, once you hit set levels of complete daily challenges, this will give some players a reason to push forward, as some of the options look nice. Once you have your character configured, you can do it for each class, its time to jump into the mode you want, my first stop was Conquest, which is the main mode of Battlefield multiplayer and boy did it feel good.
Running around some maps resulted in my death a lot, thanks to learning them more than anything, and while my skill in Battlefield is low, I still love playing it, but once I had learnt the basics of the maps, things started to improve. After a dozen or so rounds, I felt ready to jump into Grand Operations, the mode I played at E3 and just like then, it was a blast. For those that are not informed about it, Grand Operations are multi-stage and multi-day events, in game days, that give you a series of objectives to achieve in each round, the results of which change how the next round opens and will either benefit or hinder your team. Should your goal be to destroy a series of anti-aircraft weapons and you fail, then you will start the next round with less tickets, as you can’t get ‘support’ from the air, with the opposing team having more tickets and options for support.
If you happen to take them out, you start with more and the opposing team having less, so where standard conquest might have been about that one single game, the multi-round nature of Grand Operations is going to demand that you work together with your squad even more than before. Which is one of the core parts of the Battlefield V experience, and something that feels worth taking the time to do, especially as working with them grants you bonus points and helps you level faster. Jumping into a random match will see you added to a squad with unknown players, but the game is smart enough to help you work together, with plenty of on-screen prompts, and while none of it is new to the series, it just seems to work better here.
One thing the game does, is look a heck of a lot better on lower end machines, especially over Battlefield 1, while that game looked fine, this one looks better across the board. The world feels alive, with locations that are full of so much detail, taking the time, when you can, to stop and inspect it, is a treat. Nordlys is one part that looks especially beautiful, be it in the forests, or the wide open town, the way that the light plays off the ice and snow, is something to behold, but the other War Stories are no slouch either, the deserts are covered in the haze of heat, causing the world to warp. Tirailleur though is far and away the most gorgeous, even when the gameplay directs you through mud and such, the story is filled with so many moments where the game just looks incredibly beautiful. There is a blemish to the visuals though, two actually, the first is that there is a host of clipping issues, especially when you change your characters outfit and weapons. The other is that the characters still manage to have that plastic look, that most DICE games have and its as odd to see today as it was when I first saw it in Battlefield 3.
The characters voices though, they are standouts, thanks to some amazing performances, I was initially impressed at the idea that each of the War Stories would be fully acted in their native tongue, but then worried it would not work in the moment, but thankfully it does. Each character sounds real and the emotion that they portray is strong and helped me ignore the fact that two thirds is not in English. The games other audio elements are all pretty standard for Battlefield, not to say they are bad, far from it, explosions, cries for help and more all sound incredible, it is just nothing we have not heard before. The music, while a lot of it is new and sounds great, is still anchored by the base Battlefield theme, which again has been heard a lot before and I hope for the next one, they do something fully original.
Battlefield V does not complete re-invent the formula that was laid down by the previous game but refines it to an incredible sheen. The new War Stories are worth playing through multiple times and Grand Operations are something that everyone needs to play.