“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” –Jimmy Dean
This is probably a post that none of my readers were expecting and comes out of the blue: a few days ago, I received an email from EA with an invite code to the Battlefield V closed alpha. The intent of this closed alpha is to provide players with an idea of how Battlefield V‘s new mechanics handle, as well as for developers to gather data on performance and usage statistics. Unlike previous closed alphas, Battlefield V‘s closed alpha has no NDAs in place, and so, I’m allowed to share screenshots of my experiences. Returning to the World War II period, Battlefield V was marketed as being completely unlike its predecessors: the attrition mechanic was introduced alongside fortifications that favours slower, tactical play over run-and-gun tactics. After I finished pre-loading the closed alpha, I dropped into a match of conquest. My team was behind, but after I learned my way around the medic’s Gewehr 43, I began healing and reviving every teammate in reach. We eventually came back from our deficit to win that match, and in this moment, it became obvious that classic Battlefield conquest had returned in full – tickets count down, and more importantly, holding a majority of the flags will bleed the other team of tickets. In this manner, a well-coordinated team can mount comebacks that make conquest a particularly fun game mode: this was largely absent in Battlefield 1, but makes a welcome return in Battlefield V. With a default ticket count of 800, matches last roughly half an hour, which is perfect for my schedule. Battlefield 1‘s conquest lacked the same excitement and relied on Behemoths as an unsuccessful comeback mechanic, but matches were consistently half an hour in length. The return of classic conquest with a reasonable ticket count means that conquest is now much more exciting, while at the same time, fitting with my schedule. However, there’s much more to Battlefield V than just conquest, and here, I explore some of the things in Battlefield V that are fantastic, and things that need work before the completed title can release.
Firing the semi-automatic Gewehr 43 carbine at distant foes and scoring my first kill of the closed alpha highlights one of the most important change Battlefield V makes to gunplay. Random bullet deviation is gone, and weapons are now consistent in how they fire. Semi-automatic and single-fire weapons are as precise as their users, and automatic weapons have a recoil pattern that can be mastered. Without random chance affecting firefights, the outcomes of an engagement boil down to skill alone now: powerful semi-automatic weapons meant that in the closed alpha, I found the Gewehr 43 a superb all-around weapon for the arctic fjord map in Norway. Suppression has also been reworked to be purely visual, so players under fire can still return accurate fire and potentially win a firefight if they are skilful enough. Having guns that handle differently, but reliably means that different weapons will suit different players. This will hopefully encourage players to try a wide range of loadouts to find ones that work best for them, giving incentive to unlock different weapons and equipment. The attrition mechanic is also a welcome addition to Battlefield – players can no longer regenerate their health fully after a firefight and only start with limited ammunition. To remain effective, one must stick with one’s squad and know the map well: health and ammunition is acquired from allied players and resupply crates scattered at important locations around the map. Supporting one’s team with healing, revives, resupplies and spotting becomes even more important than it did previously: a lone wolf player simply won’t last long, and players can no longer toss grenades on a whim. However, resupplying, healing and reviving are no longer easy actions. There’s a delay in carrying them out, forcing players to assess a situation, deciding whether or not they should go for ammunition or reviving a downed teammate. While perhaps starting players with a little less ammo than I’d like, attrition slows play down and promotes careful, strategic play. Destruction and fortification also changes the way Battlefield handles; it is now possible to undo destruction or else modify areas to give allies an advantage, while forcing enemy players to re-evaluate their next move carefully. Overall, Battlefield V is a slower experience: I died frequently treating the game like Battlefield 1, but when I slowed down to support teammates and defend capture points, things became much more fun. In particular, the medic class has benefitted from the changes and has come back in a big way for Battlefield V: this is much welcomed, allowing me to pick off distant enemies, then retreat to cover so I could heal and revive teammates.
Because we’re still early in Battlefield V‘s testing, the closed alpha also revealed numerous technical limitations that will need to be ironed out before launch. My client crashed on several occasions, and a system report indicated that I’d run out of RAM. Memory leaks and CPU consumption will definitely need to be addressed: the game largely runs smoothly at 60 FPS, but when I spawn in over-the-shoulder onto a squadmate, the frame-rate dips to 30 FPS. This lag has occasionally costed me: I died instantly because I could not move to respond to a threat. I’ve heard that the snow effects are all computed: the EA Play build of Battlefield V was particularly bad for it, and while toned down for the closed alpha, there were moments where performance became an issue. I vividly recall being killed by a guy that had looked like he was behind a wall, but had moved before the client could update it. Besides optimising performance, Battlefield V‘s movement system is nowhere nearly as smooth as it was previously. Vaulting over ledges is very clunky; some surfaces that should be easy to jump over were not passable, and it was common to get stuck in the level geometry. By comparison, players move like a dream in Battlefield 1. The new spotting system is also tricky: the only way to mark enemies on the minimap now is with the scout’s monocular, and hitting “Q” simply marks a spot on the ground. As a result, enemies are nearly invisible in their environment and can pick off other players uncontested. A system where hitting “Q” marks enemies’ last known location on the minimap, followed with a spotting animation, would be more visceral without making it too easy to hunt down enemies, as with earlier Battlefield titles. The UI still needs work so it appears in the right places, with the right feedback (it sometimes disappears after I’ve been killed) and also so it intuitively works for players (in my first half-hour, I did not know it was possible to switch back over to the classic map spawning system). Finally, physics and state related bugs must be addressed: I once spawned in with no weapons in hand, and another time, phased through the ground when I died and could not bleed out or be revived. These bugs are hilarious now, but will quickly become frustrating if not addressed for production.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Following the EA Play event, where attendees were able to try out Battlefield V for themselves and capture footage of the gameplay, other members of the Battlefield community were interested to try the game out for themselves on their own computers. After the announcement of the closed alpha, a small number of Battlefield players were invited, myself included. I note immediately that I’m running the closed alpha on a computer with an i5 3570k, 16 GB of RAM and an EVGA GTX 1060 SC. Performance for the most part is smooth, save for moments when the snow becomes too much or when I spawn back in over the shoulder of a squadmate. For this post, I feature some of my earlier screenshots of me getting a feel for Battlefield V – I will be showcasing some of my more impressive moments in a future post: while I was off to a rough start, by the last few days of the closed alpha, I was consistently scoring a positive KD ratio.
- The Bren Gun is an iconic World War II light machine gun: developed after World War I ended, the Bren is a magazine-fed, gas-operated LMG firing .303 rounds at 500-520 RPM. Despite its cumbersome design, the weapon was reliable and counted as quite effectual. It’s also the weapon of choice for Strike Witches‘ Perrine H. Clostermann: in Battlefield 1, I ran with the Madsen MG as a stand-in, but with World War II being Battlefield V‘s setting, I will have a chance to run with authentic Strike Witches loadouts now. In Battlefield V, the Bren is a little unwieldy but hits reasonably hard when properly used.
- The mountain village of Narvik is an absolutely beautiful setting, featuring both long range and close quarters combat. The real town of Narvik was the site of several battles in World War II for its strategic importance, and after Nazi Germany captured the port town in the opening stages of the Norwegian Campaign, Allied forces attempted to dislodge the defending German forces. They dominated the German naval forces, but were ill-equipped to deal with the dug-in Germans. Battlefield V recreates this experience – in Grand Operations, players will play as the attacking British forces or the defending German forces.
- Because Battlefield V takes away random bullet deviation, tap-firing once again becomes viable, allowing the assault rifles to reach out further in their effectiveness. Here, I use the StG 44, the German automatic rifle that would form the basis for all modern assault rifles. Designed in 1942, it fired 7.92 x 33 mm Kurtz rounds at 550-600 RPM and had a detachable box magazine. Its automatic fire makes it effective at close ranges, and at longer ranges, tap-firing allows one to hit distant targets reliably. The StG 44 in Battlefield V pulls to the right and up slightly when firing, so with time, players could accommodate for this recoil and even hit distant targets while firing on full automatic.
- The medic class can equip the Gewehr 43, equipped with a ZF4 4-power optic. This semi-automatic rifle was designed in response to semi-automatic Soviet rifles, and features many innovations in its design. Battlefield V‘s Gewehr 43 is accurate and reliable: every shot lands where players intend to land them, making the medic highly viable at long range engagements. After getting a feel for the Gewehr 43, I immediately found it a dependable rifle – I was hitting targets at a distance that I would have had no hope in nailing in Battlefield 1, and I suddenly find myself wishing the self-loading rifles of Battlefield 1 had this level of consistency.
- Grand Operations are the centrepiece of Battlefield V, featuring multi-day skirmishes that depict campaigns of World War II. The mission available in the closed alpha is a part of the Narvik campaign, dealing with the British invasion. The first stage is set late in the evening and has the attacking British force work towards knocking out German artillery emplacements. The Germans must defend their artillery and eliminate as many attackers as possible. All of this is set under the Norwegian night sky, aglow with the aurora borealis – the sophistication of the Frostbite engine now is such that aurora can be viewed and enjoyed in a virtual space without the need of powerful solar activity and a ticket on board the AGB-5003, better known as the Shirase.
- Battlefield V follows in Battlefield 1‘s use of the Frostbite 3.0 Engine, which has evolved to feature more realistic destruction and sophisticated physics-based rendering, giving players more immersion than previously possible. While Battlefield V has improved effects, its requirements are not substantially steeper than those of Battlefield 1: it feels like an incremental upgrade from a visual perspective, rather similar to how iOS 12 is an upgrade that brings subtle new features and performance updates to iOS 11 rather than sweeping changes. By comparison, when Battlefield 1 was announced, it was leaps and bounds further ahead visually than Battlefield 4, even though both games use Frostbite 3.0.
- Battlefield V introduces an all-new mechanic in which downed players will slowly bleed out unless a medic revives them. This is actually a pretty clever mechanic that prevents players from skipping revives, which is a feature that I did not enjoy from Battlefield 1. By default, players will spawn back in if they bleed out fully, but they can stem blood loss and call for nearby medics to revive them. A new feature is that squad mates can now revive downed allies, as well, even if they are not playing as a medic. This allows one to save squad mates quickly even if a medic is not immediately available, and is balanced out by reducing the amount of health one gets back if revived in this manner. To slow down the revive trains of Battlefield 1, the revive animation in Battlefield V is longer and more detailed. While less efficient, revives feel much more visceral, and an obscene amount of points can be scored for reviving teammates as a medic.
- While seemingly a side-task, fortification in Battlefield V has proven to be quite handy. I make extensive use of fortifications to create cover where their was previously none, allowing me to set up a reasonably well-defended sniper position in a pinch, and during one match, I noticed enemy players cleverly dropping behind cover and fortifying their position when I began firing upon them with the Karabiner 98k. No longer able to pick them off, I was forced to move on, altering the dynamic of play considerably.
- Having the Stg 44 as an assault player means being able to run the Waltrud Krupinski loadout. I feel bad for playing the assault on some occasions: emphasising offensive play over support, one cannot heal or resupply teammates in this role. The assault class is intended to provide firepower at close quarters for clearing out capture points aggressively, and this firepower extends to anti-vehicle options. In the closed alpha, only the Panzerfaust is available, but with its high damage, a group of players can very quickly eliminate even the heavy tanks on short order.
- The single most glaring issue with the Battlefield V alpha is performance: my machine is getting up there in the years, but it’s no slouch, and I’ve heard that individuals with much more powerful setups are still suffering from framerate drops. I’m not sure if others have encountered this issue, but the biggest problem for me was a memory leak that intermittently causes the game to crash. Battlefield 1 was very well optimised, and Battlefield V needs work to ensure that it is able to properly deallocate resources to better improve performance.
- Here, I make use of the scout class and its Karabiner 98k to land my first kill with a bolt-action rifle. With the sweet spot gone, sniping in Battlefield V is a return to the days of old, where skill and judgement for landing headshots was the only way to be effective with this class. It took some time for me to become familiar with the bullet drop on the Karabiner 98k, but once I got the hang of it, landing headshots with this weapon was incredibly satisfying, knowing that every headshot was from slowly learning the ropes around the weapon.
- Overall, the UI workflow needs a bit of an improvement: switching from squad spawning to the classic spawning system is very slow, and it is frustrating not to be able to change out my class from this screen. While many of the weapons or customisations are not available right now, I feel that Battlefield V also should make customising archetypes and weapons much more intuitive than it was in Battlefield 1, where the simplified menu made navigation cumbersome. In addition, it is bizarre that even after two years, Battlefield 1 does not allow players to customise their vehicle setups from the menu.
- Running around with Perrine’s Bren was a riot: of all of the classes: while I was the least comfortable with the support class’ LMGs in Battlefield I, the Bren is very entertaining to use despite its obstructive design and slow fire rate: it’s perfect for the aggressive recon, and playing tactically, defending capture points, is the support class’ forte. The MG34’s slow deployment time and reliance on a bipod made it less suited for playing the support class in the frontlines: players who prefer a much more stationary approach will find this weapon more suitable for them.
- I’ve spent around seven hours in the closed alpha in total. Yesterday was Canada Day, and although I was tempted to spend the whole of the day playing the Battlefield V alpha, it seemed more fitting to celebrate the nation’s 151th birthday by capitalising on complementary National Parks admissions. I thus strolled around Lake Minnewanka and the abandoned coal mining town of Bankhead by the cool morning air, retreated to the Silver Dragon Chinese restaurant for lunch (their house noodles, crunchy noodles topped with shrimps, chicken, calamari, scallops and vegetables, are delicious) when a sudden downpour rolled on the area, and then browsed the Banff Park Museum National Historic Site, where I looked at various preserved wildlife specimens dating back a hundred years.
- The weather remained a moody overcast during the afternoon when I set out to walk the Vermillion Lakes trail, but upon reaching the Third Vermillion Lake, the skies began clearing up, and when I reached the First Vermillion Lake again, the weather had largely cleared out. Previous Canada Days were characterised by very warm weather, but this year, things were a bit chillier than usual, making the walk a very refreshing one. Others evidently were enjoying things, too: there were canoes gliding lazily about on the lake’s surface. I was utterly exhausted by the time we returned back to town and sat down to dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory at Cascade Mall; I ordered their steak and fries with a prawn skewer. Steaks taste fantastic after a good walk, and by the time dinner wrapped up, the rain had returned.
- The time to kill (TTK) in Battlefield V is much faster than it is in Battlefield 1: it is similar to that of older Battlefield titles, and while it can be frustrating to be at the receiving end, the shorter time also makes combat more visceral. A short TTK encourages tactical play, forcing players to move cover to cover and be very mindful of their surroundings. The system is balanced with the attrition system, which prevents players from camping in one spot.
- Submachine guns appear to retain their hipfire bonuses: here, I’m running with the Erma EMP. Firing 9mm Parabellum rounds at 550 RPM, the EMP is a fun weapon to use for extreme close quarters. By World War II, submachine guns became much more widespread, and a World War II game thus has much more liberty for weapon selections. A longstanding complaint, however, is the presence of reflector sights on rifles. These complaints indicate a lack of research: the EMP here is equipped with a Nydar 47 sight, which was introduced in 1945 for shotguns. While its mounting on a submachine gun might be unrealistic, Battlefield (save Battlefield 1) has long accommodated for weapon customisations that are not used in real life (such as my propensity of mounting a Chinese JH-406 Coyote sight to American rifles).
- One of the most noticeable improvements in Battlefield V is that frequent grenade use is largely absent. I’ve died to fragmentation grenades maybe five times at most, and it’s amazing to finally run around without the ever-present risk of dying to lucky grenades as one would in Battlefield 1. From the sounds of things, grenades are still “smart”, with their fuses only counting down once they hit the ground, and I’ve not been too fond of this, since it allows players to throw grenades great distances to score easy kills, as opposed to using them to flush out enemies.
- Having a Karabiner 98k means that I can finally run the Sora no Woto loadout in the Frostbite Engine: the primary weapon for the Helvetian forces in the anime, Battlefield V‘s Karabiner 98k is the only bolt-action rifle available in the closed alpha, and despite attrition mechanics limiting me only to two additional reloads, I managed to make extensive use of the weapon to pick off distant foes. The scout class of Battlefield V involves a much higher skill level than its Battlefield 1 incarnation as far as headshots go, but having tried the gadgets out, I think that the spotting flare is the only useful gadget: if I had time to pull out my binoculars and spot an enemy by clicking, then I probably had time to shoot them myself.
- K-bullets were in service during World War I, and were still manufactured during World War II, although with their limited armour penetration (12-13 mm at 100 meters), it’s difficult to see them being reintroduced to Battlefield V, where we have the likes of Churchill and Tiger I tanks that are nigh-impervious to most infantry weapons. I’m not sure what kind of gadgets the scout class will get, but having tools to help with spawning and spotting are likely to be the case. It would also be nice to give the scout class limited anti-vehicle capabilities: earlier Battlefield games allowed scouts to carry C4. The archetypes system may give each subclass specialised roles to fit a specific objective or playstyle, so I’m curious to see how these will turn out.
- Even now, I’m still amazed that I was fortunate enough to get into the Battlefield V closed alpha: with my luck still running strong, perhaps I should try my hand at getting into Kantai Collection through its notoriously challenging lottery system. I had preloaded the client as soon as I was notified, and on the day that the closed alpha became available, I had enjoyed a Swiss-mushroom burger and beer-battered fries while watching the England and Belgium World Cup game. Belgium scored the lone goal and won that game: when I played my first match of Battlefield V that evening, I joined a team that had fallen behind in tickets, but thanks to the re-implemented ticket bleed system, I ended up helping contribute to my team’s win.
- The sidearms in Battlefield V fulfill the same roles that their predecessors did in earlier Battlefield titles, being useful for when one runs out of ammunition mid-firefight. In the closed alpha, each class uses the same sidearm, although because it’s very early, I imagine that like Battlefield 1, there will be different sidearms for different archetypes, and that there will be a set of sidearms that all classes can equip.
- I’m actually not too big on the reinforcements mechanic, which is reminiscent of the killstreaks in Call of Duty, although Battlefield V‘s implementation is more driven by squad performance rather than individual kills, and appears to be an evolution of the Behemoths of Battlefield 1. So far, there have only been two reinforcements: the Sturmtiger and the V-1. The Sturmtiger was intended as an infantry support vehicle and was outfitted with a 380 mm RW 61 rocket launcher that allowed it to punch through enemy fortifications, while the V-1 was one of the first cruise missiles and can deal massive damage. I managed to try both out, and the V-1 is so powerful, it’s almost unfair.
- Here, I finally try my hand with the armoured vehicles of Battlefield V: at long last, in a modern iteration of the Frostbite Engine, I get to seat myself behind the wheel of some of history’s most famous tanks, including the Tiger I. Long regarded as one of the most iconic of the German tanks, the Tiger I was characterised by its powerful 88 mm gun and heavy armour, allowing it to devastate Allied armour. The Tiger I is also Maho Nishizumi’s tank of choice in Girls und Panzer, being suited for her execution of the Nishizumi style.
- Visually and aurally, tanks in Battlefield V feel powerful, although in the closed alpha, they proved to be quite fragile and could be blown apart by a few Panzerfaust rounds. As well, tanks are quite sensitive to bumps in the ground, and I recall an amusing moment where I flipped one of my tanks over, allowing the enemy team to shred it. However, when the tanks do connect, they can be a useful presence on the battlefield: here, I shell a distant British tank with the German light tank and annihilate it.
- Battlefield V is Girls und Panzer in the Frostbite Engine, or as Gandalf might say, Girls of Panzer: Dream Tank Match as it should have been: learning a tank’s strengths and weaknesses is essential to victory, as each tank has different handling characteristics and a specific role to play. Unlike the luck-driven mechanics of Dream Tank Match, Battlefield V‘s tank combat looks to be skill-oriented. I’m hoping that there will be a dedicated armoured warfare-only mode that pits tanks against tanks only: it’s high time that DICE showed the world the might of the Frostbite Engine and proper skill against the likes of World of Tanks.
- I would’ve gotten this post earlier, but today, I attended a LAN party and played Halo 2 old school on Xbox, with split-screen and the like. Besides catching up with friends, I also somehow managed to perform much better than usual: I’m terrible with console games, but today, managed a few double kills and even a killing spree, keeping my KD ratio above one and helping my team win several matches: during my final game, I scored the winning flag capture. Halo 2 is the game that really got me into shooters, and since the Halo 2 PC servers were decommissioned, I’ve been looking for a similar type of shooter. Battlefield has since filled that particular role. This was time spent away from playing the Battlefield V closed alpha, but in the end, I feel like I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on what my thoughts are for this current build.
- The Panzer IV, Miporin’s tank of choice, also figured in the closed alpha as a medium tank. There’s an interesting bug where the KwK 40 L/43 anti-tank gun will shorten, making the tank resemble the Ausf. F1 variant, but zooming in and back out rectifies this. This visual bug will hopefully be fixed in newer builds of Battlefield V, and one other visual element I’d like to see fixed is the fact that some UI elements can be very difficult to see, especially amidst the white snows of Norway. Adding a translucent, glassy box to put the text on, as with Battlefield 1, would be one possible fix.
- Here, I use the Sturmtiger to melt an enemy, and this brings my current set of thoughts on the Battlefield V closed alpha to an end. I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to give it a spin, and while it’s still rough around the edges, the core concepts of attrition, teamwork and fortification add new depth to the game, bringing back skill and encouraging tactical play. Performance issues, movement and the UI are my biggest gripes about this build, but my initial impressions are especially positive – by the time this closed alpha came to an end, I was nailing back-to-back headshots with the Karabiner 98k and having a ball of a time in helping my team out. I do have another post coming out in the future dealing with what I’d like to see in Battlefield V from a content perspective, as well as things that shouldn’t be in the Battlefield series, period. For now, with this set of initial impressions of the closed alpha in the books, I return to my usual scheduled posts: Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online‘s finale and the Violet Evergarden OVA are on the schedule, as is Harukana Receive‘s first episode.
On the whole, my impressions of Battlefield V is that this is a game that will put skill back into Battlefield. Random chance and luck won’t figure as much as knowing the map, one’s weapons and role in a squad, so players who take the time to play the game will be rewarded with superior performance. While the new mechanics are fabulous, there are some others that will take some getting used to or be tweaked slightly. Attrition really slows down gameplay, but it also limits players a little too much in its current state. Giving players 20-30 percent more ammunition capacity would give players more freedom once they’ve resupplied. I imagine that spotting will not likely go through many major changes, and so, despite me not liking it, I can see myself eventually learning the mechanics as time wears on, much as how I got used to the differences between Battlefield 4 and Battlefield 3‘s spotting. Beyond this, it’s a promising start for Battlefield V: once the technical issues are resolved, and the game is optimised, if the movement system is also improved to be a little smoother and intuitive, the new mechanics could very well usher in a new way to play Battlefield that takes the best of older titles while encouraging more tactical, methodical gameplay. This approach is, curiously enough, completely contrary to how I play shooters, but in offering something new, Battlefield V has persuaded me to change my approach and in the process, I gained a much richer experience for it. If my experiences in the open beta prove to be as positive, then the decision to purchase Battlefield V would be an easy one to make.