Battlefield V Open Beta: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

EA and DICE have little goodwill going into the holiday season. Following years of poor choices, the floodgates finally burst open with Star Wars Battlefront II. In 2018, both publisher and developer are looking for redemption and hope to find it in a beloved franchise. After a weak debut and two alphas, players finally get a chance to try Battlefield V for themselves.

We’ve had the chance to play Battlefield V’s beta for the entirety of its duration. While the game does hold a lot of promise, there’s a lot that needs addressing before release.

The Good

Battlefield V brings quite a few changes to the Battlefield formula. There may have been some snickering when DICE revealed that players could fall back onto their backs when going prone, but in practice, it’s a strategic decision that could save your life. Being able to fall backward, quickly find your attacker and return fire is a lifesaver. In older titles, going prone could never put you in a position to return fire.

Back in the alpha, we praised the improved recoil mechanics, which took away the random spread introduced in Battlefield 1. The new recoil encourages players to learn the guns and places more emphasis on skill. It’s also great to see weapon customization return over the variant system in Battlefield 1. Weapons unlock as you rank up each Class rather than spending War Bonds, a much-appreciated change.

At the beta’s launch, the Squad system was broken. DICE, however, moved quickly to fix the issues and we now have the best squad-spawning system in franchise history. Spawning on squads is a smooth and seamless experience, making getting back into the action simple. The system shines when playing with friends, but we do wish the game presented the option to choose whether to go to the squad spawn screen or the overview screen after death. There’s no way to swap classes or customize your guns on the squad spawn screen, nor does it provide a good overview of what’s going on in the battlefield.

Narvik remains a good map with solid flag placement and flanking opportunities. Rotterdam, the new map, is also well designed with proper flag placement and plenty of routes to engage enemies. It’s also a gorgeous map to run around in, though some of that beauty is offset by poor design decisions we’ll outline in a bit.

The Bad

Probably the most frustrating aspect of the open beta is the feeling that DICE isn’t listening. Many issues brought up in the alpha remain unchanged. For example, the lack of ammo upon spawning was fixed in the second alpha, but back to a pitiful two magazines in the beta. It’s far too easy to deplete those two magazines, leaving players exposed as they make a mad dash to the nearest supply station. While the setup was designed to encourage people to play together, it isn’t working.

Much of this frustration bleeds into the new reviving system. While it’s excellent that squadmates can revive each other, there are a lot of problems with it at present. For starters, reviving takes forever. A relatively quick and smooth mechanic in previous Battlefield games, Battlefield V now forces players to watch an animation as they revive an ally, even if they’re a medic. It’s standard practice to see medics not revive allies because they’re afraid of dying mid-animation. It’s also common to see allied medics run by downed allies because they don’t realize someone needs a revive. The current icon is too small with coloring that makes it difficult to distinguish from the environment.

Vehicles, a staple in the Battlefield franchise, remain as weak and useless as they were in the alpha. Only one tank is allowed per team on the map and they don’t do much. Whereas tanks were ever-present threats in past games and required teamwork to bring down, tanks in Battlefield V are easily avoidable and aren’t threatening. Even less threatening are the airplanes, which have terrible turn radiuses and accuracy. The downgrade to vehicles feels like a direct response to the effectiveness of vehicles in Battlefield 1. Though powerful, it wasn’t impossible to take them out in 1, especially after the Assault class unlocked the proper equipment. Battlefield V went in the opposite direction and neutered the vehicles.

Another problem that cropped up from the alpha is weapon balancing. The STG-44 remains an absolute beast that melts players at all ranges. It’s common to lose to the rifle up close while wielding an SMG or at long range while using a sniper rifle. It slaughters players at mid-range, making the three semi-auto rifles useless. Considering the community called it out in the alpha, it’s disappointing to see that DICE has not addressed it. What DICE also needs to look into is the fact that to use newly-unlocked weapons and equipment, you have to quit the current game and go into The Company. Why you can’t just start using guns you’ve unlocked in-game is beyond annoying.

The Ugly

Even after deploying numerous hotfixes, it’s easy to see why DICE delayed Battlefield V. The open beta was buggy. There are harmless and funny bugs like watching a body spin about and visual bugs like guns floating in mid-air. Those are fine and expected in a beta, but what’s unacceptable are the game-breaking bugs that happen all too frequently. There’s a bug where the game permanently locks you onto the spawn screen if revived improperly, with the only solution to quit the match. Then there’s another that takes place should the game glitch when trying to start a match. The bug causes the background to go black with the main menu icons appearing on-screen. It won’t read any input and you need to close the whole game. Then there are bugs that wholly crash the game.

It’s hard to say precisely why, but it’s difficult to spot enemies. There’s something about the combination of player model textures and the environment that makes enemies particularly tricky to make out from the world. It’s especially egregious on Rotterdam where character uniforms easily blend into the background. While that is the point of camouflage, it gets to a point where it’s just annoying and makes playing on an otherwise well-designed map tedious.

Probably the worst offense the alpha made was the horrendous UI clutter. Ammo grabbing animations, snow flurries and giant ‘V’s’ flashing across the screen after ranking up are just a few of the things that muddled the UI. It’s not any better in the beta, but has gotten worse. In addition to the current clutter, we now have large text that pops up on-screen to reiterate the objective and constantly remind players what’s going on. Yes, Battlefield V, we know we have to capture the flags. There’s too much going on on-screen and it’s distracting.

Final Thoughts

The Battlefield V open beta may be over, but DICE’s work continues. With two more months of development, the developer has time to fix the issues the community has raised during the process. The foundation is there for Battlefield V to be a good Battlefield game, but it still has a ways to go. Hopefully, DICE can rise to the occasion, implement the right fixes and provide players with a solid World War II experience.

Battlefield V is out November 20 on PS4, Xbox One and PC.