Battlefield V will officially release next week and, while early reviews are actually fairly positive (including Screen Rant's Battlefield V review), the major complaint seems to be a lack of content. Instead, Electronic Arts has opted for a staggered post-release strategy which will eventually include Battlefield's own version of the ever-expanding battle royale genre, Firestorm.
While it's certainly disappointing that Battlefield V is releasing straight out of the box without much to actually do, the features that are available compliment what is arguably one of the best shooters of the year. Additionally, EA is releasing all of this content free for players (likely to make up for the fact that a lot of it won't be released until spring 2019), including maps, DLC and, yes, Firestorm. However, there's a big problem with Battlefield V's battle royale mode and it has to do with its maximum player count.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 released around a month ago with its own battle royale mode, Blackout, and its player count ranges from 88 to 100 players. Firestorm, on the other hand, will only feature 64 players at launch. (At least, that's the "target" for DICE.) Other standard battle royale titles, like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and Fortnite, also have 100 players, thus making Firestorm something of an oddity. It's also perplexing, considering that Battlefield revolutionized massive multiplayer game modes like Operations with expansively detailed maps and 64 player game modes way back in 2005 with Battlefield 2.
If there were ever a time for EA DICE to step up and shake up the multiplayer scene again, Firestorm would be that opportune time. Instead, a Call of Duty title will now have a game mode with more maximum players than a Battlefield game. This is simply unheard of. Before its official announcement, fans were expecting a game that would push beyond the 100 player maximum that mainstream battle royale games have seemed to become limited at. Instead, it seems that EA and Battlefield as a franchise is electing to become limited as well.
This isn't the only controversy surrounding Battlefield V and Firestorm, either, as there's a lot of negativity and concern among players surrounding the mode rumored to be squad-only. Essentially, if this rumor is true, Firestorm would only be squads of four, eliminating the duos and solos modes that have become staples of the genre. Implementing restrictions like this would not only be bad for the battle royale genre and Battlefield V, but it would also punish a certain subset of players who either enjoy playing alone or don't have a reliable circle of friends to squad up with during their limited free time.
This isn't to say that Battlefield V isn't doing a lot of things right, either. Its upcoming Combined Arms mode, which brings four players together completing objectives and participating in procedurally-generated narratives, is a great and fresh addition. DICE will also be adding another story chapter in its single-player War Stories mode, one-upping Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, which doesn't even feature a traditional campaign like every other past Call of Duty game. There's also the fact that its shooting mechanics have been praised thus far as some of the best of the year, improving in every way on its already pretty good predecessor Battlefield 1.
Still, DICE and Battlefield V really needed something special here, especially for Firestorm. Battle royale game modes have started to become repetitive in nature; even Blackout, while fun, doesn't really offer anything new to the genre. Now was the time for a studio to come in and completely turn the genre on its head. What franchise better than Battlefield? Now, it's certainly arguable that having a 64 player limit doesn't necessarily mean that Firestorm won't shake things up, but an inherent perk of battle royale is the scope of large scale battles. Dropping into a chaotic war zone with 99 other players is an exhilarating experience and half the fun of the game mode.
Instead, Firestorm will just feel like a Grand Operation game where you can only die once. Luckily there's still quite a bit of time before Battlefield V releases Firestorm, which means plenty of time for DICE to tweak the mode for release. Hopefully this includes upping the player count to at least 100, but the developers should really shoot for a number beyond that. This way it offsets the disadvantage of Firestorm not only failing to release with the base game but releasing so long after Treyarch has had ample time to tweak and perfect Blackout. Either way, Battlefield V and Firestorm may find it difficult to compete with the rest of the genre's entries with such a low maximum player count.