Impressions: Battlefield V’s open beta is fun but limited

With the upcoming launch of Battlefield V, developer DICE is both returning to the Battlefield series’ WWII roots and also building off of the gameplay innovations it debuted in 2016’s Battlefield 1. Judging by what I experienced during my time with Battlefield V’s open beta, the game feels like a natural extension and evolution of Battlefield 1’s strengths, though its limited scope also leaves a lot of unknown variables on the table.

New conflict, same rules

Battlefield V serves as a modern-age homecoming of sorts with the game being set during the conflict of WWII, the same conflict featured in the very first Battlefield game, 2002’s Battlefield: 1942. With the game’s timetable being moved up from Battlefield 1’s WWI setting, it’s only appropriate that Battlefield V feels more expansive, more visceral, and more user-friendly than its predecessor.

Battlefield 1 certainly helped with transitioning the series into the latest gaming generation, but if Battlefield 1 was an admirable first attempt, Battlefield V feels like DICE is finally coming into its stride.

The same level of intense large-scale combat found in earlier Battlefield games is on full display in Battlefield V’s open beta, and the beta itself gives participants a pretty good idea of what to expect in the full game.

Within the beta, players can sample two different maps, Arctic Fjord and Rotterdam, via the Conquest game mode (a Battlefield staple), and they can also fight across two distinct portrayals of the Arctic Fjord map in one of the game’s new Grand Operations, the Fall of Norway.

Both modes and maps include Battlefield mainstays such as air and ground vehicles, highly destructible environments, and a strong emphasis on objective-based gameplay. If you’re a series veteran, you’ll likely acclimate quickly to what the beta offers, but even if Battlefield V is your very first Battlefield experience, the game makes a concerted effort to boost your performance with handy HUD indicators and radio chatter telling you where you’re needed most. The Battlefield series has always been a bit intimidating to dive into due to its sheer amount of scale, so if you’re looking for a more bite-sized offering to dip your toes into, the Battlefield V beta is a surprisingly effective trial-by-fire experience.

Tricks of the trade

Most of the gameplay changes introduced in Battlefield V are more subtle in nature, but they almost always help in building off of what I personally like most about the series: a strong emphasis on supporting your allies and being rewarded for it. Sure, if you have the skill to do so, you can mow down enemy players in a tank or land long-range headshots as a sniper, but even if you’re not a crack shot, you can still help pave the way to victory.

Much like in earlier Battlefield games, Support and Medic players can aid their teammates by throwing ammo and health packs, and in Battlefield V this process is streamlined with a button prompt (left on the D-pad if you’re playing with a controller) that automatically comes up whenever you’re facing an ally in need of resupply.

Players who want to really boost their resupply effectiveness can also equip ammo and health crates to their gadget slot which function in a more traditional resupply manner (i.e. you place them on the ground and they auto-supply any friendly players who go near them).

All players can now also build fortifications such as sand bag barriers and fox holes at designated spots on the map, and Support players can even build more substantial structures like resupply stations and turrets. Battlefield V’s new bleed-out mechanic in which players have a few precious seconds to call out for aid after being downed ties into the fact that all players can now revive fallen comrades, though Medics naturally have gadgets and perks which make them best suited for the job.

As for player movement, DICE introduced a few small yet handy maneuvers to the game’s control layout. Along with being able to vault over low barriers, sprint into a short slide, and auto-peek around corners (maneuvers that were all available in Battlefield 1), players can now also sprint while crouched, aim and shoot to the side while sliding, and lay on their back while prone.

More casual players might not appreciate such maneuvers as much as dedicated Battlefield fans, but the first time an enemy shoots at you from behind and you quickly drop onto your back and gun them down with a surprise counter-shot, you’ll be thankful DICE made the effort to implement them.

Shots fired

As impressive as the Battlefield V beta looked and felt, it was still just a very small slice of what the full game will offer, and even then there were some technical and UI-based growing pains that marred an otherwise solid execution.

I was somewhat disappointed that the beta didn’t allow me to play one of the game modes I’m most excited about: a dedicated four-player co-op mode called Combined Arms which features randomized objectives and allows players to use their same customized soldiers from the standard multiplayer suite. However, I fully understand that the purpose of the beta is to help test the game’s servers, and gathering data from a match filled with 64 players is likely a lot more useful than data pulled from a match with a maximum of four players.

Speaking of the game’s servers, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Battlefield V appears to have much better load times than Battlefield 1. In Battlefield 1, loading into even a single match can be a painfully long process (at least on Xbox One), especially if you favor the game’s multi-stage Operations mode. Loading into Battlefield V’s Fall of Norway Grand Operation still took a little while, but not nearly as long as I normally wind up waiting for a Battlefield 1 Operation.

Much like in Battlefield 1, I struggled a bit with Battlefield V’s post-match UI. Once a match ends, there’s no visibly prominent option to back out to the main menu, only a button prompt to immediately go into the next match.

This is frustrating for several reasons since, if you go ahead and press the ‘next match’ button, you then have to wait for the next match to fully load before you can bring up the pause menu and quit, leaving your team down a man in the process. It’s a minor gripe overall, but one which I hope DICE addresses before the game’s full launch in November.

The Battlefield V beta doesn’t offer much in the way of diverse gameplay, but given the Battlefield series’ signature focus on grand scale, you’re still very likely to encounter memorable jaw-dropping moments, dramatic comebacks, last-minute upsets, and tense situational skirmishes where teams who work together and support each other always have a distinct advantage.

At the very least, my time with the beta has left me wanting more, and I can think of no better way to positively endorse the latest entry in a series that has so often aligned with my personal shooter game tastes.

Battlefield V will launch on November 20 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. The currently ongoing beta will run until Monday, September 11.