Battlefield 5 had a rather interesting Beta this month that really seemed to polarise its player base. Many found things to love, more found things to hate. Personally, I’m quietly optimistic.
I’m not saying that the Beta was great. It wasn’t. There were numerous bugs across platforms (I played on both PC and Xbox One, for reference) and the gameplay isn’t exactly perfect. One thing the Beta got right, however, was the fun factor. Conquest gave me the close games I’ve been desperate for since the Battlefield 3, and Grand Operations has some nice new concepts that really add another dimension to the experience. Let us explore the good, the bad, and the frankly horrific sides of the Battlefield 5 Beta.
Battlefield 5 is, despite what the YouTube masses say, doing something right. It’s bringing back the style of Conquest play that we’ve been missing. I can’t remember the last time I had that nail-biting 1-ticket victory, but I’m pretty sure I owned an Xbox 360 at the time. It’s been that long. Now, I don’t think the system is perfect. The ticket for a death being lost on players respawns can be infuriating as you’re begging your team not to spawn at the end of a round, causing the loss when they do. While this system works a treat in Rush, as Battlefield 3 proved, perhaps a system more fitting of Conquest would be for the ticket to be lost upon players bleeding out, thus putting more emphasis on saving teammates at the end of a round to save the ticket directly.
Watching the rate of ticket bleed really put the emphasis back on playing the objective. Several games became a frantic rush at the end, watching capture points change hands faster than you could count. That last minute push of attrition isn’t going to be present in every game, granted. You’re always going to have those one-sided affairs, however, when the teams get the balance right, which was more often than not, Conquest felt like a blast from the past. In all the right ways.
It was also interesting to see how this differed between the two maps. While Rotterdam was very much an entire map changing hands affair, Arctic Fjord instead seemed to have its final moments focused on the southern shoreline, with the points surrounding the railroad becoming a tug of war, scrapping for control. The other points, of course, served their own importance, but with the greater distance separating them, you could tell that players are incentivized to focus on the potential for multiple, quick captures, to emphasize that fear-inducing ticket bleed.
This is also emphasized by the tank-play on offer on Arctic Fjord, with their main focus being down the north side and the limited movement on offer down south. Tanks still play a role on the southern points, as the higher ground of the north gives the perfect firing point. While the fight takes place in the south, it impacts the whole map.
Tanks are something that Battlefield 5 has done brilliantly. While it is possible for tanks to deal massive damage against infantry and armor, the limited ammunition count, coupled with the resupply mechanic means that armor has to be mobile, and gives infantry a place to focus ambushes and assaults. Yes, infantry feels a little weak against armor in a 1v1 role. But it should. The arguments I’ve seen saying that it should be more balanced are frankly, ridiculous. Of course a tank should be stronger. What the new methodology behind tank-play does promote, is teamwork. A tank Vs. a squad is a very different fight entirely.
What I would like to see, however, is the grenade launcher given to both the Assault and Medic classes able to do damage to tanks, but in a skill-based, localized manner. For example, a direct hit would, obviously, do sweet fuck all, a hit to the tracks could potentially disable that track, or at the very least damage it. This could be in the form of an impact grenade option for it, that would be able to do damage in a focused manner. This would give players a little more power, without being overpowered, and would compliment team-play well, giving more players the ability to slow the tank for explosives to be placed or aimed.
Gone are the days of the tank spinning its turret like a swingball, with tank turrets now having a limited movement speed, akin to the system World of Tanks players will be accustomed to. You can look around faster, but you’ll have to wait for the turret to catch up if you want to fire on a target. This adds some more thought to engagements and placement, knowing you cannot whip your turret around with the ferocity of the past requires players to focus on their positioning to ensure their survival.
There’s a good blend of mechanics from Battlefield 1 brought across also. Mechanics such as quick repair, and repair from within the tank are back, but this time with much-needed limitations. Refresh times are longer, and repairs are limited, forcing players to consider their placement and engagements, and flee to a resupply station when required. This means that players can force tanks out of fights even if they do not destroy the vehicle. With a much slower rate of repair, the days of running in and out rapidly are gone, in exchange for a style of tank play that is more methodical.
Grand Operations was a mode I was skeptical about following Battlefield 5’s showcase at E3 this year. While I loved the premise, the ‘different objectives’ line troubled me. Thankfully, the Beta has set this worries to bed.
Grand Operations was only available on Arctic Fjord but gave us a nice taste of what’s to come in the new game mode. The successor to Operations, introduced in Battlefield 1, Grand Operations looks to take the blend of Rush and Conquest and add its own spin. Grand Operations is now spilt into days, with day one affecting the ticket-count granted to the attacking forces for day 2.
The objective of day 1 is to destroy 4 gun emplacements, at night, for the assault the following morning. The mode requires the attacking side to collect a bomb, and plant it on the gun. For full immersion, the attacking side spawns in planes and must parachute into the fight. This gives players a great deal of control over their spawn, choosing to take a frontal assault or try to get the sneaky drop behind and cut through the defense. Defending forces can take on the planes with the various flak emplacements scattered around the map.
The mode is honestly a breath of fresh air. The previous Operations system was long-winded and repetitive, while the new system gives the map vastly different modes, and keeps the game-time relatively consistent. It’s a different way to play and makes the mode feel like it has a genuine place in the title. The storytelling is further enhanced, with the new objectives playing into the actual conflict being represented. It’s a great change of pace and really brings something to the title.
At its core, Battlefield 5 has made a sea of changes over past titles aside from the move back to its roots with the Second World War setting. While some of these are welcome, this is the area where the troubles really start to surface.
Weapon balance leaves little to be desired, with the STG 44 being THE weapon to use. This leaves other classes feeling underwhelming and underused. The SMG’s seem to shoot peanuts, and can comfortably lose to pistols at close range. Snipers do a measly 53 to the body, which simply isn’t enough for a ‘high-powered’ rifle. lastly, LMG’s are both shit and brilliant. Hear me out. When fired standing, from the hip, you’d have better luck throwing your blouse at him. Aiming down the sights, you’ll miss from 3 feet away. Using a bipod, however, all of a sudden you’re able to drop people at ridiculous ranges with scary accuracy.
Assault rifles need balancing at longer ranges. A higher drop off would be great, allowing single shot rifles to gain more traction. Making SMG’s more powerful up close will definitely help out the Medic class, making it the close range powerhouse it should be. It also goes without saying that sniper rifles need to be more powerful, apart from the semi-auto rifle on offer, that right now is an instant pick. keeping that at the same damage it has now will go some way to ensuring balance.
One addition I would like to see made to Battlefield 5 is the inclusion of all-kit weapons. These worked brilliantly in Battlefield 4 and would give some extra options to players across all classes. It could be something as simple as a semi-automatic rifle that can be used, with simple sights, across all classes. This would personally improve the medic class for me, giving me the option to play more passive, and also open up other options for players in Support and Assault roles, although Assault does already have the Gewehr 43.
The Gewehr 43 is a prime example of what I mean, however. A side-specific, semi-automatic rifle would do wonders if available to all classes, and add some much-needed side-separation. It’s a little odd watching the allies run around with STG 44’s after all.
Lastly, the weapon upgrades need a little work. While I’m ok with the system of unlocking upgrades with weapon level, the fact you then have to buy them as well is ridiculous. Not to mention the fact that when the tree branches off, you can’t but anything from the other side. The only way to do so is to buy a second weapon. A frankly ridiculous oversight. There’s also no stats on offer, so fuck knows what they do to the gun. You can’t change this in the middle of a round either.
When you unlock elements for your Classes, you have to back out of the round for them to take effect. Honestly, this is borderline unforgivable. Not being able to work on your kits with the new additions mid round is unacceptable, and in a title that’s trying to promote team play, forcing players out of rounds to adjust mundane shit is completely ridiculous.
Following on from the weapon changes, Battlefield 5 has a few items of equipment that could do with some tweaking.
With traditional spotting thrown clean out the window, the only way to ‘hard spot’ a player is with the telescope given to the Recon class. The issue here is that when your rifle has just as much range, the incentive to use the spotting scope is simply nonexistent. Now there have been suggestions of letting the Recon class be the only class that can spot as per previous titles, and to be honest, it is a worthy suggestion. It is the RECON class after all. My issue is that it might make the recon kit a little too powerful. I’d suggest perhaps keeping spotting the way it is, but giving the other classes a means to spot as well. Perhaps a pair of short-range binoculars, and then force the other kits to still have to spot through the binoculars, as opposed to simply look at the target. This might be too much busywork, but it’s a solution none-the-less.
I mentioned the Grenade Launcher earlier, but it is the one piece of equipment that needs some serious addressing. It is, quite frankly, fucking useless. Its damage output is disastrously low. The incentive to use the weapon just doesn’t exist. I mentioned making it a skill-based weapon to damage tanks, but I would rather see this as a variant. To make the weapon useable, the damage needs to be greatly improved. At the moment, it’s simply more effective to get closer and throw one by hand.
The one interesting item is the personal health pack, that can be gained from health stations or provided by Medics. This mechanic gives players a little more survivability when away from the remainder of the team. It does, however, bring about one of the bigger issues with the title. The Health and Ammo stations themselves.
Health and Ammo Systems
There’s been a lot of talk around the so-called ‘Attrition System’ implemented into Battlefield 5. While some elements of the limitations; those made to tanks, for example, are brilliant; the extreme ammunition limit left many players puzzled.
The Attrition System limits players to 2 magazines on spawn, one loaded and one spare. Players could ‘top off’ with a third from Support players or Ammo Stations, but given the abundance of Full auto weapons on that battlefield, it’s simply not enough. Thankfully, DICE has already announced that they will be buffing the amount up to 3 on spawn with a fourth available on top off.
Everything within Battlefield 5 has an animation. While this is visually brilliant, staring at your ammo/health pack every single time gets old fast. Perhaps just the first collection made in a round could activate the animation, making it relevant but not overly obnoxious. Simply flashing the relevant counter will be enough to tell the player they’ve gained ammo. Ammo boxes also use the same system, with the player having to activate them. I’m perfectly fine with this system, as it removes the days of camping on boxes getting constant resupply. People have said it’s ‘busywork’ but honestly, adding additional ammo off of spawn, as they intend to, should comfortably solve this.
Additional to Health and Ammo is revives, which can now be done by squadmates regardless of class. This is such a welcome addition it’s not even funny. While slower, again everything has an animation, it’s a nice balance. Of course, if a squadmate is a medic, you get the considerably faster revive. The only change I’d like to see is for players to be able to quick-skip a revive, as opposed to having to hold on regardless. I know people skipping was an issue, but sometimes you want to get to the menu to change class, or simply don’t want a team member to risk a revive in a dangerous fight.
By far, the most troubling element of Battlefield 5 is the frankly embarrassing implementation of Planes into the title. What are some of the most elegant aircraft ever created are quite simply, fucking abysmal.
I’ve never used anything in a game that feels as heavy as these bastards. There’s more maneuverability available from the older aircraft from Battlefield 1. Hell, the bomber in that title is more nimble than these fighters. There’s a massive imbalance between the two sides also. The German planes are simply, better. More nimble, and better equipped. Even still, they’re frankly shocking, and it worries me greatly. The aircraft need both handling and weapon fixes.
Planes need to be maneuverable. Dogfights feel disgusting, and with planes about to quick repair, they’re dragged out even more. Remove the quick repair when under fire, adding a suppression mechanic or something similar will easily balance it out. With more nimble and active planes, their damage must then be adjusted. You’re able to do a full strafe on ground targets, and simply scratch them. Planes should be more deadly against ground targets to remove the separation between air and ground combat that currently exists. I don’t want to destroy tanks, but snipers should be easily dispatched.
There’s little to no incentive to use aircraft. It’s a real shame. I’d like to see the addition of a lightly armed parachute aircraft that could be used as a spawn point, made available as a bonus for holding a central point on a conquest map. This would also add some impact between air and ground combat, and give an aerial objective to each round, to destroy or defend the aircraft.
Menus and UI
Frankly, the most irritating element of the Battlefield 5 Beta was the Menus. You would think that after using the same style of menu across multiple titles they’d have mastered it by now. Far, far from it.
The menus look brilliant, there’s no denying that. It’s just such a shame they’re so convoluted. As mentioned previously, you can’t make use of new upgrades in-game, and the navigation required at times is mind-boggling. I can’t help but feel that function has taken a backseat to design here, which simply doesn’t float with me.
Where the UI Becomes most hindering is the respawn screen. This is where the real busywork in Battlefield 5 is. You can view your squad’s actions, which is brilliant. What you can’t do, is literally anything else. You cant change kit without backing out to the main spawn screen, which really slows down the situation, and removes the point of the screen, to make sure you’re not spawning into the 3rd ring of hell.
The biggest issue is that everything leads to a menu. Literally, everything leads to a drop down of some sort, that’ll then lead to another, then another. It becomes death by menu. Battlefield 3 is still the best title in terms of menu balance, fight me on that. It’s a simple fix. Let more things happen on screen. I know it’s ‘aesthetic’ but seriously, use that real estate.
The biggest issue we had, however, was with joining squads. Now I had no issues with this playing on the Xbox One, but PC was a fucking nightmare. You’d join, and it would say you hadn’t. Then all of a sudden, you’re searching. Because you are in a squad, it just doesn’t want to tell you that. Beautiful. Now I’m sure this will be fixed before release, this was a frankly infuriating issue to have. Especially because the game wouldn’t reserve you a slot, so you had to then re-queue for the server.
Battlefield 5 has a lot more potential than people are giving it credit for. Yes, there were numerous other bugs people faced that I haven’t covered because frankly, I didn’t face them. This leads me to believe that there is a good chance of them being rectified because frankly, they must have been niggly little things that cause them. DICE have already pushed the title back, to help fix some issues. Oh, and move it away from Black Ops 4 and Red Dead Redemption. A wise move if you ask me. Now while a couple of months might not be perfect no, there’s going to be niggles, as there is with every shooter. We are, however, sure to get a smoother launch than Battlefield 4.
Now all I hope is that these major issues with weapon balance and planes, as well as the irritating menu functions now take priority. It would be a shame for a whole element of the combat to be unplayable at launch, but if they need to take them out for a while to fix them, then DICE, fucking do it. Do what you have to do to make sure that everything is released in its best state. I’m hopeful for Battlefield 5, I enjoyed the Beta more than I’ve enjoyed a Battlefield title in a long time. Now don’t fuck this up. Please.
You can keep up with the developments being made to the title over on the Battlefield website.