Battlefield V Alpha Impressions

First-person shooters are now going back to explore the conflicts of World War 2 with most gamers apparently growing tired of the modern shooters. It feels like the perfect time to revisit this era after EA’s soft-reset for the series with Battlefield 1. We got to dive into Battlefield V’s closed Alpha and had some serious fun. The game feels like a great step forward, but it’s not without its faults and has a severe need for balancing. While the series is introducing new mechanics into the game, it also falters on a lot of the core mechanics that hardcore fans love. Naturally, an Alpha is a good indication of where the series is headed and a good way for the developers to receive feedback. Let’s take a deeper look.

Major Changes to Core Systems

The most repeated comment in the in-game chat during the Alpha was that the game did not feel like the most recent entries in the series – instead, it harkened back to Bad Company with fast kill times and hectic gameplay. We will discuss gunplay later, but Battlefield classes fall into specific playstyles and each have their core benefits, while a team in Battlefield 1 could dominate games without ever needing a support-class player or medic.

The most prominent changes now are to these core classes and how dependent players may become on them. Battlefield 1 is a title that is extremely friendly to methodical squads or to lone-wolf players that can take over games. You have enough ammo, gadgets, and so on, to be able to enjoy the game at your own pace. Unfortunately, my lone-wolf play style cost me life after life in Battlefield V until I was forced to actually play with the squad next to me.

Mechanics that promote team gameplay has been the goal for the developers for some time. There are some notable changes to core systems:

1. Health

Medics are the class that I have often gravitated to the most. Long-range rifles and the ability to heal and revive injured or downed players has been rewarding and fun in previous titles.  A major change to the health system for Battlefield V increases the need for a medic on your squad.

Once you get shot and take damage, your injuries will remain. You will no longer be able to heal to full health on your own, and you will typically regenerate health back to around 70%. Any class and any player can also now revive any downed member of your team, not just medics, albeit with a slower animation. This felt frustrating at times when “bleeding out” after being downed, as you just watch as three squad members run by you ignoring your scream for help. Your reliance on others and med and ammo stations change the pace of the game and promote slower and team-based play styles.

2. Ammo

Ammo was ridiculously low for all classes. I almost immediately stopped using any other class but assault or support because I would run out of ammo so quickly that I would almost immediately get gunned down from some random area without any means to fight back. If you are away from a support member, ammo stations at preset locations can also resupply you. This is a good and a bad thing. It will funnel most players to these stations or cause them to stick with someone who can continue to resupply them.

Using an LMG with the support class would be the obvious choice here. However, almost all weapons in the alpha were severely outclassed by the assault class and the default STG-44. We will talk about that more in a bit, but there was also one more new feature that is being introduced and shown off in the Alpha.

3. Fortifications

The Frostbite engine shines in Battlefield V with great environmental elements and building destruction. The developer has stated numerous times that they toned down destruction to prevent the field from becoming flattened and destroyed as in previous titles. The compromise was to allow dynamic destruction to occur while giving every class the ability to build fortifications.

Essentially, fortifications in Battlefield V are pre-set locations on the map where destruction has occurred and a player can essentially use sandbags to provide some cover. Every player has the ability to bring up a tool to build sandbags or walls in areas that have been destroyed to provide cover for teammates. You can build roadblocks for tanks, sandbags, barbed wire, board-up windows, and more. Support-class players can even build stationary machine guns in fortified areas. The possibilities are endless.

The problem? No one was using it. I often forgot it existed, and when I would use it, the outcome was not significant enough to make a difference with the fast time to kill in Battlefield V. With some tweaking, in time this feature can be fun and it may change the game tremendously.

These and other additions to the game all sound great on paper to increase the amount of time that players will turn to other classes to win. The squad size has been lowered to 4 which means that each teammate is even more important. However, gunplay is obviously the most important part of any shooter.  So let’s talk about the powerhouse of the Alpha, the STG-44, and bullet drop.

Classes and Gunplay

ADS, hit registration, headshot damage, and animations all feel amazing. The addition of all the aforementioned changes to mechanics and polish to the engine are promising and can change the game enough so that it stands out from previous entries. A lot of players feel the game needs some work, and this is what the Alpha was for. But a major gripe that I immediately felt was with bullet drop and time to kill. With bullet drop removed, Battlefield V feels much more like Call of Duty or Bad Company 2. 

Here’s a look at the classes available in the Alpha:

Weapons in Battlefield 1 overall are pretty balanced and it does not have 1 or 2 guns dominant, a problem titles like Call of Duty have always had. As mentioned previously, the medic class and others suffer from lower ammo counts coupled with weak-feeling guns. You could get a kill, miss some shots, and be essentially screwed with less than a full ammo clip left. Almost all players in the Alpha eventually stuck with the STG-44 and assault class because others often felt under-powered. Especially on PC, skilled players can cross-map tap fire you with an STG-44 before you can even react.

Other classes can become great with proper balancing and improvements. Support’s LMG offerings were fine when you went prone and used the bi-pod, but this wasn’t as fun or easy to use.  For players with patience it will be great, but for those that are fans of running in and holding an area or objective may struggle. Medics have some potential depending on the guns available at release, and the new healing and revive mechanics will make this class an important one to have on any squad. Recon players and snipers felt extremely powerful with the removal of “sniper sweet spots”, and a skilled player can dominate even more than they did in the sniper haven that is Battlefield 1.

The Alpha is fun but it needs finessing and balancing to prevent just a few guns from dominating. It is polished and beautiful, and the game can become one of the best in the series. Bullet velocity is also something that affected the Alpha’s Recon class. The most fun and balanced sniping I have had is with Battlefield IV with its slower bullet speed and pronounced bullet drop that allow skilled players to use the class, and for most snipers it was a fun challenge. Sniping in the Alpha felt much too easy since the developer has removed full self-healing, removed sniper “sweet spots,” and even removed bullet drop. Interestingly, there is a trend towards the introduction of gamification even in this segment, namely, a well-known developer of Poki online games has begun to create a prototype that can influence and improve all these functions, which are discussed in this article.

Graphics and Audio

The Frostbite engine looks amazing in Battlefield V. The visuals really looks great, and I cannot wait to see what other maps will look like. The snow environment map ran very well, and while there were many bugs we ran into, the polish is apparent. We will have a full performance test when it launches later this year.

[Gameplay Video pending]

Even on our GTX 1060 or a GTX 980 Ti, it felt very hard in certain areas to even see who was shooting you, and with a lowered TTK (time-to-kill), you are often dead before you can react. Characters are much less visible in darker areas, and while that is a good thing, spotting has also been changed to move away from the 3D spotting in previous titles. Previously, you were able to mark a player and an obvious marker would follow them.  Now the idea is to make this harder and only allow full-on 3D spotting for the recon class.

Tanks, planes, and guns all look and sound amazing. The audio design is very well done and I often just found myself listening to hear where enemies were firing from instead of relying on giant markers to find them.

Final Thoughts

Any mechanic that prevents camping is a great one but it may feel cumbersome to those with different play styles. Yes, we do want a title that is different from previous entries in the series, but arbitrarily forcing a player to stick with a teammate or next to a pre-set ammo station feels off. I think these core changes were meant to make Battlefield V a more modern squad shooter and Dice succeeds here. When using the assault class and the STG-44, the games felt extremely fun.

Balancing always occurs after Alphas and Betas, and throughout a game’s lifetime. The overall package of Battlefield V with an actual campaign, battle royale mode, along with core gamemodes, could become one the best shooters ever made, not only just in this series. It is still far from that right now and I hope we don’t need multiple patches before it finally meets its potential.

We will, of course, have a full performance and game review when it launches. EA and Origin Access players will be able to play on October 18, those who pre-order the Deluxe edition will have access from October 16, while the Standard edition will launch for everyone on October 19.