[Best of 2018] Despite the Controversies, Battlefield 5 is a Return to Form

Battlefield 5 has been a PR disaster. People decried the reveal trailer’s prosthetic arms and frontline female soldiers. The game’s lack of launch content has also been rightfully criticized. Adding insult to injury, Battlefield 5’s launch party mocked consumers’ vocal criticisms over the game’s apparent “SJW-infused political correctness.” Let’s also not forget EA’s Patrick Soderlund calling fans “uneducated.” But despite the controversies, Battlefield 5 is the current generation’s best Battlefield multiplayer experience.

Best of 2018 – DICE’s First Eighth Gen Effort

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Battlefield 4, the first current gen Battlefield, is in an excellent spot right now. It may have been pushed out too early, but currently sits as a feature complete game with many fan favorite Battlefield 3 maps. Housing the series’ signature chaotic close-quarters gunplay and emergent gameplay, few games this gen provide the same sort of thrill as Battlefield 4. However, as good as it is, it suffers from poor map design. While the core gameplay is as solid as ever, the inconsistent maps hurt it enough to prevent it from attaining the same status as Battlefield 3. It’s telling that many of Battlefield 4’s best maps are remastered Battlefield 3 maps.

Best of 2018 – Hits and Misses With Battlefield

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Battlefield 1 made some improvements, but it was an ultimately disappointing follow-up to Battlefield 4. To give credit where it’s due, BF1 presents a monumental technical leap over its predecessor, making extended play sessions and explosive moments easier on the eye. DICE’s new approach to single player, entitled War Stories, also worked out brilliantly thanks to the surprisingly good writing. In fact, BF1’s War Stories are the series’ best single-player campaign since Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and unicorns because BF1 doesn’t feel right. Shooting mechanics and weapon handling are a major part of Battlefield’s identity. Methodical reloading animations, high recoil, large bullet spread, and deliberate movement speeds combine to create satisfying gunplay that rewards skill and patience over mindless running and gunning.

Battlefield 1 abandons this wholesale with snappier movement and quicker animations, which doesn’t make sense for the time period or Battlefield in general. Going so far back in time was what made it such an exciting prospect because the time period could better match Battlefield’s gameplay. With the already slower movement and heavier recoil, BF1’s primitive setting could have allowed DICE to go even further in that direction. Instead of following in that mold, DICE sped up animations and lessened bullet drop and recoil, which resulted in the most fast paced and arcadey Battlefield game in its history. Even last gen’s stylized 1942 spin-off, Battlefield 1943, felt more realistic than this.

Best of 2018 – Battlefield 5’s Return to Franchise Glory

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Luckily, Battlefield 5 fixes nearly everything that was wrong with Battlefield 1. For starters, Battlefield 5’s movement strikes a happy medium between Battlefield 4 and 1. It’s not quite as weighty as 4, but it’s not as immediate as Battlefield 1 either. Hip fire has been nerfed significantly, meaning spray and pray engagements in tight spaces will likely end in your demise. Changes to recoil and bullet spread make the game more skill-based. Holding the fire button for automatic weapons at medium to long ranges is practically useless. Reload animations are also slightly longer on average than Battlefield 1 so you have to be sure to pick your reloads carefully.

Similarly, the new attrition and revive systems discourage the lone wolf playstyle better than any past game. Because any class can revive squad members, there’s always a fighting chance in what would have otherwise been hopeless moments in previous entries. Squad mates, even in games without communication, stick together and revive each other more often. I’ve been revived more in 10 hours of Battlefield 5 solo multiplayer than over 100 hours of Battlefield 4 solo multiplayer.

The attrition system further enhances this need to stick together for survival. Classes only spawn with two spare clips, one health pack (health doesn’t auto regenerate to 100 percent), and one grenade. This scarcity of supplies encourages more diverse squad dynamics and rewards objective prioritization. In conquest, for example, ammo and med-kits can be resupplied at the control points. All of these combine to make a multiplayer experience that feels more like the  tactical Battlefield game that it should be.

Battlefield 1 didn’t quite hit that mark and felt like a minor footnote because of it. While I fondly look back on Battlefield 1943 and Battlefield 3, it wasn’t until Battlefield 4 that I considered myself a real Battlefield fan. Sure, I enjoyed Battlefield: Bad Company 2 like most people, but its smaller player counts give it a greater direction than I wanted. It sounds silly, but Battlefield’s unpredictable chaos is part of its unique identity. Some of my favorite Battlefield 4 memories include moments like making a mad dash toward a tank, dropping C4 on it from above as I jump down, blowing it up along with me. Battlefield 5 is the follow-up I was hoping for.

Amidst the chaos of bullets, explosions, aircraft, and armored ground vehicles, Battlefield 5’s multiplayer finally feels like Battlefield again. Battlefield Hardline was an interesting, if failed, experiment. Battlefield 1 failed to capture World War I’s intensity in multiplayer. Battlefield 5, though, finally brings the franchise back to its rightful spot as a thrilling, emergent series of “only in Battlefield” moments. It’s a shame all the controversy, some of which is admittedly warranted, overshadows what is the franchise’s highest point in nearly a decade.