A month ago, during the closed alpha sessions for Battlefield V we never would have guessed this week's turn of events. Somehow, EA and developer DICE have turned a portion of the Battlefield V community against them. And no, this isn't over the dumb controversy over whether or not female soldiers existed in WWII or if they should be playable... in... a... video game. No, this is over how the Battlefield V marketing is going, how its open beta plays, and how it compares to the chief competition in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.
At the time of this writing, nearly every post front-paging the Battlefield V subreddits today and for the last few days is negative. Whether it's graphics issues or glitches, interface problems, or complaints one way or another on animations and gameplay, there's a strange sense of negativity brewing. This isn't uncommon in the gaming community, especially for Battlefield and Call of Duty, but the same can be seen on the official Battlefield YouTube channel where every BFV video gets a poor likes/dislikes ratio to what otherwise should be mostly positive.
Let's just say it's not a surprise then that Battlefield V has been delayed over a month and is now scheduled to release on November 20th, as opposed to coming out the same week as Black Ops 4. That being said, we really enjoy what we've seen and played from Battlefield V so far, despite the bugs we believe shouldn't be there late in the game. It's faster paced when it needs to be, the weapons feel stronger, each map is totally unique, the progression systems are interesting, even if the interface behind unlocking stuff is confusing and tedious. But most of all, it feels, sounds, and looks great. Just look at this:
It's just not polished yet and there are concerns over DICE over-promising. The War Stories single player campaign, something that Battlefield has but Call of Duty doesn't this year, seems to have only a few campaigns. The co-op 'Combined Arms' mode won't even be available at launch, and not long ago, the game's flagship 'Grand Operations' mode wasn't going to be available at launch either (that was later changed). We currently don't even know if the Firestorm mode, which DICE seems desperate to promote as Treyarch and Activion promote their own battle royale mode, "Blackout," will be available at launch.
And on top of this already problematic PR game, on the official Battlefield V website, it read that the Firestorm battle royale mode would not be available for purchasers of the standard edition of the game. That was a website error and it will be available to everyone - and has since been fixed on the website. Meanwhile, Activision released a surprisingly impressive and exciting trailer yesterday for Blackout which looks so much better than we would have expected given the lack of the COD franchise's expertise in large-scale maps and modes, large player counts, and the fact that it's relatively rushed and last-minute add-on for Black Ops 4 - as told to us directly by the devs ate the game's reveal event earlier this year.
In response, DICE published a blog which vaguely detailed Firestorm and how it... seems to feature so much less than Blackout. It's largely a bullet point list of stuff we already know are fundamental elements of any BF game, but let's take a closer look...
What Does Battlefield V's Firestorm Mode Actually Include?
Firestorm takes place on the largest Battlefield map ever, but we don't know how big, what it looks like, or how it compares to Blackout's large map which we have seen. Like all notable battle royale games, Firestorm features a circular player area that shrinks, forcing players into a final confrontation until there's one winning squad remaining. For Battlefield V, this is done with a literal Firestorm wave.
Firestorm is strictly 64-player player and can only be played in squads of up to four players. This is the same player cap as Battlefield V's other main modes (Grand Operations and Conquest) and is the same player cap of every prior game in the franchise since the series began with Battlefield 1942 16 years ago. That part we find weird since we really expected Battlefield to "go big" this year with their big modes. More on this later...
Objectives, vehicles, and team play, the core of Battlefield will also be the core of Firestorm, so it'll feel familiar to Conquest in several respects, except for the fact that players drop into the match with no loot and must gather and earn better gear through capturing objectives.
And that's all we know, despite the game initially planned to release in a month. We do however, know that DICE isn't developing the Firestorm mode and instead is partnering with Criterion (who helped make vehicle modes for DICE in Star Wars: Battlefront 2) to develop Firestorm.
Firestorm Limitations and Comparisons to Blackout
Given the lack of details surrounding Firestorm (so far) and what has been confirmed, we can start to compare it to its main competitor this fall (outside of PUBG and Fortnite, of course). Being forced to play in 4-player squads and stuck at 64-player max cap/player count as compared to Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's Blackout mode which lets players (like in other battle royale games) play in solos, duos, and squads and which features 80 players in the beta (and works with 100 players in tests) seems very odd.
As we mentioned in our comparison of player counts earlier this week, it's shocking that Call of Duty will have a bigger mode with more players than Battlefield. A major differentiation for DICE has always been their uniquely large-scale, explosive arenas and now Call of Duty is beating them on that front this year while still offering their more fast-paced and intimate multiplayer. Of course, while COD runs silky smooth, even on consoles, there's no comparing to Battlefield's visual prowess and game engine capabilities when it comes to destruction, lighting, and animations.
Ultimately it comes down to gameplay. Both Firestorm and Blackout will feature unique elements and objectives, alongside vehicles and their own spin on the closing circle. Call of Duty also features AI units in zombies in the Blackout mode so that's another unique feature (and something we've really only seen in the disappointing early access battle royale game, Fear the Wolves) but doesn't let players customize their avatar - instead letting them unlock characters from the Black Ops series. Firestorm, on the other hand, is tied into Battlefield V's progression systems and live services.
Both games are releasing in the next two months and both aim to be long-lasting games-as-a-service type tiles with a heavy focus on community, evolving content, and replayability. Let's hope both are great and both offer wonderful, but unique battle royale experiences. Firestorm and Blackout are the first battle royale games from "triple-A" developers so it's exciting to see how they compare to PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, which despite having been out a year and a half, launched their own "fix PUBG" initiative given how problematic it still is. It's time for something better.
Battlefield V's open beta runs from now until September 11, 2018.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's Blackout mode enters open beta on September 10, 2018.