Battlefield V was rushed, a triple-A game launched without enough content and without many of its advertised offerings, ranging from cosmetics and in-game features, to several flagship modes. The Combined Arms co-op mode for instance, released months after launch and when it became available it barely resembled what representatives from developer DICE promised during the game's announcement and previews. It was bad.
And then of course, there's the obligatory battle royale mode DICE teased for Battlefield V. Titled Firestorm, EA's second take on the battle royale format also released late, but represents a step down from the publisher's other battle royale title, Apex Legends, which released (for free) just weeks ago.
Firestorm is meant to take advantage of what the Battlefield series has always been known for - large-scale battles, on beautiful maps, with unprecedented levels of destruction and some vehicles scattered in for flair, and it mostly succeeds. Battlefield V lost the "large-scale" throne recently is now struggling to keep up with Black Ops 4 which beat BFV to the punch with its own battle royale mode (Blackout), and did so with more players. For the first time in franchise history, Call of Duty offers bigger battles than Battlefield. In response? Battlefield V remains stuck at 64 players like it has been for over 16 years since the original Battlefield 1942. Black Ops 4's Blackout battle royale mode, like PUBG and Fortnite, supports 100 players.
That's not a deal breaker and Respawn Entertainment's surprise mega-hit Apex Legends shows that a battle royale experience can still be done right with a smaller number of combatants (it's capped at 60), but for Battlefield, it doesn't quite feel right even if its miles prettier than the aforementioned alternatives with far more impressive tech. But even at 64 players, Firestorm struggles in a few areas where it shouldn't.
For every step forward it takes, Firestorm's design often also takes a step backward in the player experience. The punishing time to kill and great shooting mechanics from standard Battlefield V multiplayer (a source of controversy recently) translates over to Firestorm, and without a revive system like Apex Legends has (and like respawning in standard Battlefield V multiplayer), players can and are sent to spectator mode very quickly during an engagement. But to get into another round after being killed, it's not quick at all. A slow matchmaker follows a slow crawl through score screens and menus to get into another match, combined with a slow lobby system like PUBG's which brings the experience to a grinding halt. By comparison, Apex Legends throws players into matches almost immediately.
Firestorm Doesn't Innovate the Battle Royale Format
Firestorm takes place on one map called Halvoy, the biggest in the series so far and one that features every type of terrain from the standard BFV maps, and every match takes place in a random circular section of it, walled off by the fire which - like in all battle royale modes - will close in on players on timed intervals, forcing the dwindling of players until one player or squad remains. Firestorm can be played in solos or in squads of up to four players. Players parachute into the map from planes flying in a random direction over the map, with no gear and must loot up upon landing. In these respects, it's a clone of PUBG.
Firestorm's loot system however, is awkward and at times, just bad. Opening loot caches or finishing off a downed enemy launches overlapping ammo, weapons, and gear, making it challenging to see and pick up what you want. There's no way to view the inventory screen and drag and drop to and from what's in proximity of the player when on PC, and dropping anything that has a number associated with it (fuel, supplies, or ammo) requires extra clicks.
In terms of the gear, Firestorm doesn't let players customize weapons like in Blackout, PUBG, or Apex, and instead goes the Fortnite route with color-coded weapons that represent weapon levels. Rarer variants of any given weapon come with specializations and optics, whereas the basic version is a stock variant with iron sights. Most gear leans towards the latter, but for a large-scale map with lots of mid and long-range encounters, most weapons are rendered useless (the close-range optics are made blurry and generally suck), giving any players with a good optic on an assault or sniper rifle the easy win. And there's no way to customize or mod weapons. You take or leave the whole package based on what players find. And finding good stuff can be tough given the map layout and loot table.
The loot table seemingly doesn't take into account the lack of viable drop spots in the game's map. Even at 64 players, the few dense areas of buildings are generally crowded, but seemingly risky landing spots don't guarantee pickups. Players can land a tricky parachute journey on a scaffold by the docks only to find vehicle fuel and ammo but no weapons. And so it's game over if enemies on the ground find weapons.
Why Isn't Battlefield V Offering The Biggest Battles?
The battle royale mode also requires vehicles so DICE added some new ones, including a prototype helicopter which can carry a full squad, an amphibious vehicle, several period-appropriate cars and trucks, and of course, the farm tractor from the Firestorm trailer. Any open top vehicle is a death trap since players are exposed and too easy to kill, and as for the armor, some tanks can be found in bunkers that players can open but require fuel reserves to keep operational which never seem to be available when actually using a vehicle. The trade-off is a challenging one so the real best strategy is to play with three friends, some with explosives, and all who communicate, or just don't bother.
The other key thing to remember, is that the goal is to get to the end. Unlike regular Battlefield V modes, Firestorm really rewards and encourages stealth play and oftentimes it's the only way to deal with vehicles, poor loot, and a lack of high-loot areas. There's a lot of nature and a lot of natural cover so patience is the best way to avoid punishment due to the mode's design. Save yourself to the final, necessary battles.
The Battlefield formula always lended itself to the battle royale format but instead of innovating and being the big, bold leader, DICE is playing catch-up with not only the competition, but themselves. Battlefield V continues to be a little late to the party, while at the same time, still rushed and unpolished. If DICE can just focus and flesh out this pillar of the Battlefield V experience, Firestorm can be something fun long-term, but it needs work and may need a standalone free-to-play variant.
There's nothing particularly interesting or innovative about Firestorm in and of itself outside of destruction effects and the Battlefield combat feel. It features less than the competition on many fronts, and fails to showcase all of what Battlefield used to be known for - namely the biggest battles and customization. Firestorm is absolutely worth checking out, runs generally well and looks pretty, but if you have a go-to battle royale this one may be worth waiting a few months on. The in-game loop, rewards, and progression systems aren't there either so it'll take time to become more than an obligatory add-on.
Battlefield V is available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Firestorm, like the rest of the DLC, is free for purchasers and available now on all platforms.