The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

The Last Tiger: Reflections on the Battlefield V Campaign

“Well, commanders don’t have the luxury of saying old shit that comes into their heads like drivers do!” –Peter Müller

Peter Müller is the commander of a Tiger I tank who fought in North Africa, but as Allied forces advance across Europe, German forces are forced into retreat. Müller is assigned with defending Cologne, and as they fight to repel Allied forces, come across soldiers branded as traitors and deserters. when artillery bombards Müller’s position, he is tasked with launching a counterattack. Despite successfully destroying the artillery pieces, Allied aircraft bombard the city. Müller sends Hartmann to scout ahead for a route, but Hartmann disappears in the smoke. When aircraft renew their bombardment and damages their Tiger, Müller himself leaves the tank to fend off the aircraft while his crew repair the tank. Rejoining his crew, Müller then makes his way to another position held by American forces and recovers documents pertinent to the war. As night falls, Müller is given a final assignment: to defend a cathedral from the relentlessly advancing American units. Despite Allied orders to surrender, the crew opt to fight. Over the radio, German command issues a retreat, but while Müller is crossing a bridge, German forces sabotage the bridge and destroy it. With their Tiger I out of commission, Müller decides to surrender and removes his Iron Cross. Schröder, who shot another crew member earlier, turns his MP40 on Müller. Despite the Führer’s order to defend Germany to the death resulting in countless German casualties, both civilian and military alike, the Allies capture Cologne in March 1945. Berlin itself would fall two months later, putting an end to the war. It is rare that a World War Two game would be presented from the Axis perspective, and players have long wondered what such stories would be like: in a single war story, Battlefield V gives rare insight into the thoughts of a German tank commander who once fought with the goal of bringing glory to Germany. But as the war wore on and casualties mounted along with increasing Allied resolve to crush Hitler’s tyranny, Müller begins to wonder if the war is still worth fighting when hope for victory becomes increasingly distant with each passing day.

History is written by the victor: when I was much younger, I always wondered why the “good guys” always won wars. It turned out that the vanquished don’t have much say in things, and intrigue in alternate outcomes of wars have been the source of many stories in the realm of fiction. The Allied forces fought in Europe to keep a maniacal dictator from spreading his influence over Europe and indiscriminately exterminating all those deemed undesirable. This much, the history books explain, but there are also untold stories of soldiers and officers with the Axis forces who were not fanatically devoted to Hitler’s visions. As the Nazi leadership became more untenable, many would begin wondering what they were fighting for, and whether or not what they were fighting for held any value. This is the story players see through Müller, who beholds the destruction and death that Hitler’s decisions had brought on the German people: increasing doubt and concern when leadership fails, and lingering questions as to whether or not alternatives, such as surrendering, are viable. A successful leader is one who can sway the minds of the moderate, who are likely the majority, and when one has a majority, they can realise their vision. When this majority begins faltering, and the leader loses the confidence of their people, they can no longer realise their vision regardless of how fanatical their most loyal supporters remain. By bringing this perspective of World War Two, Battlefield V gives a very brief sample of what a World War Two game written from the Axis perspective would be like: lacking a sense of heroism and accomplishment, players who finish a game about the Axis powers would come away with doubts about the value of conflict. Such a game could be a very sobering and instructive experience, representing a very novel and unique experience compared to other World War Two shooters available.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Ordinarily, I drive a tank with the camera directly behind me, or else from within. The Last Tiger does things very differently than the multiplayer, rather similar to how Battlefield 1‘s Storm of Steel modified the Mark V’s mechanics so that players could take the campaign in a more relaxed manner than in the multiplayer. After a few minutes, the novelty wore off, and I progressed with the mission, which is set in the ruined streets of Cologne: at this point in the war, Nazi forces had been pushed back into Germany by the Allied forces, who were nearing victory.

  • The Tiger I is one of the most iconic German tanks from World War Two, being famous for its legendary firepower and ability to shrug off damage from almost all Allied tanks. Despite its fearsome reputation, however, the Tiger I was also a fickle tank, being quick to break down, and was very expensive to manufacture. While superior to the American M4 Sherman and Soviet T-34 in terms of durability and firepower, Tiger Is were produced in sufficiently small numbers to have had a minimal outcome on the war.

  • By the later days of the war, British engineers had designed new kinetic penetrators that could deal damage to Tiger tanks at range, while American tacticians focused on using anti-tank guns rather than other tanks to deal with Tigers. The Soviets, in their typical manner, deployed the SU-52, whose 152 mm main gun was more than sufficient to turn Tiger tanks into scrap metal. While technology advanced, the once-mighty Tiger would come to represent a German war machine no longer able to keep up with the Allies’ superior resources and resourcefulness.

  • The Tiger II was an upgrade to the Tiger I, featuring sloped armour that gave it additional protection and a 8.8 cm KwK 43 gun: an upgrade over the Tiger I’s Kwk 36, the Kwk 43 had a longer projectile whose increased length and propellant resulted in a higher muzzle velocity that gave it improved penetration at range. The Tiger II, Panther and Jagdpanther are noticeably absent from Battlefield V, as is the Jagdtiger.

  • Driving through the ruined streets of Cologne gives a very desolate feeling, one that I have not felt from a video game since the days when I played Sniper Elite V2. My original interest in Sniper Elite V2 came from the game giving players a chance to fight through the Flaktowers of Berlin, and my journey to land headshots took me through Berlin towards the latter day of the war.

  • Players will face the M4 Sherman during The Last Tiger: this medium tank was the most widely-produced American tank of World War Two and when introduced, it was able to deal with the weaker German tanks without much issue during North African campaigns. American military leadership never felt the need to produce a heavier tank, feeling that the logistics of supplying and maintaining heavier tanks, plus their limitations in traversing over terrain, would make heavy tanks unviable. While Shermans would be upgraded with a 76mm gun (from its original 75 mm gun) or the Ordnance QF 17-pounder, American forces opted to engage the Tiger tanks by means of numerical superiority and logistical support rather than introducing heavier tanks.

  • In The Last Tiger, M4 Shermans can be destroyed in as little as two shots, and players have access to unlimited ammunition, as well as unlimited repairs: I long imagined the lessening repair effectiveness in Battlefield V‘s multiplayer to be a bug, but it turns out that this is by design. Players operating tanks are forced to rely on resupply stations to for ammunition, and while they can self-repair tanks, friendly support players and resupply stations are much more effective. Their vulnerabilities mean that tanks are actually quite ineffective in open maps of conquest, where long lines of sight allow enemies to quickly spot armour and bring them down.

  • By comparison, more linear game modes like rush and frontlines allows tanks to be devastatingly effective. Back in the campaign, despite the sense of desolation, players still feel powerful as they single-handedly engage M4 tanks without much resistance. The Last Tiger is an excellent opportunity to experience how fearsome the Tiger I was – in the multiplayer, Tiger Is can be torn to shreds by a few coordinated assault players and feel distinctly underpowered, but here in the campaign, very little stands in Müller’s way as he pushes forward with his objective.

  • This is probably the feeling one might expect from the Tiger I: the Tiger I brings to mind Maho Nishizumi of Girls und Panzer, who operates a Tiger I numbered 212 in reference to Michael Wittmann, a well-known German tank commander during World War Two. Despite her cold mannerisms, Maho is shown to be compassionate and kind-hearted; Shiho is similarly caring for her daughters despite any outward appearances, and this side of her personality is shown in Girls und Panzer: Motto Love Love Sakusen Desu!, which showcases various characters in everyday situations outside of Panzerfahren. In particular, Shiho has attempted to make amends with Miho in Motto Love Love Sakusen Desu! with a party, but ended up frightening Miho away with how ostentatious things were.

  • Shiho’s beliefs were not quite as well established when Girls und Panzer first aired, and so, were the subject of no small discussion some seven years previously. I watched this one from the sidelines: at this time of year, I was pushing through my undergraduate thesis and did not have time to spare for much else. In retrospect, I am very glad to have done this: when Girls und Panzer‘s final two episodes aired, I enjoyed both, wrote about them and then went on my merry way, leaving the flame war’s participants to their devices. Going through Girls und Panzer and hearing that the second instalment of Das Finale will come out in June has me wondering if DICE will make good on their live service model to add more content into Battlefield V‘s multiplayer in the way of new maps and factions.

  • At this point in time, I’ve almost got eighty hours in Battlefield V, meaning that I’m very close to breaking even (I believe that when I get a dollar per hour out of a game, I’ve gotten my money’s worth). The Tides of War have certainly kept me entertained –  I’ve played more Battlefield V than I did Battlefield 1 during the same period because there’s been a deep progression system and things to do each week, but admittedly, playing on the same maps gets dull fast. At this point in time, I have learned the maps well enough to anticipate where players are, and even campers blending in with the environment prove to be a lesser concern than the lingering question on my mind.

  • Battlefield V is supposed to be introducing the Firestorm Battle Royale game mode very soon, and admittedly, I have no interest in this mode whatsoever. I understand DICE’s wish to capitalise on the market demand for Battle Royale, but the game type never really appealed to me, and it’ll likely just remain unplayed. I would personally like to have more maps, more iconic battles and more factions. Back in the campaign, having pushed through the level and having melted all opposition in my path, the skies begin darkening as nightfall sets in. The mission, while largely set in a tank, has some segments where players will get to play as Müller while on foot.

  • The MP-40 makes a return here, and while on foot, it’s a solid all-around weapon for engaging American soldiers at close quarters. For the first time in a shooter, I was able to understand what the enemy was saying without the need for subtitles: having played Wolfenstein, I became accustomed to hearing enemies converse in German, and here, it was a little jarring. I ultimately did not manage to complete the stealth requirements for the challenges here, and ended up shooting my way through the entire segment of this war story.

  • This past weekend was quite busy: after an intense work week, I spent a Saturday afternoon at a shopping centre updating my wardrobe for spring, which has finally begin to arrive. After enjoying the best burgers, Russet fries and root beers this side of town, I picked up a beautiful new wristwatch in addition to shirts for the warming weather. I’ve had the old watch since I wrote the finale review for Gundam Unicorn – this watch had been with me to France, Cancún, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan; it’s a little worn and the gears aren’t in the best shape, but I was a little sad to decommission it. This new watch is a bit of a fashion statement, deliberately chosen it for its bronze highlights, distinct frame and the fact that it was on sale for five-eighths off, and I hope it’ll have a good run.

  • Yesterday was the spring lunch for my dōjō: I reached ni-dan a year ago, and while my new belt has not arrived yet, I certainly do feel a bit more with teaching and concepts than I did even a year ago. I spent most of the class helping set up the tables and transporting the food, and while the turnout this year was not quite as large as it was in years previously, it was still a good event with dragon dances and old karate films, as well as plenty of food (meat skewers, pot stickers, sweet-and-sour pork, spicy ginger beef, spring rolls, fries, fried noodles, fried rice, fried chicken, you get the picture). After the lunch ended and I had helped clean up, I took off to watch Captain Marvel with a friend who was in town. I found the movie a solid one, and while perhaps not as inspired or hilarious as Thor: RagnarokBlack PantherAvengers: Infinity War or Guardians of the Galaxy, it was a good movie in its own right that sets the stage for the upcoming Avengers: Endgame.

  • With no inclination for stealth, I ended up blasting my way through the American soldiers in the area to reach the documents. There was a similar mission in Sniper Elite V2 that saw me sneak through an empty but guarded building to locate documents relevant to the V2 programme. In Sniper Elite V2, shooting the fuel cap on a Tiger I was enough to destroy the entire tank; while unrealistic by all counts, it was a fun feature that allowed players to go toe-to-toe with armour with naught more than steady aim. I believe I got the title for five dollars, beat it once and then that was it.

  • I realise I’ve spent a great deal of this post going off-topic – the reality is that The Last Tiger is very straightforwards in its gameplay, and there aren’t very many unpleasant surprises in this mission. The Tiger I is capable of blasting all opposition into hunks of metal, and players only need to aim, fire and then take cover to repair as required; beyond this, The Last Tiger is a cinematic experience highlighting desperation in a losing war.

  • The final act of The Last Tiger is set in the burning ruins of Cologne, as Müller and his crew must fend off waves of Allied tanks. Players must contend with the T34 Calliope, which are modified Sherman M4s with a dedicated rocket launcher system so named for its unusual appearance. They can deal some damage to the player at range, so taking them out is a priority whenever they appear. The flaming cityscape screams desolation, and it is quite easy to see how this Tiger I crew, having held out for this long with a steadfast determination, begin losing resolve as their whole world appears to go up in flames.

  • This battle is intense, and despite Müller’s best efforts to stem the Allied advance on his own, the cathedral is overrun. German command orders him to retreat over the bridge, but before he can cross, the bridge is destroyed. This bridge is modelled after Cologne’s Hohenzollern Bridge, which crosses the Rhine River. With this post done, the last of my war stories posts is completed, and the next time I write about Battlefield V will be about the multiplayer, should there be new maps to explore. Insofar, Battlefield V‘s superior weapon mechanics and progression system have been held back by a lack of information: while I’m having fun with the game, it’s a bit problematic to not know what’s coming up next for the title.

  • While Battlefield V has proven to be a fun game, it appears that the franchise is struggling to decide what its next steps will be. The end result is that Battlefield V has not been as smooth as it could have been, although in hindsight, I don’t regret picking up Battlefield V. Having unlocked almost everything of note, it means that should I choose to direct my time elsewhere (say, The Master Chief Collection), I still have gotten reasonable value from Battlefield V. It would be a shame if iconic World War Two weapons, locations and battles never make it into the title (I would’ve liked to run more Strike Witches and Girls und Panzer loadouts), but I probably won’t be losing too much sleep over what could have been, as I reacquaint myself with the likes of Blood Gulch (Halo: Combat Evolved), Lockout (Halo 2) and Reflection (Halo: Reach).

With this post, I’ve finally finished writing about the war stories of Battlefield V: The Last Tiger brings a different style of gameplay with respect to tank operation, and as I came in with some experience from the multiplayer, things were a little unusual. Unlimited ammunition and self-repair capabilities makes Müller’s Tiger I much more survivable than any tank I’ve operated in the multiplayer, and players cannot actively switch between a third-person and first person view. Instead, the game locks players to an over-the-shoulder camera with options for optics. These decisions were made to purely accommodate the story (I can imagine that limited ammo and repairs against large numbers would be considered unfair), and while making it easier to take in the story, also means that the war story cannot be really considered to be a tutorial for the multiplayer. The Last Tiger is also unique among the war stories for being the only story to offer a vehicle skin on full completion, and for being added to Battlefield V separately after launch. It is a shame that despite their modular design, no more war stories will be added; the voice acting and set-piece creation is an intensive process that would divert resources from improving multiplayer and adding new content, and so, I can understand the decision to not add new war stories. With this being said, The Last Tiger was a welcome addition to the game and definitely does keep in line with Battlefield V‘s war stories, that deal with perspectives that are less explored. However, since players are focused on the multiplayer, that’s where DICE’s resources should be going, and moving ahead, I am hoping that DICE makes a massive push with respect to their content; the basic gameplay is now stable, and the Tides of War have steadily added weapons and vehicles. What Battlefield V is missing is new maps, and new factions. Bringing these into the game would transform a minimally-viable game with solid mechanics into a memorable and long-lasting shooter that could (and should) break Battlefield from the mold that bi-yearly releases have wedged the game into. Supporting a single title for longer would create a game with extensive replay value, and especially with the news of Halo: The Master Chief Collection coming to PC, DICE will need to put in an effort to convince me that Battlefield is a comparable shooter to the likes of Halo.

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