In theory, Battlefield V sounds like a winning combination for a modern FPS. You’re taking the most destructive conflict in human history, giving it to a developer that specializes in creating games that revolve around large-scale warfare and backing the entire project with one of the largest and most profitable publishers in existence. You would assume that such a game would feature beautiful environments, top-notch sound design, immersive gameplay, and tons of customization options. In a way, such an assumption would be right. Based on what's here in the beta, Battlefield V is the natural next step for the series.
Load up a Grand Operations game, and you may as well be in your own personal World War 2 movie. As you peer out the rear door of your transport plane, you’ll likely see player controlled flak shells lighting up the sky like the world’s most dangerous New Year’s celebration. On the ground, you’ve got Tiger tanks blasting away at buildings and driving through them with reckless abandon. Meanwhile, dozens of people are shooting at each other with all sorts of weapons, hoping that they don’t get picked off by some sniper in some building somewhere as they try to move around. Perhaps you’re one of the unlucky soldiers who gets shot, at which point your character raises a bloody hand and screams for help. It’s a scene straight out of Saving Private Ryan.
At the end of the day, Battlefield V is still a game, and it has plenty of features that help enable such a feeling of immersion. For instance, medics can no longer simply run by a pile of corpses and instantly revive all of them like some kind of necromancer. Instead, they must go through a dangerously lengthy animation before the intended patient can stand again. Similarly, while recoil proves to be quite substantial, virtually every weapon is viable at surprising ranges with enough practice.
Gunner positions in tanks are a true double-edged sword, giving you the chance to mow people down with accurate machine gun fire while exposing yourself to every sniper in the world. Squad leaders can use the radio to call in all sorts of goodies ranging from supplies to flamethrower tanks to rocket strikes to help capture a point. Conversely, you can build your own fortifications to try and perform a desperate last stand at a point (the fortifications themselves are preset, so you can't just erect a giant sandbag castle in the middle of nowhere).
As fun as the core gameplay mechanics may be, things get a little more questionable outside of a match. To compensate for the fact that you can’t duct tape 50 different kinds of scopes and laser sights to your gun, you level up your weapon/vehicle to unlock perks. The in-game currency can buy these perks as well as scopes. Such perks can be relatively mundane, like faster aiming or more controllable hip fire, but they generally don’t come with any downsides, thus raising concerns over whether or not this can lead to a pay to win situation. Given EA's involvement, it would be wise to remain vigilant in this regard.
On the more technical side of things, Battlefield V has one of the more unintuitive menus in recent memory. Want to adjust your loadout in the middle of a game? You have to go to each individual weapon category and make your change from there. Once you make the change, you go back to the respawn screen. Forget to update something? You will have to go back to select the class you want to edit, then select the weapon category, and so on and so forth.
Curiously enough, the nonfinal graphics on display in the beta are not as crisp as in Battlefield 1. Similarly, vehicles seem to be a rarer sight than they were before, though once again, this may be a beta problem more than anything else. On the other hand, it might have something to do with the (mind-numbingly incomprehensible) fact that the Assault class also has anti-tank capabilities in the form of Panzerfausts.
Then there’s the elephant in the room: the cosmetic unlocks. As per usual, you can apply a variety of paints and camouflage schemes to various parts of your gun. You can also customize the appearance of each of your classes. While the feature wasn't available, DICE pre-customized several classes for the beta. Needless to say, this is where things can get a little silly. If you want to, you can seemingly slap a pilot’s mask on anyone even if you don’t intend to ever touch a plane. You can wear/carry multiple goggles. Actual helmets are optional or outright nonexistent, and uniforms clearly don’t exist in the British Army. Fortunately, there weren’t any British cyborg commandos in the beta, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t play as one when the full game comes out.
Logically, none of the above points about customization should matter. From a practical standpoint though, being able to dress however you like will only serve to create confusion among teammates and drastically increase friendly fire incidents (not that you can kill teammates anyways, as tempting as that may be), regardless of how big the giant blue “friendly” icon is. It's probably not a coincidence that accidentally firing on teammates is a larger problem for the British side, which has all the wacky customization options in the beta, and not the German side, who at least attempt to wear some kind of uniform. On the other hand, this is all purely anecdotal, so your mileage may vary.
Ultimately, the deciding factor in whether or not you will enjoy Battlefield V will be your ability to stomach seeing some rather odd looking soldiers. Alternatively, it could depend on just how much EA and DICE are willing to double down on weird customization options. Barring any major and or unannounced changes from the beta to release (which doesn’t seem likely), what you see is in the beta going to be what you get. The core gameplay is more or less what one can expect from a Battlefield game. It's above average, but everything around it (cosmetics, unlockable perks) feel like ideas torn straight from a generic free to play game. For what it’s worth, the main menu music in the beta is stellar, if you care to sit around and listen to it that is.
DICE must realize that they are sitting on a figurative goldmine here though, and all they have to do is to take advantage of the notion that they are quite possibly one of the few developers who have the potential to deliver a mildly authentic World War 2 experience that embodies the meaning of a world war.
The Battlefield V Beta was previewed on Xbox One. The full game will release on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC via Origin.